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Facebook search helps nab Woodbury fraud suspect

A Minneapolis woman may be adjusting her privacy settings after police used Facebook to locate her in a Woodbury theft case.

The woman, 25-year-old Samantha M. Petersen, was sentenced last month on a felony fraud conviction in Washington County District Court. Judge John Hoffman sentenced Petersen to 106 days in jail and five years on probation.

The conviction stemmed from a December 2010 case involving thefts from vehicles at the Woodbury Life Time Fitness Center.

According to a criminal complaint, police were called Dec. 29, 2010, to the Life Time Fitness parking lot on reports of multiple break-ins to vehicles.

Victims reported finding windows of their vehicles smashed out and items missing. Among the stolen items were an iPhone, a laptop computer, a Coach purse and credit cards.

One of the victims learned that her credit cards had been used at various stores around Woodbury and Oakdale for purchases totaling $1,357.

Police were called back to the Life Time Fitness parking lot a week later for a report of a male and female using flashlights to look into vehicles parked there. Officers received a vehicle description and license plate identification for the suspects' vehicle.

Police tracked down the vehicle's registered owner and teamed up with other law enforcement agencies to find his Facebook page. His Facebook page included a photo of a female with facial scarring and a black tattoo identified as Samantha Petersen. A Woodbury detective learned from Wyoming, Minn., police that the suspect vehicle and suspect description matched up with Petersen.

On Jan. 31, a Woodbury officer met with workers at two of the stores where the fraudulent purchases were made. The workers identified Petersen as the person who used a credit card the prior month for purchases.

Petersen, of Minneapolis, received credit for 106 days already served in jail at the Nov. 18 sentencing hearing. Her probationary conditions include paying restitution of $444.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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