Eighteen people were indicted yesterday in one of Toledo's largest burglary and safecracking rings with losses estimated by police in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A Lucas County grand jury returned indictments totaling 88 counts on charges including safecracking, breaking and entering, grand theft, and theft of drugs. The counts are associated with 32 break-ins at businesses in the city, Lt. Mel Stachura said.
Police also expect to clear more than 70 additional similar cases through its continuing investigation and confessions obtained from some ring members. The crimes occurred between 2001 and last year.
Detectives said 22 men, one woman, and three teenage boys are involved in the ring, which allegedly had three leaders: Marcos Ortiz, 31, of 1224 Prouty St.; Daniel Matney, 21, of 1239 Prouty, and Timothy Tallman, 26, of 1242 Colton St.
Police said three other members of the Matney family also are involved. The other members of the group are friends or acquaintances.
"It's the biggest [ring] I've seen, and I've been here 40 years," burglary Sgt. Bob Baumgartner said.
For months, his detectives filled a bulletin board with pictures and information about the suspects and the cases in which they were involved. About half of them were arrested in various stages of the investigation, handled by Detectives Bob Brannon and Sherri Wise.
Some help came from authorities in Sylvania Township and Michigan, who arrested some of the suspects after break-ins and safe jobs there.
Toledo detectives said they are seeking additional charges as the investigation continues and possible Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organizations, or RICO action, against the entire group.
The organized, unnamed ring mainly targeted busi-nesses, such as bars and restaurants. While a few members broke into the businesses by prying open doors or putting holes in ceilings or walls, others acted as lookouts outside and had police scanners, investigators said.
Safes were pried open with power tools and sledgehammers. Members taught other members how to commit the crimes, detectives said.
Sergeant Baumgartner said members would go into businesses and "size up" where the safe was or they would know someone who worked there.
Later, a few of them would break in and either pry open the safes inside the businesses or haul them to another location, such as garages, and break them open. Some were empty, while others contained thousands of dollars. The empty safes were dumped into creeks, vacant fields, and even Lake Erie.
Police said they recovered about 15 safes. Investigators believe the suspects split the money and spent some to support drug habits.
"There was so much money being made," Sergeant Baumgartner said.
But none was made during a break-in at Red Wells Famous Roast Beef Sandwich Shop on West Sylvania Avenue in West Toledo, veteran cook Brian Corlett said. The safe was empty.
The 25-year employee said burglars used a long pry bar and bent a quarter panel of the back door to enter. They went inside and didn't trigger the alarm.
"Somehow they knew exactly where the drop safe was and carried it out of the building," he said. "The neighbors next door heard, called 911, and watched when they left. [The suspects] dropped the safe and ran away."
Mr. Corlett said the longtime eatery ended up getting a new back door, upgrading its alarm system, and opting not to keep money in the safe.
"We were lucky. A lot of victims lost substantial amounts of money and had more property damage," he said.
Steve Hardin, president of IPI Insta-Plak Inc. on Dorr Street in South Toledo, said software for photography that was kept in a fireproof safe that was stolen in a break-in is now stored off-site.
At the House of Meats on North Holland-Sylvania Road in South Toledo, an undisclosed amount of money was taken from a safe last summer, manager Rob Socie said.
"They pried open the back door and got inside. They ripped a hole in the office wall and gorged the safe right out of the floor. Just took it right out. They dug it right out," he said.
Mr. Socie said the business made some upgrades after the crime, which like other victimized establishments know, costs money. "It certainly costs everybody," he said.
In addition to the three ringleaders, indicted were:
Donald K. Matney, Sr., 42, and Shelley Matney, 43, both of 1239 Prouty; James Morris, 27, of 320 Eldred Ave.; Steven Green, 26, of 1011 Atlantic Ave.; Marcelino Menchaca, 30, of 4604 Harvest Lane; Christopher Weallens, 19, of 825 Lorain St.
Also, Joshua Valentine, 21, of 409 Spencer St.; William Arnold, 31, of 426 Havre St.; Andrew Laberdee, 21, of 2087 Cherrylawn Drive; Michael Hassen, 24, of 517 Federman St.; Todd Hamilton, 26, of 1240 South Ave.; John C. Mallory, 25, of 1116 Alcott St.
Ryan K. Thames, 21, of 726 Lodge Ave.; Ernesto Vasquez, 33, of 110 Carroll Pl., and Armando J. Perez, 25, of 12453 Lincoln Blvd., Perrysburg.
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