MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A 50-year-old Minneapolis man is accused of using a tow truck to steal vehicles across the Twin Cities over the course of four months and scrap the cars for money, according to charges filed Wednesday in Dakota County Court.
James Chester Jennings was charged with two felony counts, theft and theft of a motor vehicle, in connection with the case.
According to the charges, West St. Paul police were called at about 9:54 p.m. on April 8 to the Walmart in the city on a report of a car theft. When officers arrived, a woman told police her Ford pick-up truck had been stolen when she was inside the store. Surveillance video showed two men loading the victim’s pick-up truck onto a flat-bed tow truck and leaving the lot.
On May 9, West St. Paul police were told by Coon Rapids police that two men had been arrested after a bait car had been stolen in the city. The two suspects were driving a tow truck similar to the one used in the West St. Paul theft, according to the complaint.
One of the two suspects was identified as Jennings. His passenger told police that Jennings paid him to clean out the cars he towed and that the vehicles were scrapped for money. The man described one of the vehicles he cleaned out as the one taken from the Walmart parking lot in West St. Paul.
Police said Jennings was suspected of using the tow truck to steal many as 143 vehicles over a four-month span and have them scrapped at a metro area recycling business.