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Chief nabs alleged member of country club burglary crew

Jose A. Ponce (Northfield Police Department photo)

Jose A. Ponce (Northfield Police Department photo)

Northfield police arrested a man who they say is involved in a crew that poses as golfers to steal credit cards from country club locker rooms.

Jose A. Ponce, 34, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was wearing nylon pants and a golf shirt and was allegedly going through lockers at Sunset Ridge Country Club, 2100 Sunset Ridge Road at about 3:15 p.m. May 18, police said. An employee confronted him and Ponce allegedly pushed his way past and ran away with a wallet, police said.

Northfield Police Chief Bill Lustig happened to be a few blocks away when the 911 call was transmitted over the radio, he said. As employees chased Ponce north on Sunset Ridge, Lustig was driving south. He pulled over on the shoulder and arrested Ponce, who was later charged with felony burglary and misdemeanor battery.

An American Express card was found in Ponce’s possession, police said. But a wallet containing $450 in cash that allegedly had been taken from the locker room was not found, according to a police report.

“He looked like he was a golf pro,” Lustig said.

Ponce had a clear substance on his fingertips that prevented his identification through a database of fingerprints, according to a police alert. The material was removed and he was identified, it said.

As police chief, Lustig isn’t usually the first law enforcement officer at the scene of a crime, but got a little lucky, he said.

“Every afternoon I drive around town just to see what’s going on,” Lustig said. “It’s just about being at the right place at the right time.”

Ponce is scheduled for a May 24 court appearance in Skokie.

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