Three young men from the Wisconsin Rapids area are facing charges for allegedly stealing two cars from a car dealership there and driving them first to Regency Mall and then to Walmart.
Joseph Karis, 18; Joseph Kaser, 19; and Alan Schladweiler, 18 were charged in Racine County Circuit Court Friday with felony operating a motor vehicle without owner's consent. The felony charge carries a jail term of up to 3-1/2 years and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Karis is out on bond from two cases in Wood County for second degree sexual assault of a child so he was also charged with two felony counts of bail jumping. In addition to the car theft penalty, he faces an extra 12 years in prison and/or up to $20,000 in fines.
Kaser was also charged with a single count of felony bail jumping stemming from a pending case against him in Wood County for burglary and misdemeanor bail jumping. If he's convicted on these new charges - including the car theft - he faces up to 9-1/2 years in prison and/or up to $20,000 in fines.
According to the criminal complaint, the owner of an auto dealership in Wisconsin Rapids reported a Ford Taurus and a Pontiac Grand Am stolen from the lot. Wisconsin State Patrol was alerted the cars were headed for Racine County, so troopers notified Mount Pleasant police to be on the lookout for them.
An investigator spotted the vehicles at Regency Mall and followed them west on Durand Avenue to Walmart, according to Sgt. Paul Maccari of the MPPD. Once in the parking lot of Walmart, officers from Sturtevant and additional troopers stopped the cars.
A juvenile female was driving the Grand Am with Kaser in the passenger seat, and the Taurus was driven by Schladweiler with Karis in the passenger seat. Karis was the original driver of the Taurus, but the defendants switched seats at a rest stop on their way to Racine, the complaint reads.
Police say Karis admitted to going with the girl to the auto lot to take keys, but when they saw that the Grand Am was blocking the Taurus, they decided to take that, too. Schladweiler reportedly told officers he knew the cars were stolen.
Karis and Kaser were released on $2,500 cash bond, and Schladweiler was released on a $500 cash bond. The trio will have their next court appearance at a preliminary hearing on Feb. 28.