Serial burglar sentenced

John F. Novotny pled guilty to seven counts of Residential Burglary, two counts of Burglary in the Second Degree, one count of Identity Theft, three counts of Forgery, one count of Theft of a Motor Vehicle, one count of Possession of Stolen Vehicle and one count of Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree.  His crime spree for these particular charges started sometime in early February after Novotny had already been charged with Burglary for breaking into the storage units of the Portico Apartments on January 25, 2011.  What led the detectives to uncover the numerous victims and crimes for which Novotny pled guilty to on October 21, 2011, was a search of Novotny’s storage unit at Public Storage, the place where he rented a storage unit to keep the proceeds of his crimes.

Seattle Police Department Detectives S. St. John and J. Vanskike became aware of Novotny’s storage unit when numerous reports from senior citizens at Arrowhead Gardens, part of the Senior Housing Assisted Group (SHAG), indicated a man was seen casing the residents’ secured garage. The first report was made on March 8th, when a 56-year-old resident left her apartment early in the morning and noticed that the art from her outside wall had been stolen. That same day the property manager also noticed that SHAG’s Christmas Decorations and their Infinity Surround System were also missing. When the Seattle Police Department responded, it was discovered that several storage lockers belonging to the residents had been pried open. A viewing of surveillance camera showed Novotny going to Arrowhead Gardens repeatedly, on different dates, entering the garage and then driving directly to the storage unit across the street. There were times when Novotny had contact with the elder residents, who innocently believed he was either working on the premises or visiting a relative.

Novotny stole personal items such a paperwork, clothing, artwork, and mementos. Novotny stole a 75-year-old resident’s suits, a dinner cape he had purchased many years ago, his tuxedo and shirts.  He also took the artwork of a 76-year-old retired nurse from her storage, which contained her personal portfolio of paintings and drawings she had authored since an early age, as well as art she had purchased throughout the world.

According to Josh Halgren, the manager of Public Storage, John Novotny first came in contact with Public Storage on January 3, 2011, when he went with someone by the name of Jennifer Lash to rent a space for her car.  On February 20, 2011, Novotny wanted to rent a storage unit but because he was late on his payments Public Storage would not rent him a new spot.  So Novotny had his father rent a 10×10 storage locker.  On March 6, 2011, Novotny went back with both of his parents to rent a bigger unit, a 10×20, the unit where ultimately thousands of stolen property was recovered.

In addition to targeting the seniors of Arrowhead Gardens, he also targeted homes that were on the market.  When detectives searched Novotny’s jam packed storage unit, they located multiple fliers of houses that were on the market for sale.  The first burglary attributed to Novotny from this group of victims, was the residence of a man who was in the process of moving to California.  Novotny stole his personal belongings including the jeans, shoes and a watch Novotny was wearing when he was arrested.  Novotny cleaned this house, and took the victim’s clothes, artwork, kitchen appliances, electronics, decorations and his brand new Volvo.  Although he took as much as he could, he left behind a cigarette butt which contained his DNA.  This was not the only stolen car Novotny had in his possession, the Subaru he used to break into Arrowhead Gardens to load the property into and then transport it to the storage unit, was a stolen car belonging to another victim who had her car stolen on March 5th just one day before Novotny rented the bigger storage unit to store the proceeds from his illegal enterprise.  After he had no more use for the Subaru, he left it behind with a soda can containing his DNA.

Novotny was doing more than stealing goods from his victims.  He was also stealing their identity.  In one instance he stole the victim’s checkbook and used the victim’s account number to write three checks to Rite Aid, Bartells, Kits Camera and to make an online payment to Cellular World.  The estimated loss from this burglary alone was over $20,000.  Approximately $5,000 worth of the stolen property from this residence was recovered at Novotny’s storage unit, including expensive bottles of wine, clothing, and artwork.

The search of Novotny’s storage locker revealed stolen property from many other reported residential burglaries and vehicle prowls throughout King County.  It is believed Novotny was selling some of the stolen property by conducting garage sales.

Novotny was sentenced today at 1:00 p.m.  Mafé Rajul, who is in charge of the King County Prosecutor’s Repeat Burglary Initiative Unit, asked the court to impose an exceptional sentence of 120 months.  With the sentencing complete, Novotny will have to go to Whatcom County to face eight counts for residential burglary, trafficking in stolen property and identity theft.