'Ninjas' accused of fraud

ROGUE RIVER — Three teen "ninjas" may face additional felony charges related to their nighttime criminal activities, police say.

The ninja-wannabes used a stolen credit card to purchase their costumes and accoutrement from an online store, said Rogue River Police Chief Ken Lewis.

"One of the suspects ordered a fresh shipment of ninja supplies and had them shipped to an unsuspecting third party in the neighborhood," said Lewis. "We've got the invoices."

The package's contents included hand-climbing spikes, metal throwing stars and utility belts, said Lewis.

"Looks like they may have been getting ready to take this to another level," said Lewis, holding one of the razor-sharp metal stars.

"These things are very dangerous," he said.

Two 15-year-old boys and one 16-year-old boy, all of Rogue River, were booked into the Jackson County (see correction notice below) Juvenile Detention Center Tuesday on multiple charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree theft, first-degree criminal mischief and unauthorized entry into a vehicle. In light of the new evidence, the boys could face additional charges of identity theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and theft, Lewis said.

Some of their friends also could be facing charges, he added.

"It's very possible the ninjas have given stolen property to their friends," said Lewis. "Unwittingly or otherwise, that makes them in possession of stolen property."

In recent weeks, police covered a rash of calls including six car break-ins, three home burglaries and several thefts. In each of the burglaries, the residents were either away on vacation or temporarily out of the residence, Lewis said.

Several thousand dollars' worth of jewelry that had been reported stolen, burglary tools, a map of the city and several black ninja suits complete with hoods and climbing spikes were recovered during Tuesday's arrest, Lewis said.

The teens created a MySpace page, www.myspace.com/rr_ninja, which details their interests and activities. In one of the page's many videos, a black clad figure demonstrates amazing agility, Lewis said.

"One of the ninjas climbs up a tree just like a squirrel," said Lewis.

Local youth have been blogging on the MySpace page about the ninjas' arrest. Some, Lewis suspects, are ninjas attempting to cover their tracks. But it's too late for that, he said. Last week Sgt. Josh Moulin, the supervisor for Central Point's high-tech crimes unit, managed to "capture the Web site" — making it a permanent piece of evidence, Lewis said.

"It's true what they say about MySpace," said Lewis. "It's a great investigative tool."

Police first learned of there was a so-called ninjas group in town about seven months ago after receiving an anonymous call from a Grants Pass father, said Lewis.

"He wanted to know if it was OK for his kid to dress up in a ninja costume and run around in the middle of the night and climb on top of roofs," said Lewis. "We told him that would be both dangerous and illegal. We never heard from him again."

Earlier this summer, one of the boys eluded police on a rooftop chase at Rogue River High School. Calls that a black-clad figure was seen throwing debris down at a school security officer had Officer Robert Buren responding. Buren climbed up and gave chase. But the boy raced to the edge of the building, jumped into space and grabbed a nearby tree. Breaking branches on his way to the ground, the ultimately managed to scramble away. But his landing was not ninja-smooth, Lewis said.

"He gave a yelp of pain," said Lewis.

The parents of one of the suspects recently informed police their son complained of an injury which occurred near the date of the incident, said Lewis.

"I believe that's our roof-gliding ninja," said Lewis.

One of the suspects has indicated the ninjas might have been active for a year and a half, said Lewis. But teenage pranks morphed from nocturnal skulking across rooftops, ghosting though people's yards and committing petty acts of vandalism into serious criminal activities only in the past few months, Lewis says

The boys' arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday, said Lewis.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Correction: The original version of this story included an incorrect name for the juvenile detention center. This version has been corrected.

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