Help from determined store clerk leads to arrest of suspect during shopping spree in southern Utah – St George News


ST. GEORGE- With the help of a determined store clerk and a quick response from police, a man accused of using stolen credit cards to shop at local retail stores was arrested over the weekend -end.

File photo for illustrative purposes only of the intersection of River Road and Riverside Drive in St. George, Utah, March 23, 2022 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Officers responded to a retail store on River Road on Sunday after an employee reported that a man suspected of being involved in a robbery two days earlier had returned and was inside the store, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.

Patrol arrived to learn that the suspect was “shopping” with three other people and was wearing a black hat and a shirt with “Misfits” printed on it. Officers found the man alone, crouching down, looking at an item on one of the lower shelves. One of the officers immediately recognized the suspect as Rockville resident Michael Welti Sanchez, 32. He was then handcuffed and detained by the police.

Asked about the fate of the other individuals, Sanchez told officers he did not know where they had been, the report said.

Sanchez was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility where he was jailed on 10 felony counts, including four counts of unlawful use of a bank card, four counts of theft and two counts of possession of a substance. controlled. He also faces one misdemeanor count of vehicle burglary and possession of paraphernalia.

The arrest follows an incident Thursday when emergency dispatch received a report that a potentially stolen credit card had been used at a Washington City big box retailer. The card was allegedly stolen during a vehicle break-in at a parking lot on River Road in St. George.

The reporting party told police they received an alert from the bank that their card had just been used to make a $300 purchase while the cardholder was working in St. George.

2017 booking photo of Michael Welti Sanchez of Rockville, Utah, booking photo posted July 21, 2017 | File photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

When officers responded to the follow-up to the car break-in report, the owner of the vehicle told police his wallet was still inside the vehicle – minus the missing credit cards. Officers also learned that the stolen cards had been used to make a number of purchases at retailers in St. George, even as the owner was on the phone trying to cancel the cards at the banks.

Shortly after the cards were reported stolen, a retailer contacted police Thursday after noticing that a shopper making a $150 gift card purchase was acting “very badly.” But when officers arrived minutes later, the suspect was already gone. Authorities received the receipt for the purchase of the gift card, along with CCTV footage captured during the transaction.

Officers also learned that Sanchez reportedly returned to that same store the next day and purchased items using gift cards he purchased the day before.

That same retailer called police twice more, and it was the third call that ultimately led to Sanchez’s arrest.

Meanwhile, the owner of the bank cards, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, contacted St. George News and described the incident in an email.

The reader said that when she received the alert about the $300 purchase on Thursday afternoon, she realized that her spouse, who had the card, was working and could not have made procurement. Then, she says, when her husband got out and checked the vehicle, he realized his wallet was still there, but all his credit cards had been taken out.

Even as the reporting party was on the phone with the banks, alerts kept coming in from various St. George retailers, she said, so the charges were piling up before the cards could be canceled.

As officers were busy tracking the stores where the charges were made, she said her husband returned to his vehicle to find the cards had been returned and were back in his wallet.

“So the suspect went back to the crime scene to do this,” the reader said.

During an interview at the jail after his arrest on Sunday, Sanchez admitted to buying the $150 gift card on Thursday, but said he did so at the request of a friend who gave him a debit card and asked him to purchase a number of items from various stores in St. George.

2021 file photo for reference only St. George police officers respond to an accident in St. George, Utah on January 18, 2021 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The officer also noted that Sanchez said “he agreed and without hesitation” went from store to store to make purchases with the stolen credit card. In total, over $800 in merchandise and gift cards were purchased using the cards.

After making the purchases, police say the suspect said he returned the card to the friend who let Sanchez “keep a gift card to use for himself.”

A subsequent search of the suspect’s vehicle reportedly revealed methamphetamine and heroin in the car’s center console, along with multiple paraphernalia-related items.

Following the arrest, Sanchez remains in custody and charges are pending at the Washington County District Attorney’s Office.

This is not the first time the suspect has been arrested shortly after police were contacted. In 2017, the St. George Police Department SWAT team responded to a report of a man, later identified as Sanchez, who allegedly attempted to enter an individual’s home in the North 500 West area. , and an hour later he was on his way. to jail.

After Sunday’s arrest, the reader applauded the efforts of St. George police officers for their quick response, as well as their efforts that went above and beyond to catch the person allegedly responsible.

The result was also made possible by the efforts of the retailer who contacted the police on several occasions – efforts which ultimately led to the man’s arrest, she said.

The employee could have just gone about his business, the reader said, but instead made the effort to contact the authorities multiple times — efforts that ultimately worked.

In a recent phone call with a friend who lives on the east coast, the reader said they were going over the details of the incident and the activity that followed. After reaching the end of the story, she said her friend made an interesting observation about St. George and the local community in general.

Shortly before hanging up, the friend said, “Looks like you guys really care about each other.”

The reader concluded by saying, “You know, I couldn’t agree more.”

This report is based on statements taken from court records, police or other stakeholders and may not contain the full extent of the conclusions. Those arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty by a court or until a trier of fact decides otherwise.

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