Couple Allegedly Faked Report of Child in Stolen Truck So Police Would Speed Up Search for Vehicle
The call around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday put police on high alert: A Phoenix couple reported their truck had been stolen after they stepped inside of a QuikTrip convenience store, and an 18-month-old toddler left in the vehicle had been taken with it.
More than 50 officers were deployed. A police helicopter joined in what Phoenix police described as "an intensive search." Authorities told the couple they would issue an AMBER Alert.
Within a couple of hours the 1999 Ford F-250 was located, along with the man and woman who allegedly took the truck.
Police did not find the child — because it didn't exist, they say.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
"After an intensive search for the reported baby, we have learned that the 'care giving couple' fabricated the story of a kidnapping," police said in a tweet late Wednesday. "The couple wanted a quicker police response to get their vehicle back from the suspects who took their truck without their permission."
In a separate tweet police added: "The resources used during this investigation worked tirelessly to find the alleged kidnapped baby. A police helicopter was also used during the search. With the facts as we now know them, the suspects will now be arrested and booked for false reporting to law enforcement."
The misdemeanor offense carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail, a $2,500 fine and three years of probation.
On Thursday police identified the couple as Stormee Wagner, 40, and James Wagner, 37, reports AZFamily.com. Both are being held in the Maricopa County jail with no bond.
The other couple, who police say are cooperating with their investigation, were not identified.
The two couples had just met when they went into the convenience store together. The unnamed couple left the store first and then drove away in the Wagners' truck, police said.
No charges against the second couple were announced, and an attorney for the Wagners was not immediately identified.