HOWLAND, Ohio (WKBN) — Five people from the Niles and Howland areas are all behind bars in Mahoning County as police and Mahoning County Sheriff deputies work to break up what they say was a ring of thieves targeting unlocked cars and trucks.
Five duffle bags full of suspected stolen merchandise was found during a raid at a home on Huntley Drive in Howland Township Wednesday morning. Deputies from Mahoning County along with members of the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force had gone there looking for suspects Rex Putnam and Mark Mansfield, who investigators say were part of the ring.
Among the items found were cell phones, GPS units and even a $1,000 saxophone in its case. Investigators believe the items were all taken from unlocked vehicles around southern Mahoning County, including Canfield Township, where the Sheriff’s Office patrols.
Putnam, 34, and Mansfield, 30, were arrested at the home. Three others, Tera Watters, 24, Keith Sarrach, 23, and Roxann Putnam, 32, were arrested overnight Monday after a rash of thefts in Poland Township Monday evening.
“We found a lot of property there we believe was stolen throughout many jurisdictions, not just ours. We have confirmed a lot of ours, but we are going to be in contact with other police departments to see if they can identify any of the stolen items,” said Mahoning County Sheriff’s deputy Jeff Allen.
Investigators said they have reports of at least 25 thefts just in the Canfield area the past couple of months, with dozens more in other communities in southern Mahoning County. The amount of incidents is leading police to believe there still may be at least one other theft ring still committing break-ins.
“I think we are hitting the second month of the amount. We have had 15 to 20 in about a two-month period,” Allen said.
He said at least two of the suspects knew they were being watched.
“Tera Watters and Mark Mansfield were aware they were on to them. Even up to the day that they were arrested by Poland Township, who actually caught them in the act,” Allen said.
And as Rex Putnam and Mark Mansfield were being booked on Wednesday, a Howland Township health inspector was looking over the house where they were arrested.
“We have had a lot of neighbor complaints, rubbish, high grass. There is some sanitary issues here,” said Howland Police Chief Paul Monroe.
Police said four of the five suspects had hearings Wednesday morning in Struthers Municipal Court in connection with break-ins earlier this week in Poland Township. Two of those suspects are due in court on Friday in Canfield.
Allen said many of the thefts could have been prevented if the victims had locked their vehicles.