Tornado-damaged sites and an ”immense amount” of industrial electrical equipment at a former General Motors plant were among the targets in a metal theft “criminal organization” police say may involve more than $1 million in ravaged or stolen property across Montgomery County.
Two arrests have been made after crimes in Harrison Twp., Moraine, Riverside and possibly other communities, authorities said. Police suspect “upwards of a dozen people as being involved” in thefts that have caused power outages to businesses.
In Moraine, “they have caused hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in damage to these buildings,” Moraine Police Division Sgt. Andrew Parish said Friday.
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“These buildings aren’t just sitting there empty,” he added. “We have investment groups, realty groups who own the properties and managing these properties and trying to sell them or rehabilitate them.”
Those arrested so far include Justin Lewis Clever, 33, of Troy, and Donald R. Leeth III, 43, of Harrison Twp., police said.
Both are in the Montgomery County Jail awaiting charges of breaking and entering, and receiving stolen property, records show. Clever also faces an escape charge, according to jail records.
Police said they are seeking to charge those involved in the crimes with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
That charge shows “these individuals have worked in cooperation to commit these crimes,” Parish said.
“It shows that they’ve also done this in a pattern of theft….a continuation of multiple crimes that they’ve committed to benefit their organization,” he added.
Leeth was booked Wednesday, records show – a day before Moraine police and county law enforcement executed a search warrant at his Coronette Avenue home, Parish said. Clever was booked Thursday.
Found at Leeth’s home were “electrical components that are unique” to the former GM Truck & Bus plant in Moraine, Parish said.
The 3501 Springboro Pike site operated by the Industrial Realty Group is home to a “a compressor house” that contains “all the electrical components for what was (the) General Motors” plant and has “an immense amount of electrical equipment,” according to Parish.
The thieves “have gotten into live circuits, have caused massive surges in power, have interrupted the business of legitimate companies in the city of Moraine with these power outages and it’s very dangerous,” he said.
Police surveillance included following “individuals to some abandoned buildings in Riverside and in and around Northridge” and Parish said thieves were also “targeting some of the buildings that were affected by those Memorial Day tornadoes.”
Those involved would take the stolen metal to recycling centers, where they would receive between $1 to $2 a pound for their haul, Parish said. Sometimes, he said, those hauls involved 1,000 pounds of copper “in a single transaction.”
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