MADISON, AL (WAFF) - Madison Police believe a man arrested earlier in the week with the help of a citizen is also responsible for a string of thefts across North Alabama and Southern Tennessee.
Officers arrested James Stephen Winning on Sunday with the help of a Madison YMCA member who caught the suspect illegally entering his vehicle. Winning was charged with theft of property and unlawful breaking and entering a motor vehicle.
After an investigation, detectives got a search warrant for Winning's home where other stolen property was found. Investigators said they recovered stolen cell phones, documents, an MTSU Championship football ring and a police badge.
Detectives believe Winning was traveling to gyms, fitness clubs and community YMCA's from Birmingham to Nashville committing these thefts. They also have reason to believe that Winning has been committing these thefts since 2010.
Investigators said Winning would enter health club locker rooms where he took items such as wallets, watches, cell phones, and other property, including keys that he used to enter vehicles in the parking lots.
"In that time, he's probably gotten a system down and, yes, he felt comfortable and that's typically when people start to make mistakes and if they go that long, we usually end up catching them," said Lt. John Stringer.
Police said he would then turn around and sell the items on eBay.
This is not the first time the owner of Riviera Fitness in Huntsville has heard of an operation like this.
"There are actually people that go around and travel and have a 'business,' you could say, of thievery where they look for unattended lockers and valuables out on the floor. We feel it is part of our duty to let them know that there are individuals out there, unfortunately, that are looking to take advantage of them and we want to make sure that they have the best experience possible in our facility," said Riviera Owner Clay Stewart.
Now Madison Police will try and return the property to their rightful owners.
If you feel you may be a victim, call your local police department.
Winning was booked into the Metro Jail and his bond was set at $14,000.