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The sound of a thief

by KEITH KINNAIRD
Hagadone News Network | November 19, 2010 8:00 PM

SANDPOINT - A Sandpoint man was arrested Wednesday morning for the armed robbery of a payday loan office last week.

Steven Lee Keller was immediately identified as a suspect in the robbery of Sandpoint Title & Payday Loans because he was a frequent customer of the business, court records show.

Keller made an initial appearance in magistrate court on Wednesday afternoon, where Judge Debra Heise sustained his $50,000 bail and appointed a public defender to represent him.

A hearing to determine if Keller should be tried on the felony charge is pending. A robbery conviction in Idaho is punishable by no less than five years in prison. The maximum punishment is life.

Keller, 39, is accused of robbing the business at 808 West Lake St. last Friday morning. Although Keller used a bandana, hooded sweatshirt and dark glasses to conceal his identity, the manager immediately recognized Keller's voice and thought a joke was being perpetrated.

Keller allegedly brandished a utility knife and ordered the woman to open the cash drawer, according to probable cause hearing testimony. She complied, but asked the perpetrator if he was sure about what he was doing. Keller allegedly said he was and took a little more than $200 in cash.

By the end of the morning, Sandpoint police officers had tracked Keller to the Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, Wash., court records indicate.

Keller denied being involved in the robbery and told police he had an alibi. But investigators told a judge that surveillance camera footage and mobile phone records undermine Keller's alibi.

The manager testified during the hearing that she spoke with Keller about twice a week and he often came into the business, court records indicate. She estimated that she has spoken with Keller 30-40 times altogether.

In his application for a public defender, Keller said he was unemployed and listed outstanding debts of $575 for a title loan and a $600 quick cash loan.

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