GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A trio of alleged crooks engaged in a scheme targeting Planet Fitness facilities in West Michigan, according to a police task force that focuses on pattern crimes in metro Grand Rapids.
Ronta Emmanuelle Stone, 33, and Brian Keith Coleman, 31, both of Kalamazoo, are locked up in the Kent County Correctional Facility, charged with conspiracy to conduct a criminal enterprise in the alleged plot.
A third suspect, Jasmine Allene Conley, 31, is charged with larceny in one of the Planet Fitness thefts.
Investigators say Ronta Stone obtained a membership to the chain of gyms under a fake name and used it to steal from locker rooms.
“During these incidents, Ronta Stone entered Planet Fitness and stole (a victim’s) vehicle keys, gained access to his vehicle and stole (his) wallet and credit cards,” wrote a detective in a probable cause affidavit filed in Kentwood District Court.
Court records show three Kent County Planet Fitness locations were hit in Spring and Summer: 5270 Eastern Avenue SE, 721 68th Street SW, and 3681 28th Street SE.
Court documents reveal the cases against Stone, Coleman and Conley were developed by the Metro Pattern Crime Team (MPACT), which conducted surveillance on the trio to gather evidence. MPACT, launched in March 2022, includes detectives from the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Kentwood and Wyoming police departments.
Ronta Stone is also charged in Calhoun County in connection with a theft at the Planet Fitness gym at 294 Highland Avenue in Battle Creek.
“(The victim) stated that after his workout, he noticed that his car keys were not in his locker, where he had placed them before his workout,” wrote a detective in the Battle Creek affidavit. “He then went outside and found his car unlocked, which it wasn’t previously, and the keys in the center console. (He) then noticed that a Huntington debit card was missing from his vehicle. Later it was determined that there were two fraudulent charges on (his) account.”
After the alleged thefts, detectives say Stone would use the stolen cards to buy — or attempt to buy — high-dollar gift cards at stores, including Meijer, Target and Walmart.
At a court hearing in Battle Creek, Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert spoke of the breadth of the alleged scheme.
“All I can assume is he’s victimizing Planet Fitnesses across at least this area of the state,” Gilbert told the judge. “Whether it be just Kent County and Calhoun County or other places also. I think he’s a danger to the community at this point based on his criminal record and number of pending charges.”
When Stone was charged with conducting a criminal enterprise in September, court records show he was already out on bond in three other similar cases. According to several different court files, Planet Fitness thefts occurred on June 5, 7, 11, 12 and 22. Additionally, the criminal enterprise case out of Kentwood lists the offense dates as April 8, 2023, through July 7, 2023.
In Kent County, Prosecutor Chris Becker utilized the state’s continued criminal enterprise law, or CCE, to increase the potential penalties.
“The CCE is the main tool that we have,” said Becker from his office Wednesday morning. “It’s a 20-year felony so it ups the ante … Your (illegal use of) financial transaction devices are usually a four-year felony … So, the maximum’s higher. It’s also on a higher grid in the sentencing guidelines.”
Becker said the alleged gym scheme is another example of an increasing reality; Criminals are getting more creative.
“It’s not your simple breaking and entering. Whether it be joining a gym, working at a McDonald’s, they are gaining access to credit cards and financial information, through legitimate means initially, but they’re using it for illegitimate purposes,” said Becker, referring to a recent case in which employees at McDonald’s drive-thru windows were charged with copying customers’ credit card numbers.
At Jasmine Conley’s initial court appearance, a 63rd District Court magistrate asked her where she works.
“I work at McDonald’s,” said the 31-year-old from Kalamazoo.
Conley, who’s charged with larceny in one of the Kent County Planet Fitness cases, failed to make her second court appearance Wednesday morning. 63rd District Court Judge Sara Smolenski issued a bench warrant for her arrest.
Most of the Planet Fitness customers Target 8 interviewed said they use a personal combination lock to secure their belongings in lockers when working out.
“It’s simple,” said a gym-goer named Lawrence. “It’s a combination lock from the dollar store. So, it doesn’t have to be super expensive to keep your stuff safe.”
Kimberly Maynor said she always secures her possessions at the gym, especially after hearing about thefts at the Battle Creek Planet Fitness.
“There was a lady inside the locker room there that said, ‘Be careful,'” Maynor told Target 8. “She would go at like 8 o’clock in the morning, and they broke into her car.”
Another Planet Fitness customer, Cameron Sawicki, told Target 8 that he keeps his wallet, keys and water right next to him while working out. But he wasn’t surprised to hear thieves were targeting gyms, not given what he’s seen hanging from locker room hooks.
“They’re like twenty (car) keys lined up on a wall,” explained Sawicki. “Not safe. Not good. It’s crazy. People just leave their keys right there.”