wedding

Ex-Deputy Sheriff Is Charged With Being a ‘Wedding Crasher Bandit’

A retired deputy sheriff became a “wedding crasher bandit,” turning up neatly dressed but uninvited to 11 weddings in Arizona where he stole cash and checks from envelopes given to the newlyweds, the authorities said.

The former deputy, Landon Rankin, 54, who spent 21 years with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, was arrested on Wednesday in Apache Junction, Ariz., and charged with two counts of burglary and three counts of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to court documents.

The authorities said the thefts took place at weddings held between March 18 and April 29 in the Phoenix area. Mr. Rankin is being held without bail at a jail in Gilbert, Ariz.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Rankin had two checks in his wallet from the latest wedding he had crashed and “numerous” wedding cards in his car, the authorities said. The police said that Mr. Rankin told them that he had been attending weddings because he was going through a divorce and had wanted to listen to wedding vows. When asked about the stolen money, he said that he had spent it all on fixing his “bass boat,” the authorities said.

The police in Chandler, Ariz., southeast of Phoenix, became aware of Mr. Rankin after video footage of an April 15 wedding in Chandler showed him, wearing the formal clothes of a guest, grabbing a box of greeting cards, placing it into a bag, walking out a rear exit, running to his vehicle and driving away, according to court documents. The authorities connected that event to earlier thefts.

The Chandler Police Department said in a statement that Mr. Rankin made $3,000 to $6,000 from two of the weddings, but the authorities did not provide an overall estimate of his haul.

Marcia and Michael O’Donnell, the parents of the bride of a wedding on April 23 in Mesa, Ariz., told KOLD-TV, a CBS affiliate in Tucson, that surveillance video showed a man stealing a gift box from a sign-in table just as the couple exchanged vows.

“He had a shirt with a tie, slacks, dress shoes,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “He’s the perfect late-arriving guest, and he knew exactly what was going on, exactly when to be there, and pulled it off and out the door, he was gone.”

The couple’s GoFundMe page says they had instructed guests to give them money in lieu of gifts so they could buy their first home together.

“I remember the whole evening just having to fake a smile, fake my joy, fake all the fun I was really not having,” Steve McWilliams, the groom’s father, told KOLD-TV. “There’s a whole piece of our puzzle, of our life, of the happiest moment of our life, it’s missing forever.”

According to court documents, Mr. Rankin was arrested previously, on March 21, by the police in Apache Junction, which is also outside Phoenix, in connection to one of the wedding thefts. Court documents say he is currently on probation in Apache Junction.

A spokeswoman for the Chandler police declined to comment on what Mr. Rankin was charged with at the time of his earlier arrest or on whether he was jailed. The Apache Junction department did not reply to requests for comment.

Court records did not indicate whether Mr. Rankin had a lawyer. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office did not reply to a request for more information.

A LinkedIn page that appears to belong to Mr. Rankin lists him as having recently received a real estate license, in addition to his many years of service to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, where he worked as a detective in areas including narcotics, homicide and human trafficking. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office told The Associated Press that Mr. Rankin had attained the rank of deputy.

But Mr. Rankin now lives in campgrounds, according to court documents, which say he “does not have ties to the community anymore and is transient.”