Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018
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Police & Fire

Stolen safe fuels spree, police say

Robert Yoder and his friends thought they had it made with their newfound wealth.

The group of East Toledoans was picking up girls and riding around the Cleveland area in a $7,700 GMC Jimmy and bigger wheels - limousines. They were partying in “The Flats,” a series of restaurants and bars in Cleveland. They were forking out $50 tips to strippers, and buying shoes and Tommy Hilfiger clothes.

They were handing out hundreds and thousands of dollars like it was Halloween candy. “These guys were whoopin' it up,” said Detective Sgt. Brad Borowy of the Independence, Ohio, police department in suburban Cleveland.

But the good times ended when Independence police got a tip that Mr. Yoder was wanted in Toledo. A safe filled with possibly up to $140,000 had been taken from a man's apartment in East Toledo, and Mr. Yoder was identified as one of the people involved.

Mr. Yoder, five men, and two juvenile girls have been charged by Toledo police in the Oct. 10 burglary and safecracking incident that led to the spending spree.

Those charged include Mr. Yoder, 19, of 1661 Pool St.; Anthony Struffolino, 18, of Genoa; Scott Gschwind, 18, of 1434 Remington St.; Danny Lenix, 18, of 1709 Kedron St.; Aaron Gross, 21, of 1354 Felt St.; Joshua Trapp, 19, of 802 Oakdale Ave., and two East Toledo girls, ages 15 and 16. More charges are pending.

Roger Kline left his first-floor apartment on Oak Street just before it was broken into through a side window about 11:10 a.m.

Mr. Kline's friend, who is Mr. Yoder's uncle, told police he heard noises downstairs, looked out, and saw his nephew and another man loading something heavy - what he thought might be a safe - into the trunk of a car.

He couldn't get downstairs in time, so he called 911 and Mr. Kline. “I didn't know what to think. It put me on my knees,” Mr. Kline, 66, said.

The suspects, identified as Mr. Yoder, Mr. Struffolino, and the 15-year-old girl, took the safe to Mr. Gross' residence, where they tried unsuccessfully to open it.

Mr. Gross went to work and Mr. Struffolino drove to Ottawa County, where he was arrested a few hours later for trying to pass a phony $100 bill at three businesses in the Port Clinton area, Ottawa County Sheriff Craig Emahiser said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Yoder and the 15-year-old girl met up with Mr. Lenix. The three took the safe to Mr. Lenix's house, investigators said.

They opened it with a torch and a pry bar, and split the cash and some of the other items, including two guns. The men took the girl to her aunt's house and dumped the safe into the Maumee River, police said.

“You could tell they were kids. They splurged. Adults wouldn't have handed out money to anybody,” Toledo police Detective Sgt. Jeff Gorney said.

Two days later the SUV was bought and Mr. Yoder, Mr. Trapp, and Mr. Gschwind went to the Cleveland area, where they were arrested.

Independence police recovered money, one of the guns, jewelry, receipts, and various items of new clothing with the tags attached, Sergeant Borowy said.

Toledo investigators said about $25,000 in money and property has been recovered. Still missing are things that meant the most to Mr. Kline, such as his deceased son's baby shoes.

Mr. Kline said he received the money from a settlement after he was hurt while working for a railroad company in the mid-1980s. He estimates he had slightly less than $140,000 in the safe, which was on wheels and kept in the living area. He said he didn't put the money in a bank because he doesn't trust banks.

While searching one of the men's residences, police found a stereo inside a garage. Oregon police said it came from an apartment in the 1100 block of South Wheeling St. that was burglarized about an hour before the East Toledo break-in.

Mr. Struffolino has been charged with the Oregon burglary.

A Lucas County grand jury indicted the men Wednesday on the Toledo charges. Mr. Yoder is charged with burglary, aggravated theft, and safecracking. Mr. Gross and Mr. Lenix are charged with safecracking. Mr. Gschwind and Mr. Trapp are charged with receiving stolen property. Mr. Struffolino is charged with burglary and aggravated theft.

All except Mr. Gross and Mr. Struffolino are scheduled to appear Nov. 1 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Mr. Yoder is being held in the Lucas County jail. Mr. Struffolino is being held in the Ottawa County jail on three counts of criminal simulation for trying to pass the phony $100 bill. Mr. Gross has not been arrested. The other men were released on their own recognizances after arraignments in Toledo Municipal Court.

The 15-year-old girl is charged with two felony counts of delinquency in connection with receiving stolen property and one count of delinquency in connection with burglary. She is being held in the Lucas County Juvenile Detention Center pending a trial today in Lucas County Juvenile Court.

The 16-year-old girl is charged with one misdemeanor count of delinquency in connection with receiving stolen property for taking some of the stolen money.

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