Tayler Woods tried to throw off police by putting a fake license plate on a stolen SUV, but the fingerprint he left on it led investigators right to him, Lincoln police said.
Woods, 18, and three other teenagers slipped into four houses this week through unlocked doors while residents slept, and shattered a window to break into another, police said.
Police homed in on Woods after finding the fingerprint, but they also found stolen goods on the other teens they say were his accomplices, Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood said.
A 42-year-old woman on the 1200 block of Idylwild Drive woke up Tuesday and saw that someone came into her house and stole $2,480 worth of her things, including her Apple MacBook, Bose headphones, diamond earrings, Ray-Ban sunglasses, digital camera and a bottle of red wine, Lincoln Police Officer Jason Wesch said in an affidavit.
Then she looked in the driveway: Her black 2005 Honda CR-V was gone.
Police found the SUV about a day later — on fire.
Woods drove the CR-V until he met at his house with his three accomplices: Mark A. Fotopulos, 18; Jonathan J. Mundo, 18; and a 17-year-old boy, the officer said.
The group then decided to destroy the SUV by torching it.
Mundo and the 17-year-old balked at the plan, the officer said in the affidavit, but Woods and Fotopulos drove the SUV to Acher Arms, poured gasoline over it and set it ablaze.
Surveillance at the gun shop captured Fotopulos's car on camera, Flood said. The fire burned Fotopulos’s arms and face, which he blamed on a fireworks mishap.
Police also discovered Fotopulos tried to pawn the woman’s laptop on Wednesday at Randolph Jewelry & Loan, Flood said, but employees didn’t bite.
Officers later found the computer in his car.
Investigators think the group is responsible for four other burglaries.
The spree started Monday when they sneaked into a retired police sergeant’s house on the 4000 block of Fiene Boulevard and stole four long guns, a smartphone and a digital camera, police say.
Investigators believe Fotopulos pawned two of the guns. They found a third at Mundo’s apartment.
That same night, the four teens threw a flower pot through the window of a house on the 2400 block of South 14th Street just after 3 a.m., police said. Fotopulos waited in the getaway car while two of the others went inside and stole a purse.
Police believe they also kicked in the back door of a 69-year-old woman’s house on the 1400 block of Arapahoe Street, but bolted before they could get inside.
The next night, Woods and Fotopulos crept into a house on the 3200 block of Browning Street and tried to steal a Nintendo Wii video game system, a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop and five Wii games, police said. But the 46-year-old man who lives there heard noises coming from the kitchen and went to check it out.
Police said he found two suspects near the laundry room. When they bolted, he chased them, and was about to grab Woods when Fotopulos hit him in the nose with the Wii, which police found outside with blood on it.
Fotopulos let officers search his car when they talked to him about one of the other burglaries. That's when they found the laptop and five Wii games in the car.