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Police: Smash and Grab Suspects May Be Part of Larger Check Fraud Scheme

Police reported a detective was conducting an extensive investigation into a group who travel from Florida to steal purses, then commit check fraud.

A smashed window of a car at Centennial Park. Credit: Patch.
A smashed window of a car at Centennial Park. Credit: Patch.
A series of events that started with a Patch employee witnessing two smash and grabs at Centennial Park may lead to a break in the case of a criminal scheme by a group from Florida who travel to Maryland, steal purses and commit check fraud, according to documents filed in District Court.

The events began at Centennial Park, around 3:30 p.m on July 31, when a man was seen smashing car windows and throwing purses into a black Cadillac. The witness notified police, who then spotted a black Cadillac on Route 108 near the park. Police initiated a pursuit, but the vehicle fled.

After receiving reports of the black Cadillac in the area of Black Star Circle in Long Reach, police responded and located one of the suspects, Vincent Lee Sands, in another vehicle, according to the police reports filed in court. 

Nearby, under the deck of a townhouse, police located the valuables stolen from vehicles—a Coach purse, a wallet, a Vera Bradley purse, a Kindle Fire and a check. The only item not recovered was an iPhone 5, said police.

Police arrested Sands, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, FL, and during questioning he told police that him, a man named Jamal, who would later be identified as James Javon Blakey, 26, of Pompano Beach, FL, and a woman named Alexa Durkee, 23, of Fort Lauderdale, had traveled from Florida with him.

Sands said he was familiar with other "suspects who come from Florida to steal checks", according to the police report.

Sands told police the stolen checks, gained from smash and grabs similar to the one at Centennial Park, would then be cashed by a woman in bank drive-thrus, posing as the person whose checkbook was stolen, according to the documents. Sands said he knew Blakey and Durkee were staying at La Quinta Inn and Suites in Anne Arundel County.

Anne Arundel County Police then responded to the hotel and arrested Blakey and Durkee. 

According to the documents, Blakey told police, "without being questioned, that he was not driving the vehicle" and "that no witness could identify his clothing because he came back to the hotel and changed his clothing from what he had been wearing earlier."

In the report, police wrote a detective had been conducting an extensive investigation into a group similar to these suspects who travel from Florida, break into unattended vehicles, steal purses and then get women from Florida to cash the checks from victims' accounts.

A police spokesperson said detectives are actively investigating to find any ties of Blakey and Sands to other crimes in the county or other states. Part of the investigation centers around why the Florida suspects came to Maryland. Since Aug. 1, three more thefts from vehicles have been reported at Centennial Park, although not all included smashing of windows, said police.

Police have been warning residents since the spring not to leave valuables in their unattended vehicles due to smash and grabs at locations including the Columbia Athletic Club, Columbia Swim Center and Elkridge Elementary School. 

"Police remind park users once again to not keep anything of value in their vehicles," said Mary Phelan, police spokesperson, in an email. "Women should leave their purses at home and just travel with their wallet/id that they can keep on them – in a fanny pack for example - while they were making use of the park."

In May, two residents emailed Patch to relate their experience of being victims of smash and grabs at Cedar Lane Park and near the Patuxent Branch Trail. Police said victims of smash and grabs should immediately cancel any checks that may have been stolen.

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