It was like something out of a movie or a cartoon. An Iowa man attempted to steal every newspaper in his small town, just so his neighbors couldn’t see that he was listed in the police blotter for stealing election signs. Unfortunately for him, his outrageous plot to cover up his local act of election interference backfired, because the case ended up making national headlines.
Peter De Yager got a small mention in the September 2nd edition of the Dickinson County News and he wasn’t happy about it. De Yager had recently pleaded guilty to stealing a Joe Biden election sign from a neighbors yard, so his name was listed in the crime roundup section of the paper. Just three sentences were dedicated to De Yager on the third page of the paper, but he seemed determined to keep news of his arrest private.
After the issue featuring De Yager was released, the staff at Dickinson County News began getting reports that entire stacks of papers had gone missing from numerous locations around town.
Dickinson County News staff writer Seth Boyes told As It Happens guest host Peter Armstrong that a delivery driver was the first to notice that something was wrong.
“He told us that there were no papers anywhere along his route that day. And he also happened to mention that there was one location, at least, that told him they had some footage of a guy stealing all the papers on their on their security cameras. So from that point, I started making some calls,” Boyes said.
De Yager is a well-known businessman in the area, and a regular customer at many of the stores that he stole from, so he was identified immediately. In fact, one of the store owners recognized De Yager and didn’t even call the police, but just confronted him the next time that he came into the store.
Boyes said the staff at the newspaper also figured things out pretty quickly.
“I got to thinking about why anyone would want to take all the papers. And it did occur to me that we’d run that police blotter, what we call the Sirens, in that week’s edition. It was kind of a long shot, we thought, but, you know, maybe it was,” he said.
As Boyes pointed out, most news is distributed on the internet these days, and print editions are more commonly sent to the homes of subscribers.
“The paper is not only available online, but subscribers get the paper directly mailed to the residents. So stealing papers out of the racks is going to have an effect, but not as large an effect as one would think,” Boyes said.
Only one of the stores, a Jiffy station, decided to press charges, while the other locally-owned stores simply accepted an apology and a repayment.
“We went around to the various convenience stores, and some of them opted not to press charges if he agreed to come in and pay for the papers,” Spirit Lake Police Lt. Daren Diers said.
De Yager pleaded guilty to theft and trespassing for taking about $20 worth of newspapers from the Jiffy gas station, and has paid the other convenience stores back for the papers that were taken.
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