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Published: Thursday, 5/1/2008

5 guilty in theft of gold from dental lab

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Five of six people accused of stealing gold from a Sylvania Township dental lab and redeeming the valuable metal for cash were convicted yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Charles Morgan, 52, of 1001 Byrne Rd., pleaded guilty to aggravated theft.

A former casting technician at Dresch Tolson Dental Lab, he stole $170,000 in gold from the business over a 16-year period.

The other defendants - Stephen Mullen, 50, of 5853 Clover Lane; Sharon Mullen, 47, of 6054 Atwell Rd.; Patricia Kwapich, 42, of Liberty Center, Ohio, and Sandra Kwapich-King, 40, of 3823 Wallwerth Drive - entered guilty pleas to misdemeanor receiving stolen property.

They were not employees of the dental lab, but took gold scraps left over in the making of crowns from Morgan, knowing the items were stolen, and cashed in the pieces at local gold and coin exchanges.

David Thomas also is charged in the scheme, but authorities have not been able to find him. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

The plea agreement with the defendants calls for them to make restitution to the dental lab owners and to testify if needed at any future court hearings. Morgan, who worked at the lab from 1991 to 1996 and 1998 to 2006, admitted to Judge Gary Cook that he took small quantities of the gold and either exchanged it for money himself or had one of the co-defendants redeem it.

Sylvania police began an investigation into the theft after employees at Toledo Coin Exchange in Sylvania noticed that one of the defendants kept bringing in little globs to exchange for money.

County Assistant Prosecutor Jevne Meader said the plea agreement was approved by the owners of Dresch Tolson Dental Lab and the investigating Sylvania police officer.

Mr. Meader said the plea was made, in part, because of evidentiary issues over whether the statute of limitations to prosecute had expired. Defense attorneys argued that the six-year time frame to prosecute should have begun in 1996 when police investigated a theft complaint at the lab. However, Judge Cook denied the motion.

Morgan faces a maximum of 18 months in prison, and the others could be sentenced to six months in jail. Sentencing is May 28.



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