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Suspect arrested in Hastings burglary cases

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HASTINGS - A suspect in the rash of burglaries from the Hastings-area was arrested early Monday morning in Cottage Grove.

The man, 33-year-old Sean Michael Ancel of Hastings, was arrested on the probable cause charge of first degree burglary. He is being held in the Washington County jail pending charges.

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Over the past several weeks, as investigators began to focus on Ancel as a possible suspect, police worked to minimize risk by reminding residents to close and lock garage doors. In some cases, officers made contact with residents to ask them to secure open garage doors.

"Investigators from Hastings, Cottage Grove, and Dakota and Washington Counties spent many hours tracking and conducting surveillance on the suspect to connect him to the crimes and develop strong evidence to support the case," said Hastings Police Chief Paul Schnell. "This suspect entered people's homes as they slept, which is very brazen and dangerous."

According to Cottage Grove and Hastings police, Ancel is accused of entering occupied homes through open or unlocked garage doors, and then entering the homes to steal wallets and purses. He allegedly would use or attempt to use victims' stolen credit card information.

Investigators focused on Ancel as a possible suspect over the past several weeks and had been monitoring him with surveillance. Around 2:30 a.m. Monday, he allegedly entered homes in the 9500 block of Dunes Court and the 9400 block of Dunes Lane. Deputy Cottage Grove Police Chief Pete Koerner said investigators followed him to the neighborhood but did not make immediate contact with him. After he left the area, police checked homes with open or unlocked garages to see if he had entered them, Koerner said.

Ancel then was stopped at a retail parking lot in Cottage Grove, where officers allegedly found him rummaging through purses, Koerner said. Police did not see Ancel entering the homes this morning, he added.

Investigators had no probable cause to search his vehicle if they stopped him before the alleged burglaries early this morning, Koerner said.

"As soon as we had enough to make the arrest, we made the arrest," he said.

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