A tipster who spotted a bulletin-board flyer advertising two guns for sale last April led Bozeman police to charge a 20-year-old Maryland man with the burglary of a local sporting goods store.

And last week, Connor Hayden Kraegel, a former Montana State University student, pleaded guilty in federal court to the February 2009 burglary of Bob Ward & Sons Sporting Goods, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"This whole case was solved on a tip from a citizen," Bozeman detective Cory Klumb said Wednesday. "Without it, we wouldn't have had a clue."

The tipster saw a flyer on a bulletin board at MSU advertising two guns for sale. Being a Bob Ward's employee, he was familiar with the case and with what firearms had been taken from the store in the early morning break-in.

So he called police.

"Those two guns led us to conduct an undercover buy," and ultimately to Kraegel's conviction, Klumb said.

Federal charging documents say that around 2 a.m. on Feb. 8, Kraegel "broke through a back door to the store and grabbed an armload of various firearms before walking out of the store." The firearms were valued at nearly $13,000.

He took 11 firearms, including a high-powered .308-caliber rifle, several .223-caliber rifles, several pistols and a 12-gauge shotgun, the document stated.

Most, if not all, of the firearms were recovered, Klumb said.

However, in the course of the investigation, police also found body armor.

When asked about the body armor, Kraegel admitted he had stolen it from Yellowstone National Park, along with a pair of night-vision goggles, YNP special agent Les Seago said Wednesday.

Kraegel worked as a volunteer and later a seasonal employee in the park in 2009. The body armor was taken from an employee cache, the special agent said.

Kraegel faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years probation.

However, if U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy adopts a plea agreement at a scheduled April 8 hearing, Kraegel could be sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay restitution for any items not recovered.

The Missouri River Drug Task Force, MSU Police, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives helped with the investigation, Klumb said.

And of course, there was the man who provided the clue that cracked the case, he added.

"With more public participation, we'd be able to solve more crimes," Klumb said.

Jodi Hausen can be reached at jhausen@dailychronicle.com or 582-2630. Read her blog at jhausen.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @bozemancrime.


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