SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. -- The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office arrested two men in connection to 30 separate theft cases. The men each had an extensive criminal history but were in and out of jail without serving much time for their past crimes. In a 2 On Your Side investigation, KREM 2 News reporters asked what was being done to keep prolific offenders off the streets.
Authorities said 29-year-old Michael Belton, also known as Michael Murray, and 37-year-old Aaron Cunningham were arrested on more than 50 felony charges. Authorities said their crimes were committed throughout Spokane County and Kootenai County, Idaho.
Police had previously arrested the two men in March in connection to a large scale car prowling investigation spanning from Spokane to N. Idaho. They spent five days in jail.
Belton was arrested again on May 6 at a home in Spokane Valley. He was booked into jail on 25 felony counts and was being held on a $75,000 bond. The charges included six counts of 2nd Degree Identity Theft, two counts of Theft of a Firearm, two counts of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm and 15 counts of 2nd Degree Theft.
Cunningham was arrested at a home in North Spokane. He was booked into jail on 29 felony counts and was being held on $100,000 bond. The charges included eight counts of 2nd Degree Identity Theft, 16 counts of 2nd Degree Theft, Unlawful Possession of Payment Instrument, two counts of Theft of a Firearm and two counts of 1st Degree Unlawful Possession of a Firearm.
Belton had been booked into the Spokane County Jail eight times in just one year. Cunningham had been booked twice. That included March 19, 2014 when Cunningham served five days.
“I'm so tired of Spokane being the victim. With these 'numpties' out there doing what they do,” said a car-prowling victim.
The victim wanted to remain anonymous, but said he was one of dozens of targets that Cunningham and Belton hit over a period of a few months.
“Laptops, surface-pro...stuff like that. And that was just in one backpack,” said the victim.
He said he had a binder full of classified documents inside his truck.
“Social security paperwork, IRS paperwork, all my wife's paperwork, there was no identity that wasn't taken,” said the victim.
Cunningham and Belton were arrested shortly after that crime spree in March, but were out of jail just five days later.
“We arrest them, they go to jail, they spend a few days in jail and they're back out,” said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. “We do a good job arresting them, prosecutors get those bonds high, it's when we get to the judication side of it...we have to find a better mix there.”
The Sheriff said he thought that mix could be found during a sit-down meeting.
“I think it's time to have a meeting with the judges because we have programs to deal with drug and alcohol issues but there's really no hammer coming down on these individuals,” said Sheriff Knezovich.
The Sheriff said he hoped to have that meeting with Spokane judges during the spring.
Authorities were still investigating Belton and Cunningham for other criminal activities.