ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Six suspects allegedly came to Rochester from North Carolina armed with a shopping list and plans to steal thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from eight businesses.
Instead, the four men and two women are in jail, facing a string of felony charges in what authorities describe as an elaborate scheme that was part of a larger theft ring out of North Carolina.
The suspects, ages from 20 to 60, were arrested while loading up a U-Haul truck with big-ticket items purchased at a Menards on Sunday. Store officials called police after they became suspicious about the $5,026.81 check and learned there was no money in the bank account to cover it.
Charged in Olmsted County District Court on Tuesday were Rita Osborne, 43; Gregory Christopher Edmondson, 30; Clarence Edward Monks, 60; David Todd Shempert, 20; Faith Danielle Shoemore, 30; and Raymond Earl Conner, 39. All are described as homeless but from the Gastonia, N.C., area.
They were each charged with two counts of theft by check, one count of theft and one count of conspiracy to commit theft by check. A judge set unconditional bail for each at $80,000 and conditional bail at $40,000. They are all due back in court Oct. 13.
Police were first called Friday when a Rochester woman reported she had received a UPS delivery, and that two men then came to her house asking for the package. She refused. When she later opened the package, she found check blanks. The package was addressed to Conner and his name was on the checks.
The woman told police the two men returned an hour later, became more aggressive and demanded the package. She said she was afraid and gave it to them. But she also wrote down a description of their vehicle and the license plate number, which she gave to authorities. The plate number was the same as the one on a vehicle police stopped at Menards.
Authorities weren't sure Tuesday what brought the suspects to Rochester or why the package was delivered to the Rochester woman's address.
"We think they were trying to target a vacant house, and they were wrong," said Eric Woodford, senior assistant attorney.
Woodford said that according to police reports, the suspects' shopping list showed they intended to purchase big-ticket items from eight Rochester businesses and take them back to North Carolina. By the time they were arrested, they had already bought items at Lowes and Home Depot on Saturday night. The receipt from Lowes was for $6,266.89 and the one from Home Depot was for $3,754.95.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)