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Burglars called ‘pros’

Authorities charged 15 in ‘sophisticated’ criminal group

March 22, 2008
By CHRISTOPHER BOBBY Tribune Chronicle
WARREN — Authorities say the burglary ring they busted was so sophisticated that it actually had division of labor.

Some in the ring were the thieves and good “second-story men.” Others worked the sales and ordering part of the scheme.

At one point, two official ‘‘police’’ jackets with bright yellow lettering on the back were stolen from Red Diamond Uniforms, police said.

‘‘They had plans to put on the jackets and raid drug houses to steal the money and drugs. We caught up with them before that happened,’’ said Jeffrey Hoolihan, a Warren detective.

‘‘These weren’t crackheads that would smash and grab,’’ said Jim Ciotti, a special agent with Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

The fruits of law enforcement’s labor was laid out Friday in a former Operations Department site in Warren, where much of the $400,000 in stolen goods was laid out. Among those attending were Warren police Chief John Mandopoulos, Mahoning Sheriff Randall Wellington and Warren Mayor Michael J. O’Brien.

The ring ripped off Youngstown Sports Grille on April 17, 2006, according to a 68-count indictment issued Thursday in Mahoning County, and after stealing $425 worth of frozen meat, sold it to other Youngstown area bars.

‘‘These guys took special orders. If you wanted a lawn tractor, they’d go to a sales-service place and steal one and sell it for a fraction of the price,’’ Hoolihan said. ‘‘These guys used tools and broke in through roofs, sometimes bypassing alarm systems.’’

One of the thieves stole a front door from a retail outlet and mounted in the front of his house, investigators said. The olive green entry centerpiece was yanked out of the hole and secured as evidence.

Three of the 15 people indicted Thursday were employees at the General Motors Corp. automotive plant in Lordstown, police said. Those indicted included a brother and sister whose late father, Al Alli was the longtime Local 1112 shop chairman.

‘‘Our investigation revealed that a lot of the customers buying up the stolen goods were GM employees too,’’ Hoolihan said.

‘‘There were actual deals made under the GM sign in the parking lot. And one of the horse trailers stolen was traced to another GM worker in Michigan,’’ Ciotti said.

‘‘And that’s to say there’s nothing against the hardworking people at General Motors. We’re talking about a couple bad guys among many,’’ Mahoning Prosecutor Paul Gaines said.

Ciotti formed a task force out of Ohio’s 25-year-old Organized Crime Investigation Commission. The task force was headed up by Sgt. Andy Bodzak, a detective in Canfield, who worked the case for about 14 months. In the end, the investigation cleared about 125 break-ins and thefts. Ciotti said the paperwork fills 15, 4-inch thick legal binders.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann called the police work a ‘‘glimpse of things to come.’’

‘‘It’s critical that police work in this multi-jurisdictional arrangement. Criminals don’t work within defined jurisdictions. No single police department could have investigated this on its own. You’re looking at the future,’’ Dann said.

According to the indictment, the burglary and fencing ring stole televisions, horse trailers, riding lawn mowers and motorcycles. Some still are scheduled to turn themselves in, police said.

The indictment claims members of the ring broke into several businesses in the area during the summer of 2007, stealing cash; Women, Infant and Children benefits; and everything from cars to gas grills. Targeted businesses include Marino’s Italian Cafe, Grand Buffet, Home Depot in Howland, Leonard’s Truck and Trailer and King Kar Motors.

The investigation dubbed ‘‘Operation Bandit’’ involved investigators from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Canfield, Austintown, Boardman, Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, Warren, Hubbard Township, Milton, Liberty, Beaver, Youngstown, Weathersfield, North Jackson, Bazetta, the Ohio Organized Crime Commission, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and the Mahoning and Trumbull counties prosecutors’ offices.

Identified as the ringleader of the group was Bobby Mock, 38, formerly of Canfield, who held a SWAT team at bay for 10 hours at a Liberty hotel last summer after police tried to pick him up in connection to thefts from automated teller machines. He was sentenced in July to 3 1/2 years in that case.

Investigators first noticed a dramatic increase in break-ins in the Mahoning Valley more than two years ago while investigating a ring that they labeled ‘‘Cell 1.’’ Two individual cells were quashed with arrests in the past.

Mock’s group was called ‘‘Cell 3,’’ and investigators said they already were working on ‘‘Cell 4.’’

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Article Photos

Warren police Chief John Mandopoulos, left, and Mayor Michael J. O’Brien stand Friday among the large inventory of stolen property recovered during the investigation of an organized burglary ring. Fifteen people were indicted Thursday by a Mahoning County grand jury.

Fact Box

The indictments
People indicted by a Mahoning County grand jury, and the accusations filed against them in connection to a burglary ring, were:

RINGLEADERS
Bobby Mock, 39, Mahoning County Jail; Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 43 counts of breaking and entering, theft and receiving stolen property.
Brian Bleggi, 41, 3313 Black Oak Lane, Austintown; RICO, 15 counts of breaking and entering, theft and receiving stolen property.
Timothy Marino, 41, 2860 Ridge Road, Cortland; RICO, nine counts receiving stolen property.

LOWER ASSOCIATES
Brian Simione, 34, 3006 Southern Blvd., Youngstown; RICO; seven counts of breaking and entering, theft and receiving stolen property.
Laura Alli, 36, 5134 Nashua Drive, Youngstown; RICO; six counts breaking and entering, theft.
Albert Alli, 32, 5184 Nashua Drive, Youngstown, RICO, two counts breaking and entering, and theft.
Anthony Petrello, 41, 3019 Canfield Road, Youngstown; RICO; five counts breaking and entering, theft.
Mark Wells, 41, 9933 Gladstone Road, North Jackson; receiving stolen property and obstruction of justice.
Danyelle Stanley 32, 2981 Louise Rita Court, Youngstown; complicity to breaking and entering.
Gennaro Bellard, 42, 2962 Roosevelt Drive, Liberty; breaking and entering and theft.
Michael Cummings, 40, 147 Harrow Lane, Youngstown; one count insurance fraud.
Joseph DeMichael, 39, 3364 Sandalwood Lane, Austintown; breaking and entering, theft.
David Thistlewaite, 35, 9600 Arthur Street, Canfield; 10 counts receiving stolen property.
Thomas Turney, 52, 3448 Shelby Road, Youngstown, receiving stolen property.
Richard Schaffer, 50, 610 Salt Springs Road, Mineral Ridge, receiving stolen property.

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