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‘Car shopping:’ New Berlin woman accused of stealing vehicles to support heroin addiction

Katarina Panagiotopoulos

WAUKESHA — 22-year-old Katarina Panagiotopoulos of New Berlin is criminally charged for allegedly stealing or attempting to steal vehicles in three separate incidents to support a heroin addiction.

Panagiotopoulos faces the following criminal charges:

  • Attempt operating a motor vehicle without owner’s consent (2 counts)
  • Entry into a locked vehicle
  • Operate motor vehicle while revoked (2 counts)
  • Operating a motor vehicle without owner’s consent – joyriding

According to the criminal complaint, the most recent incident happened on Tuesday morning, Feb. 27. New Berlin police were dispatched to a laundromat on Calhoun Rd. for a report of a theft of a vehicle in progress. The complaint indicates Panagiotopoulos attempted to steal the vehicle of an off-duty Franklin police officer — who was doing laundry at the business. But before Panagiotopoulos could drive away, the off-duty officer confronted Panagiotopoulos — and ended up restraining her before New Berlin police arrived on the scene. Panagiotopoulos told police she was “trying to get money or steal the vehicle so that she could support her heroin addiction.”

The complaint indicates Panagiotopoulos stole a vehicle from the My Pantry on Calhoun Rd. on Thursday, Feb. 22. The owner of a minivan had apparently left her keys in the ignition, left the vehicle running with her phone and purse visible — while she went into the store. Again, Panagiotopoulos admitted to police she took the minivan — and “went to the location in Milwaukee where she knew she could buy heroin.” The complaint says Panagiotopoulos “was able to get heroin by trading the stolen Caravan vehicle with the heroin dealer.”

Lastly, Panagiotopoulos is accused of stealing another vehicle from the same My Pantry on Thursday, Jan. 25. The complaint indicates Panagiotopoulos went to the store “to go car shopping or steal a vehicle.” The victim this time left the vehicle running but took her keys inside the store — the vehicle had a push button start. Panagiotopoulos told police she was able to drive away with the vehicle — and drove to get some heroin. She told detectives “she had left the vehicle running the entire time she was in possession of it.”

A warrant has been issued Panagiotopoulos, who failed to show up for her preliminary hearing on Friday, March 8.