Florida couple charged in string of vehicle burglaries, fraud after multiple 911 calls in St. George

A St. George Police Vehicle seen at the scene of an accident on S 200 East in St. George, Utah on January 29, 2020 | File photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Charges were filed Wednesday against a Florida couple accused in multiple vehicle burglaries after police responded to reports of a suspicious person at Smith’s Marketplace on Mall Drive.

The incident that prompted the investigation into a number of vehicle burglaries and other fraud cases recently reported in St. George and Hurricane took place Sunday when police received three calls within minutes reporting suspicious activity at Smith’s Marketplace on Mall Drive.

The first caller reported they recognized a woman inside of the store as the suspect “from news stories,” who was later identified as Samantha Sue Cook, 29, of Naples, Florida, who was attempting to purchase approximately $3,300 in gift cards, according to charging documents filed with the court.

A second call to 911 reported that a man and woman matching the description of the couple suspected of being involved in one of the car burglaries reported in Hurricane was inside of Smith’s.

Minutes earlier, officers were also notified that one of the individuals whose vehicle was broken into reported she had received an alert that one of her credit cards was being used at Smith’s Food and Drug on Mall Drive.

Samantha Sue Cook, 29, of Naples, Florida, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Feb. 15, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Officers responded to the store where they found the woman who allegedly provided the last name of “Damato” before police were able to accurately identify the suspect as Cook.

Officers also found three finance cards in other individuals’ names that the suspect was allegedly using to make gift card purchases with, one of which was reported stolen out of a vehicle in Ogden over the Christmas holiday.

In the meantime, a patrol officer in the area spotted a vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s car and conducted a traffic stop near the store as officers inside were making contact with Cook, “who was still inside Smith’s trying to purchase gift cards with a stolen credit card,” the officer noted in the report.

Officers inside placed Cook under arrest in connection with the vehicle burglaries and she was transported to the St. George Police Department where investigators were able to piece together several vehicle burglaries and other fraud cases reported throughout the county over the course of several days.

In the meantime, the officer conducting the traffic stop spoke to the driver, later identified as Randall Lee Taylor, 33, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. During a search of the car they located tools consistent with the ones used to “ break out the window during the vehicle burglaries,” the officer wrote in the report.

Police also found a purse and wallet that allegedly belonged to one of the vehicle owners that reported one of the burglaries, as well as substances consistent with methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine that tested positive through subsequent field tests.

Randall Lee Taylor, 33, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Feb. 15, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Through the course of the investigation, officers discovered that a number of the financial cards reportedly stolen from the vehicles were being used to purchase gift cards at various businesses. Officers also gathered surveillance footage from various locations that recorded a number of the burglaries and were able to identify cook in the footage as the same individual allegedly purchasing gift cards using credit cards taken from the vehicles, police say.

Two of the burglaries were reported in Hurricane, Officer Ken Thompson with the Hurricane Police Department told St. George News.

During an interview at the station, Cook denied any knowledge the credit cards were stolen and said she was given the cards by a male who gave her permission to use them.

However, Taylor allegedly told the patrol officer during the traffic stop that Cook knew the cards were taken during the burglaries and that she was an active participant in the alleged crimes.

Both were later transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility and booked on multiple charges.

On Wednesday, Cook was charged with second-degree felony theft and seven third-degree felonies, including six counts of unlawful acquisition of a finance card without consent and one count of knowingly using false financial transaction card for goods/services. She also faces two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance, two counts of burglary of a vehicle and two counts of theft.

Taylor was charged with three third-degree counts of unlawful acquisition of a finance card without consent and one count of knowingly using a false financial transaction card for goods/services. He was also charged with seven misdemeanors, including three counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count each of burglary of a vehicle, manufacture, possession of burglary tools, theft and possession of paraphernalia.

Cook remains in custody on $42,330 bail, while Taylor’s bail has been set at $25,840.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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