Investigation leads to possible vehicle burglary ring
A rash of more than 50 vehicle thefts, break-ins, and a suspected check forgery operation has been solved by the arrest of two men, according to the Carson City Sheriff’s Department.
Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Burau said the department has confessions and physical evidence – including fingerprints – linking John Wayne Warren, 28, and Lee Courneya, 31, to between 50 and 70 criminal cases.
The arrests were made during an investigation into several dozen reports of vehicle break-ins over the last few weeks. Burau said the extent of the crimes was discovered when investigators searched the home of Courneya. Warren is listed as transient and has no known address.
“For the most part these were targets of opportunity,” Burau said. “These people were involved in counterfeiting checks – confirmed by a search warrant.”
Items seized at Courneya’s residence at 1810 Moody street included car stereos, registration and insurance papers, cellular phones, stolen checks and a laptop computer, according to reports. Courneya also allegedly had a desktop computer and scanner being used to counterfeit checks on blank check stock.
Burau said the department will likely forward evidence to District Attorney Noel Water’s office that implicates the pair in 20 felony crimes.
Investigator Bob White said Courneya is charged with possession of stolen property and Warren is charged with burglary. A preliminary estimate puts the value of the suspected stolen merchandise at several thousand dollars.
Burau noted that a witness who saw Warren attempting to break into cars in the parking lot of a business near Super Kmart sparked the investigation. “That person deserves to be noted,” he said. Deputies arrested Warren on Feb. 14 after a short foot chase through Silver Oak Golf Course.
Computer experts from the city’s information services department were brought in to examine the computer and search for evidence of check forgery, Burau said.
“Sometimes they will build in a roadblock that will destroy the information or make it impossible to retrieve,” he said. “All you need is a computer and a little bit of time. Check stock (blank checks) is not limited like currency is, so the sky is the limit.”
According to White, investigators were able to reveal a check template similar to a stolen check also recovered in the operation. They believe the suspects mimicked stolen checks to pass them off as originals.
Investigators believe stolen car registrations and insurance papers may have been used to forge false identification to be used in passing the checks. Some of the evidence still needs to be processed for fingerprints, Burau said.
Warren is scheduled for a preliminary hearing today in Carson City Justice Court at 3 p.m. and Courneya is scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m. The hearing determines whether the evidence has merit for the case to be tried in district court. Both defendants may also opt to waive their hearings and go directly to the higher court.