Two face charges for Rec Center thefts

The two men allegedly cut padlocks from multiple lockers and stole wallets, credit cards and U Cards, then used them to buy electronics and textbooks.

Ian Larson

Two area men have been charged with identity theft following a string of locker room thefts at the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Recreation Center, officials said. The two men allegedly cut padlocks from multiple lockers and stole wallets, credit cards and U Cards, then used them to buy electronics and textbooks, according to University police. Richard D. Hillstrom, 24, and Charles A. Buzzell, 23, will face identity theft charges in Hennepin County District Court on Jan. 5, said Rondah Kinchlow, Hennepin County AttorneyâÄôs Office spokeswoman. Both men have been enrolled at the University, according to University records, but their current academic status could not be confirmed. University police searched HillstromâÄôs St. Paul home and confiscated nearly 20 pieces of property, including several wallets, cut padlocks, drug needles, receipts and more than a dozen suspected marijuana plants, according to the search warrant. One of the padlocks bore a University label, according to the warrant. Neither suspect was available for comment, but the men admitted to police that they had been stealing from the Rec Center lockers for âÄúseveral monthsâÄù and reselling the goods at pawn shops. They also told police that âÄúheroin [was] the driving force behind their criminal activity,âÄù according to the warrant. Director of Recreational Sports Jim Turman said the department is reviewing its security and may implement a new entry policy in reaction to the thefts. New additions to the facility will change the entryway altogether, and the department may even use biometric scanners, Turman said. University police have received seven reports of thefts at the Rec Center since Sept. 1, but it is impossible to definitively link the incidents to Hillstrom and Buzzell, University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said. University police have used security camera footage to identify Hillstrom as the person using a stolen U Card to buy more than $700 worth of textbooks at the University Bookstore, according to the warrant. Buzzell allegedly fled the bookstore after being confronted by security while attempting to do the same thing the following day, according to the warrant. Police arrested the men as they tried to sell several textbooks at an off-campus bookstore Nov. 19. In the center console of their vehicle, officers found several U Cards that had been reported stolen from the Rec Center, according to a police report. Footage from various locations, including TCF Bank, Target stores, US Bank and the University Bookstore, âÄúshow the two on several dates making illegal financial credit card fraud transactions,âÄù according to the warrant. Hillstrom and Buzzell repeatedly changed clothes between trips to the bank and retail stores where they used the stolen credit cards, according to the warrant. Once the case goes through court and evidence is no longer needed, theft victims may be able to reclaim their stolen property, Miner said.