Burglary suspects face more charges

By EVAN REID

Staff Writer

FLORENCE, Wis. – Two men suspected of committing a series of burglaries at the Bait Station and Tom & Jo’s Liquor in Aurora, Wis. are now facing additional charges stemming from a Jan. 23 incident at the Gold Nugget in Spread Eagle, Wis.

Brandon Lesser, 24, of Kingsford and Corey Willis, 20, of Florence have each been charged with one felony count of burglary of a building or dwelling – as a party to a crime, and two misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property.

These new charges carry a maximum sentence of more than 12 years in prison.

The Florence County Sheriff’s Department offense report states that a Gold Nugget employee arrived at the bar around 9 a.m. on Jan. 23 and noticed an open back door, a broken out window in the men’s bathroom, and some quarters on the floor near an empty cash register that had been substantially damaged. An ATM on the premises was also damaged, but the safe inside was uncompromised.

When officers arrived on the scene, a nearly empty bottle of Taaka vodka was found on a deck outside of the building. The offense report states the bottle had very little snow on it and police determined that the tracks around the bottle would have only been made by the offender. The owner of the Gold Nugget informed police that Taaka is not a brand of vodka served at their bar. The bottle was taken for DNA and fingerprint testing.

Interviews with the owner of the Gold Nugget, several employees, and a dancer were conducted.

Officers returned after further damage was discovered. The hasp and padlock had been pried off of a door in the bar’s basement. A hammer that may have used during the burglary was found. The liquor storage room in the basement had not been tampered with, the police report said.

Additional footprints in the snow outside of the building appeared to indicate the offender stood in one area for some time, possibly waiting for a ride.

According to the offense report, Lesser and Willis were questioned separately by police on Feb. 14. The two were already in custody at the time of the questioning.

Lesser and Willis both admitted to breaking into the Gold Nugget while denying knowledge of any other burglaries in the area, the report said.

Lesser stated that Willis had entered the building through the men’s bathroom window, then opened the front door from the inside.

The Gold Nugget had reported $2,500 in cash taken, but both individuals claimed they did not locate any large amounts of money. They admitted to stealing around $4 in quarters.

In both cases, a pre-trial concerning the original charges related to the Bait Station and Tom & Jo’s has been scheduled for April 8 in Florence County Court.

Evan Reid’s e-mail address is ereid@ironmountaindailynews.com.