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Man found asleep in stolen car

A suspected car thief received a rude awakening early Friday when Medford police found him sleeping in a Lexus SUV he allegedly stole, then decked out with a license plate he is suspected of pilfering to try to throw police off the scent.

Sam Landes, 41, remained in the Jackson County Jail Friday afternoon on charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle and third-degree theft, according to jail records. His bail was set at $18,000.

A Medford police officer found Landes, of Florida, at 3 a.m. during a regular patrol near the intersection of Progress Drive and Biddle Road. The police car was equipped with an automatic license plate reader, a device that scans license plates to see if they are logged in police databases of missing or stolen vehicles or those possibly linked to a crime scene.

 "They're actually quite useful," Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said of the devices.

This time, the plate itself came up stolen, reportedly swiped from a 2000 Toyota Corolla parked in the Costco parking lot June 14. The officer arrested Landes without incident and ran the vehicle identification number on the car, a Lexus RX 330 SUV, and found it had been reported stolen in Seattle May 16.

There was no damage to the vehicle. Why Landes was in the area or any additional background on his alleged theft was not available.

"We don't have any history of him," Budreau said.

Police said the practice of stealing license plates and putting them on stolen vehicles is not uncommon.

"Typically, when we have a stolen plate, it's placed on a stolen vehicle to throw us off," Budreau said, adding the stolen plates are entered into the same stolen vehicle database.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.