Police bust scrap metal theft ring that targeted vacant, tornado-damaged properties

Arrests have been made and additional suspects have been identified in a large scrap metal theft ring accused of causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage in Montgomery County, according to investigators.

>>WE’RE BACK: Signal restored, WHIO-TV is back on-air

Moraine police, the leading agency on the investigation, conducted a search at a home in the 2800 block of Coronette Avenue Thursday morning. The search comes following a long-term investigation into stolen scrap metal from several properties across Montgomery County since 2018, Moraine police told this news outlet.

>>LOCAL WEATHER: Track the latest conditions with Live Doppler 7 Radar

The suspects are accused of targeting scrap metal, mainly copper wire, at properties that were being built, rehabilitated, or were abandoned, including properties damaged by the Memorial Day tornadoes, investigators said.

During the search, investigators found stolen scrap metal, vehicles used during the thefts, and tools used to take the scrap metal from the properties, police said.

Around a dozen people have been identified as suspects in the theft ring, with some placed under arrest this week, investigators said.

Police only identified Donald R. Leeth III, 43, as one of the suspects arrested. Leeth, who owns the house where the search was conducted Thursday, is booked in the Montgomery County Jail on an initial charge of breaking and entering, according to online jail records.

Official charges for those accused in the ring are still pending, police said.

Damage estimates could exceed $1 million, which includes the value of the metal stolen and the cost paid to fix the damage caused by the thefts, according to police.

This is a developing story and we’ll continue to update this story as we learn more.

About the Author