Michael R. Dzwonczyk, 24, Appleton, was charged in Waupaca County Circuit Court Nov. 16 with burglary and theft.
On Aug. 19, Waupaca Police Officer Brett Rodenz responded to a reported burglary at First United Methodist Church on Demarest Avenue in Waupaca. He learned that someone had smashed the glass window on the door to the business office and stolen gift cards that the church gives to a family in need and sells for fundraisers.
The plastic cards had predetermined amounts electronically loaded onto them. They were worth more than $2,000 in merchandise from six local stores.
Church staff contacted the company that issued the cards in an effort to deactivate them. They learned that two of the cards had already been used at Fleet Farm and Pick ‘n Save.
A video security camera at Pick ‘n Save had footage that showed a man in the checkout lane at the time that one of the cards had been used. A woman at Pick ‘n Save’s coffee shop told officers that she had seen the man leaving the store about 10 minutes ago. Another witness said the man left on a blue or black bicycle.
Waupaca County Sheriff’s Deputy Gene Goode called dispatch and reported that he saw a bike matching that description outside of Fleet Farm, but it was gone before officers arrived.
Later that afternoon, someone attempted to use one of the stolen cards at the Piggly Wiggly store in Waupaca.
Waupaca Police Sgt. Brian Hoelzel then went to Walgreens because the suspect had been to all the other stores that had provided gift cards except for Walgreens. He soon noticed a man walking into the store who looked like the suspect from Pick ‘n Save’s security video.
Hoelzel arrested the man, later identified as Dzwonczyk. He reported finding a number of the stolen cards in Dzwonczyk’s pocket.
According to the criminal complaint, Dzwonczyk told police that he had moved to Waupaca three weeks earlier and had stayed with several different people, but he was currently homeless and living in the woods behind Taco Bell.
“I snuck into the church, broke a window to get into the office, broke a cabinet to get money or cards so I could survive,” Dzwonczyk said in a statement to police.
Among the items he allegedly purchased were groceries, cigarettes, sunglasses, a small radio, batteries and a bike.
Dzwonczyk faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted of burglary.