Facebook can be a cesspool of infighting and political rants but in the sleepy village of Gaines, it helped lead police to a man with sticky fingers.

Crystal Mata posted a few pictures on the social media site after she noticed that a 30-year-old Coca-Cola sign had been stolen from her employer, K & M Party Store.

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Mata tells Cars 108 that when she arrived for work on June 24, she noticed a wooden bench missing from the front of the store, located at the corner of Grand Blanc and Duffield Roads. She and store owner Michelle Lauer began looking around and found that the bench had been moved to the east side of the building and was likely used to help the thief remove the Coke sign from the building.

She immediately began poring through the store's video surveillance footage and took a few screenshots to post on Facebook.

"One of our employees thought that they might know who it was, and once I posted it on Facebook, there were multiple, multiple calls."

Mata compared her pictures to some images that the Flint Township Police Department had posted online after some property had been stolen from the Bubbles Galore car wash on Corunna Rd. and knew she had a match.

Truck caught on security camera
C. Mata, Facebook

After that, Mata decided to do some investigating of her own and drove by the suspect's house. She didn't see anything at the time but then learned that the Michigan State trooper who had taken her initial report had been called to the Village of Gaines to investigate some missing street signs.

Mata tracked down the officer who was taking a report from a resident about the missing signs. She showed him the pictures she had saved on her phone and everyone agreed that one person was likely responsible for all three incidents.

"When I got out of work at 2:30, I did another driveby past the house and still nobody was there," she said. "But then I got a little bored around 9 o'clock that night, I drove by [again], and 'Ta-da!' there was a truck there and it matched."


Suspected thief in Gaines Michigan
C. Mata Facebook

Because she had driven by his house so many times and started taking pictures, the man stepped out of his house which allowed Mata to get a good picture of him. She forwarded her pictures to the Michigan State trooper and Flint Township detectives who had taken the incident report at Bubbles Galore.

After police confronted the man about the stolen property, he returned the sign to the store, just minutes after it closed.

"At 11:05 Friday evening, he delivered our Coke sign back," Mata said.

She noted that the man who had previously been a customer of the party store hasn't been back since.

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