Bremerton suspect tied to thefts in Kitsap and Snohomish counties

His heists weren’t for drugs or quick cash, detectives say. In most of the alleged break-ins, the loot went straight into storage.

“His thought process,” said Kitsap County sheriff’s detective Chad Birkenfeld, “was he could use it at a later date.”

From May to August, the 32-year-old Bremerton man burglarized construction shops, auto dealerships and machinery rental companies around Puget Sound including Snohomish County, Birkenfeld said. In his biggest capers, he’d take a truck, attach a trailer to it and load up tools and other property.

Detectives from the Bremerton Police Department and Washington State Patrol worked the case and estimate the man’s take adds up to $750,000. That included electronics tools worth $10,000 and an excavator worth $15,000 in Snohomish County.

He turned himself in Aug. 25. In exchange for giving authorities a tour of the stashed goods, prosecutors are charging him with one count of first-degree possession of stolen property.

The Bremerton man allegedly took a truck from a Seattle moving company on July 27 that was equipped with GPS, which mapped his journey to his Thompson Drive home in Bremerton for law enforcement. Police said he was living in a stolen trailer there.

It wasn’t his first run-in with the law. Birkenfeld said he had been investigated twice before for high-dollar thefts, including a series of burglaries that ended in 2004 after he had taken $2 million in goods. He’s had 17 felony convictions stemming from theft, burglary and possession of stolen property, according to Kitsap County Superior Court documents.

Birkenfeld said he had been released from prison in May.

On May 5, the man was out and up to his old tricks: Detectives say he stole a boat and its trailer in Bellevue. He left the boat in Tumwater, but took its trailer and some electronic equipment from the boat and put it on his own, stored at a Ramsey Road address in south Kitsap County, Birkenfeld said.

From there, he went all over Puget Sound, taking excavators from machinery companies in Chehalis, Tukwila and Monroe. He took a portable generator in Seattle, and chain saws from a rental company in Poulsbo, police said.

Detectives said he often cut his way into a fence in the middle of the night. On some occasions, he spent hours inside the businesses. On a security video at one Seattle business, a man believed to be the suspect can be seen loading a van and a flatbed trailer with tools, then attaching the two and driving away.

Birkenfeld said the suspect took detectives to a variety of wooded areas and rental storage units where he’d taken the excavators and other property.

Some of the stolen goods, including a towable generator worth $10,000, haven’t been recovered. He took detectives to an area near Panther Lake where he said he’d left it, but they were unable to find it. Birkenfeld said it was likely “restolen.”

The suspect appeared to not be all that concerned with leaving the stolen property out in the open.

“I don’t think he really cared,” Birkenfeld said.

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