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Published: 12/19/2007

$170,000 in gold from Sylvania Township dental lab led to 6 arrests

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Early last year, employees of the Toledo Coin Exchange in Sylvania took notice when the same man kept bringing in little globs of gold for sale - a pattern that eventually led the owners to call police.

That man, David Thomas, is now one of six people accused of being involved in a scheme that involved stealing gold from a Sylvania Township dental lab and selling it at local gold and coin exchanges.

Sylvania police Officer Scott Gibbs testified at a hearing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday of the year-long investigation that resulted in six arrests and the discovery that about $170,000 in gold was stolen from the Dresch-Tolson Dental Lab. The hearing was held to establish whether the charges brought against the six defendants were properly filed within the statute of limitations.

Charles Morgan, 51, of 1001 Byrne Rd., is charged with aggravated theft for long-term stealing of gold used in the process of making crowns.

Charged with receiving stolen property are Thomas, 46, of 5600 Alexis Rd.; Stephen Mullen, 50, of 5853 Clover Lane; Sharon Mullen, 46, of 6054 Atwell Rd.; Patricia Kwapich, 41, of Henry County's Liberty Center, and Sandra Kwapich-King, 40, of 3823 Wallwerth Dr.

Mr. Morgan, a former long-time lab employee, was a casting technician charged with the task of turning raw materials into dental crowns. Authorities believe that for the past 15 years, he stole bits of gold that should have been put into crowns.

He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Yesterday, Officer Gibbs outlined the investigation that began in April, 2006, when Toledo Coin Exchange employees became suspicious that Thomas was selling significant amounts of gold. It was from that initial interview with Thomas that the rest of the defendants were identified, Officer Gibbs said.

The six were indicted in July and arraigned shortly thereafter. Thomas, who has a warrant issued for his arrest, has never appeared for his arraignment.

"You started with Dave Thomas and that led you to Chuck Morgan, and the next day other names came up, including Kwapich," Assistant County Prosecutor Jevne Meader said while questioning Officer Gibbs.

"Correct," he responded.

In motions to dismiss filed earlier this year, defense attorneys pointed out that the alleged activity began in 1991 and that the indictment was not filed until 16 years later. They also contended that the fraud was originally discovered in 1996 when Mr. Morgan was fired for taking some gold from the facility.

The motions claim that since the alleged offense was first discovered in 1996, the indictment clearly was filed beyond a one-year fraud extension provided by Ohio's statute of limitations.

Yesterday, the lab's general manager, Chris Schonter, testified that Mr. Morgan was hired back in 1998, two years after being fired, because he was skilled in his profession and the lab needed help. He added that they were unaware of the degree of his alleged thefts at the time.

He was fired again last year after Sylvania police made the lab aware of the alleged thefts.

Defense attorneys further claimed in their motions that if the prosecution contends the theft was discovered in April, 2006, the one-year statute of limitations was still exceeded because indictments were not handed up until July, 2007.

Judge Gary Cook asked that any further memoranda from the defense should be filed by Jan. 14. The defendants will appear in court again Feb. 6. They each remain free on recognizance bonds.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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