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Published October 24 2012

Alleged burglar finds bag of money

MOORHEAD – Talk about a lucky break-in.

Authorities say a 28-year-old man accused of burglarizing a rural Clay County farmhouse hit the jackpot: a money bag with as much as $20,000 in cash that the farmer had on hand from the recent sale of a motorcycle.

Two days later, the suspect and a female acquaintance were arrested in Goodhue County in southeastern Minnesota. In the vehicle, police found more than $10,000 and a bag of methamphetamine, and the woman had more than $4,800 in her bra, court documents state.

The investigation is outlined in a complaint filed with felony burglary and theft charges against Jeffery Wade Lerew in Clay County District Court.

It began Oct. 14 with a report at about 12:30 p.m. that a vehicle had crashed near Kragnes. The caller said he’d stopped to check on the car and made contact with the driver, who was acting nervous and holding a backpack tightly against his chest.

Deputies determined the car had been rented in Alexandria, Minn., by Nicole Thoreson of Nome, N.D., the complaint states.

At about 6 p.m. the same day, deputies were called to the same area, where a woman said an intoxicated man had approached her and asked for a ride to Valley City, N.D. The man was no longer there, and authorities learned that he had called a taxicab and was dropped off in Fargo.

While investigating that call, the deputy learned of a farmhouse burglary less than a mile away. The farmer said he’d left home at 11:30 a.m. and returned at 5:30 p.m. and found many belongings missing, including a laptop, two handguns, a black duffle bag and the money bag, which he kept in a drawer-type file cabinet safe that had been pried open.

Clay County Detective Jason Hicks said it appeared Lerew got lucky in allegedly targeting the farmstead.

“I have found absolutely no connection between him and the victim,” he said.

Two days later, on Oct. 16, Prairie Island police found Thoreson driving a pickup that had been reported stolen. Two passengers in the vehicle indicated that they’d been picked up by Thoreson and Lerew in Newport and were getting a ride to the casino, the complaint states. Police arrested Lerew at a nearby gas station and searched him, finding almost $3,000 in his pockets and a stack of 235 scratch-game lottery tickets worth $705, the complaint states.

Lerew was taken to the Goodhue County Jail and was expected to arrive at the Clay County Jail late Wednesday, Hicks said.

The sheriff’s office is recommending Thoreson be charged with possession of stolen property, Hicks said.

Lerew, who is believed to be from the Twin Cities area, has a lengthy criminal record that includes five convictions for motor vehicle theft, two convictions for first-degree burglary and a felony drug possession conviction.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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