After a nine-month investigation, police around the area were busy Tuesday morning rounding up members of a suspected
burglary and drug dealing ring in the Valley.
In the past, there has been a number of occasions where authorities could track stolen merchandise to a fencing operation. But
for the first time, authorities said they were able to take their case a step or two further to show where the cash was actually
Members of the Valley's Law Enforcement Task Force took eight suspects into custody Tuesday morning, all accused of
operating a criminal enterprise where suspects would break into homes in the area and steal jewelery and other items, which
would then be exchanged for cash at a local precious metals dealer in Youngstown. The cash would give the burglary suspects
the money they needed to buy heroin.
The break-ins occurred in Poland Township, Springfield Township, Struthers, Boardman, Youngstown, New Middletown and
Girard. Authorities said the case is more proof of the Valley's rapidly expanding drug problem.
"In this case the drug dealer was taken from Youngstown, but the crimes took place in Poland, and in Springfield, and in
Struthers and Girard, and Boardman. That affects our citizens and those people are not stealing to support their families, to buy
new cars, to buy a house. The majority of these people, in my career, they're stealing things to support a drug habit," said Poland
Township Police Chief Brian Goodin.
"Most of our users that we find are maintaining their drugs out there in the suburbs. They're coming into Youngstown a lot of
times to traffic, but they're going back to use it and unfortunately, when they run out, they're looking at their neighbors for the
supply of the sources of money to continue their usage," said Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley.
On Tuesday afternoon, police showed off some of the items they recovered, including a wide assortment of stolen jewelry as well
as a number of laptops, flat-screen TVs and computer games.
"We had TVs that were taken, there was guns stolen, there was money, there was jewelry," said Mahoning County Assistant
Prosecutor Marty Desmond.
Investigators said they were able to trace a lot of the merchandise to Leslie's Precious Metals on East Midlothian Boulevard in
Youngstown. The husband and wife co-owners, Dominic and Leslie Eckman of Poland, were among those arrested.
"We were able to trace not only the jewelry to the precious metals dealer, but we were able to trace TVs and laptops and X-Boxes
to the dealer as well," Desmond said.
In all, investigators said the suspects targeted at least 16 homes scattered around eastern Mahoning County as well as in
Girard. They said two of the homes were hit twice.
Police said they believe having an area-wide task force helped bring the seemingly separate cases together.
"You have five, six departments that would all chase the same thing, rather than 'let's work together,'" Goodin said.
"The task force also provides a lot of equipment and technical advice that smaller departments would not be able to afford on
their own," said Struthers Police Chief Tim Roddy.
Police recovered about $30,000 in stolen items. The suspects, who were secretly indicted on Thursday, are all expected in court
Those arrested on Tuesday and their charges include:
John Woods of Springfield, 13 counts of felony burglary and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Erin King of Springfield, three counts of felony burglary and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Katie Grist of Springfield, six counts of felony burglary, one count of felony theft and one count of engaging in a pattern of
Grant Repasky of Springfield, 10 counts of felony burglary and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Jamal Vaughn of Youngstown, seven counts of felony trafficking in heroin and one count of engaging in a pattern of
Dominic Eckman of Poland, two misdemeanor counts of receiving stolen property, two felony counts of receiving stolen
property and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Alexis Norman of Springfield, one felony count of receiving stolen property.
Leslie Eckman of Poland, one misdemeanor count of records and book making