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Man arrested in Vienna restaurant break-in

Already has served prison time on similar charges

VIENNA — A man who served two years in prison for a string of bar and golf course break-ins in 2015 is now suspected in the July 10 overnight burglary of the Yankee Kitchen Restaurant, 484 Youngstown Kingsville Road SE.

Brandon Welz, 33, 2969 South Ave., Warren, pleaded not guilty to felony counts of breaking and entering and theft during a video arraignment Wednesday in Girard Municipal Court. He was assigned a $10,000 bond and is scheduled for a July 24 preliminary hearing before Judge Jeffrey D. Adler, court records show.

Welz is accused of breaking into the restaurant around 12:30 a.m. July 10 and stealing money from a cash drawer and a safe. The burglar, according to the police, was able to climb through one of the restaurant’s windows.

Surveillance images show a thin man climbing a light pole in the back of the building, bending a metal conduit to get on the roof and going to the north peak, so he could disconnect the outside light to darken his entry point, according to a police report. He then was seen jumping off the roof in the back by the air conditioning units.

The suspect stole approximately $1,000, a police report states.

On July 11, Vienna police Chief Bob Ludt and Lt. Brian Darbey received phonecall from the Brookfield Police Department in reference to a break-in at Yankee Run Golf Course. Officers from both police departments, working with the Trumbull County Probation Department, were able to arrest Welz after he was identified by a female friend from a security photograph that was taken during the Yankee Kitchen break-in, police said.

Brookfield police Chief Dan Faustino said one of his officers stopped a woman named Tiffany Atkins on a traffic violation. It was during that traffic stop that Welz called her cell phone.

“He was a suspect in a break-in at the Yankee Run Golf Course that happened that day,” Faustino said. “We showed her the photo still taken of the suspect involved the Yankee Kitchen burglary and she positively identified the person in the photograph as Welz.”

He was later arrested.

“This is a prime example of what can be accomplished when neighboring police departments work together,” Ludt said. “Cooperation between police departments is an essential tool in solving crimes.”

Ludt added the department received numerous tips about who the suspect in the Yankee Kitchen break-in may have been after the department posted a black and white photograph of him on its website and released it to the media.

“The tips from the photograph released did not directly lead to the arrest, but we are grateful for the assistance given by the public,” Ludt said.

Welz is no stranger to the criminal justice system.

He was sentenced Aug. 20, 2015, to two years at the Lorain Correctional Institution after pleading guilty to one count each of safe cracking and breaking and entering, according to Lake County court records. That case was the result of his May 30, 2015, arrest in Warren Township, during which police found items stolen May 28 from Mr. Lee’s Bar in Perry Township.

Police said Welz was responsible for a string of break-ins at bars and golf courses in Trumbull, Portage, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties in April and May 2015. However, no charges were filed against him in Portage, Ashtabula or Geauga, according to court records.

Following his arrest in Warren Township, detectives from the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office believed Welz was breaking into bars and golf courses in rural areas during the early morning hours to steal cash and items to support a suspected drug habit. He is suspected to have stolen between $14,000 and $15,000 in cash as well as goods.

TCSO detectives started seeing a pattern to the break-ins in early to mid-May of that year. Break-ins occurred between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m., after bars closed. After watching surveillance video, police noticed the suspect would head straight for the cash and was always wearing the same kind of clothing, a hoodie and a mask.

After the owner of Mulligans Pub in Burton placed surveillance video images of a May 27, 2015, break-in on the bar’s Facebook page, at least three people identified Welz as the man in the video, according to police records.

The name was passed on to the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office. Once officers found out where Welz lived, the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office placed him under constant surveillance. Police believed he was responsible for eight or nine break-ins from the end of April until the time of his arrest May 30, 2015.

Over the years, Welz has had a number of appearances in Warren Municipal court, including a 2010 charge of receiving stolen property, for which he was sentenced to 180 days in jail and given a $1,000 fine, and five years non-reporting probation. The jail sentence was suspended. He also has been charged with numerous traffic violations, court records show.

He was charged with a probation violation in December 2018, court records show.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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