Stephen Michael Bochniak, 39, of North Branch has been charged with felony burglary and sale of stolen checks for allegedly burglarizing Journey North Church in Pine City on Jan. 14.
According to the criminal complaint filed in Pine County Court, on Jan. 14 a Pine County Sheriff’s Office deputy was dispatched to Journey North Church (840 Main Street, Pine City) based on a report of a burglary in progress. A witness who works at the church found a male inside with a dark jacket and dark hair wearing a safety vest. The witness said the man told her he was startled, then picked up a blue tote and left.
Law enforcement began clearing the church and noticed that many rooms had been rummaged through. The witness reported that eight checks were missing – six paychecks and two checks written to pay the mortgage. The eight checks were all signed and written out to different people or entities. The witness also reported that a $500 laptop was missing.
Pastor Timothy Adams arrived at the church and provided video surveillance to the deputies.
In the surveillance, a male is seen entering the room with the camera wearing a light-colored hat, a dark jacket, and dark pants carrying a blue back pack. The male is observed walking into the closet, exiting the closet with a white basket, and removing items from the basket. Deputies noticed several other items in the church that appeared to be staged and piled up to be taken.
Deputies identified the male from the surveillance video as Bochniak. A photo line-up was conducted and the witness identified Bochniak’s photo as resembling the male she observed in the church.
Deputies spoke to another witness who plows the church parking lot. That witness said that at 3:30 a.m. he noticed the back door to the church was open.
On Jan. 15, deputies responded to Grand Casino Hinckley due to a report that Bochniak was on the gaming floor near the main entrance. Bochniak was apprehended outside the main entrance of the casino and was observed on casino surveillance throwing something to the ground as the officer approached. The thrown items were located, consisting of two checks from Journey North Church and court paperwork for Bochniak. The two checks allegedly thrown by Bochniak came to over $3,000.
A Pine County investigator spoke to Bochniak following the Miranda warning. According to the report, Bochniak stated he was in Pine City “briefly” the prior morning and said he went inside Journey North Church because he thought it was open. He stated the checks from the church were inside a sweatshirt he got from “Dennis” after “Dennis” dropped the sweatshirt off at Tobie’s in Hinckley. Bochniak also claimed he heard another person in the church while he was inside.
Bochniak has been charged by the Pine County Attorney’s Office with felony second-degree burglary, which carries with it a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. Bochniak was also charged with felony possession or sale of stolen/counterfeit checks, which also carries with it a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.