Vehicle prowl, theft, and extortion, ends in arrest of Chelan man

WENATCHEE - A vehicle prowl that occurred at a gas station on North Wenatchee Avenue on
Valentine’s Day resulted in an arrest on Feb. 27, 2019 for Vehicle Prowl 2nd
Degree, Theft 1st Degree, Trafficking in Stolen Property 1st Degree, and Extortion 1st
Degree. Joseph W. Meadows, 44, of Chelan was identified from surveillance camera
video at the gas station and ultimately contacted after he tried to extort money from the
victim to get his own property back later.

Wenatchee Police initially responded to a reported vehicle prowl at a gas station in the
1800 block of North Wenatchee Avenue just before 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2019.
The victim was in Wenatchee on business from New Zealand. He stopped to put gas in
his rental car and went inside to pay. While he was inside, a Dodge Challenger pulled
up to the gas pumps. A male from the Challenger entered the victim’s car and took a
backpack before leaving the gas station. The backpack contained several thousand
dollars of computer and electronic equipment related to the victim’s work.

The victim went back inside the gas station to call police. The responding Officer was
able to obtain video and still images of the suspect from several angles, but was unable
to identify him at that time. The victim returned to New Zealand without his property,
which was believed lost.

On Feb. 24, 2019, the victim received e-mail from a Gmail address that contained
Meadows’ first initial, middle name, and last name. The e-mail requested contact from
the victim regarding an urgent business matter and requested a U.S. phone number
where the victim could be reached. The initial Officer used this information to locate a
suspect in our local records management system and matched his driver’s license
photo to the video from the gas station.

Detectives coordinated with the victim in New Zealand to contact the suspect via e-mail.
The suspect accepted a local phone number belonging to a Detective as the victim’s
local contact phone number. The suspect wanted an “incentive” from the victim for the
return of the stolen property. Once they agreed to a price, they set up a meeting in
Wenatchee.

Meadows arrived at the meeting location and was arrested by Detectives. His vehicle
was seized pending a search warrant. The stolen backpack was in plain view on the
back seat of Meadows’ vehicle.

Meadows was transported to CCRJC and booked on the above charges. The initial
vehicle prowl was an opportunistic theft of an unattended bag from an unlocked car at
the gas pumps. This is an uncommon occurrence in our area. Most vehicle prowls
occur with vehicles left unattended and unlocked for hours. Even less common was the
attempt to extort the victim to get their property back. This case was a great example of
cooperation with a victim, even from across the entire Pacific Ocean, to recover his
property and make an arrest.

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