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Doll theft sting nets drugs, stolen vehicle in Superior

A holiday sting by Superior police to recover four stolen American Girl dolls ended with five felony charges against a Cloquet man and the return of a stolen vehicle.

David Robert Houle, 56, is facing felony charges of receiving stolen property, operating a motor vehicle without owner's consent, second and subsequent offenses of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and possession of cocaine, all as a repeater with use of a dangerous weapon, and repeater possession of a firearm by an outstate felon. He was bound over for arraignment following a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Douglas County Circuit Court and remains in custody at the Douglas County Jail on a $10,000 cash bond.

According to the criminal complaint:

A Superior woman reported Nov. 29 that her garage had been broken into and items worth nearly $3,000 — including four American Girl dolls and miscellaneous tools — had been taken. On Dec. 21, she contacted Superior police again to let them know she'd seen her dolls for sale on Facebook by someone with the account name "Kane Houle."

Detective Gregory Swanson created a fake Facebook account to contact the seller and arranged to have "his father" buy the dolls. The phone number he was given matched that of Houle's, and the picture on the Facebook profile showed the same person as a booking photo of Houle.

Investigator Todd Maas met Houle in a Superior business parking lot Dec. 22 for the sale. Once the dolls were positively identified, Houle was arrested.

A records check of the VIN number showed the vehicle Houle drove to the meeting had been reported stolen out of Hermantown; the plates on the vehicle registered to a different stolen vehicle.

A search of the vehicle turned up 11 grams of methamphetamine, a firearm, a large quantity of jewelry, numerous DVDs that had been stolen from the Superior garage, the fourth American Girl doll, a small amount of cocaine, a knife, a digital scale and envelopes addressed to Houle.

The cargo area of the vehicle contained garbage bags and retail bags that were full of items, many still in original packaging. A safe was found that contained ammunition, keys, the title to another vehicle and a wallet with numerous credit cards, Social Security cards and identification cards that did not belong to Houle.

The owner of the vehicle told police officers that, with the exception of a few screwdrivers and ratchet straps, nothing else found in the vehicle belonged to him.

Houle has Minnesota convictions for receiving stolen property in 2014, fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance in 2007 and attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1994, according to the complaint.

The most serious charge, repeater possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine use of dangerous weapon, carries a maximum penalty of 25 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000. Houle's next court appearance is set for Feb. 16.