Two people were being held Monday for allegedly using stolen credit cards to purchase more than $3,000 worth of products in a span of about two hours Friday morning.
Tahlequah Police Detective Jeff Haney said officers responded to several calls Friday that, at first glimpse, appeared unrelated, but as the investigations unfolded, they began to connect the dots that ultimately led to the arrest of Loren J. Smith, 28, and Sarah Lynch, 26.
Officer Chris Smith responded to Aspen Drive, in the Southridge area, at around 9:45 a.m. Friday after school supplies, a purse, credit cards, keys, and other items were taken Rosetta Thomas’ car overnight. Her credit cards had, by that time, been used five times to make purchases totaling more than $3,000 at Walmart and a Tahlequah smoke shop.
Later on Friday, Sgt. Steve Young and Lt. Billy Dowling responded to Cherokee Hills Apartments, near Monroe Street, when callers said they saw a man attempting to break into an apartment. Officers arrived and made contact with Lynch and Loren Smith, who was inside the apartment on the floor, putting together an entertainment center, according to Haney.
“The door jamb on the apartment was messed up, so [Loren Smith] had kicked his own door in,” said Haney.
Young left the apartment complex when he was dispatched to the Southridge area to take a report from Justin Austin, who said his car stereo had been stolen overnight. Austin described the stereo in detail, and Young realized he’d seen the device inside the apartment on Monroe Street.
“So, Sgt. Young goes back to the Cherokee Hills apartment residence and matches the stereo up. It’s an exact match,” said Haney. “It had an after-market wire installed by Sooner TV for an accessory. The cut wire matched perfectly, as did the scratch marks on the stereo and the car’s dash.”
Haney said Officer Chris Smith, while at the Cherokee Hills apartment, also noticed four cartons of cigarettes inside. The officer realized the cigarettes were the same brands that had been purchased with Thomas’ stolen credit cards Friday morning.
“During execution of search warrants on the residence and a car, we found miscellaneous identifications to two other possible burglary victims, and we found medications, probably to another victim – possibly an auto burglary,” Haney said.
Aside from the entertainment center Loren Smith had been working on inside the apartment, officers located a 42-inch TV, numerous speakers, subwoofers, power inverters, and more, all of which were allegedly purchased with Thomas’ stolen credit cards Friday morning.
Lynch allegedly denied using stolen credit cards to make purchases, but Officer Jake Keys reviewed surveillance footage from Walmart that reportedly shows Lynch and Loren Smith pushing shopping carts to the check-out stands Friday morning. The video shows Lynch pulling credit cards from her pocket and using them to pay for the merchandise, Haney said. The credit card numbers were recorded in Walmart’s database, and match those stolen from Thomas.
Loren Smith allegedly refused to cooperate or speak with officers at the apartment on Monroe Street. Haney, in his affidavit for a search warrant, said Loren Smith told the detective he “just did nine years for burglary – this ain’t nothing,” and then asked to speak with his lawyer.
State court records show Loren Smith spent eight years in state prison for robbery with a firearm after being convicted in Tulsa County, and he was released in July 2011. Lynch was being sought by authorities in St. Louis, Mo., who have said they will extradite her. Haney said Lynch’s criminal history includes several second-degree robbery charges, theft, stealing credit cards, and drug possession.
Lynch and Loren Smith were being held in the Cherokee County Detention Center Monday on $20,000 bonds. Anticipated charges include knowingly concealing stolen property, five counts of unauthorized use of a credit card, and possession of stolen property, though Haney said the investigation will continue and other charges are possible.
Several officers spent hours on Friday collecting the evidence and working the case. Haney said a dog inside the apartment had reportedly been stolen from another apartment nearby, and was identified by its owners Friday. Haney said police will attempt to contact other possible burglary victims whose ID cards or medications were found at the scene.
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