Victims solve thefts via social media

Stolen items, thieves sometimes found on popular websites

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EPHRATA — Social media sites that sell personal items recently helped two crime victims track down their stolen goods.

When an Ephrata woman had her car broken into in May and her e-reader, cash and gift cards were stolen, she turned to the Moses Lake Craigslist page to see if anyone was trying to sell her items.

She found her e-reader for sale and immediately recognized it because of the color and that it was missing a charger the thief forgot to steal from her car.

She passed the information along to the Ephrata Police Department, who tracked down the seller, bought the item for $150, and arrested the man who stole it and gave it to the seller, according to court documents.

Nathan Mulliner, 24, of Ephrata, admitted to breaking into the car and stealing the woman's e-reader and was recently sentenced to 18 days of jail, six months probation and a year suspended sentence, according to court records.

No one at the Ephrata Police Department would comment on the use of Internet tracking to solve theft crimes.

A Moses Lake woman turned to Facebook's Columbia Buy/Sale/Trade page in May to find a buyer for her cellphone. She met a prospective buyer at a park and that woman ran off with her phone when the seller walked back to her car to get the charger, according to the police report.

The victim described the woman to Moses Lake police officers who used that information and Facebook to find the identity of the thief. Officers arrested the thief, Brittany Strong, 18, of Moses Lake, six weeks later and found the cellphone and a small amount of methamphetamine on her, according to the police report.

She pled guilty this week to possession of methamphetamine and was sentenced to 24 days jail and a year of probation. The theft charges were dropped as a part of the plea.

Investigators use many methods to track down stolen goods, Moses Lake Police Captain Dave Sands said, including looking online for stolen merchandise.

Grant County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Kyle Foreman agrees and said in the past that meant going to pawn shops to search for the goods.

While investigators still visit local pawn shops when someone reports a theft, they have also started using the Internet and social media sites to see if the thief is selling the stolen goods.