Buckets of cell phones and stacks of laptops, baskets of briefcases and rows of desktop computers were among the items on display behind the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Embreeville last week.All of it had been reportedly stolen from unlocked cars and open garages by what authorities described as a tri-country theft ring with victims in Chester, Berks and Montgomery counties.
Police provided some details Thursday about how they infiltrated the group last month using an undercover officer and announced the arrest of three individuals, including Daniel Moore, 25, of Gilbertsville, who reportedly acted as the fence for the loot and then allegedly sold it on the Internet using eBay.
"This was not a small-time operation," Cpl. William LaTorre of the Pennsylvania State Police said. "These criminals were responsible for a large number of thefts."
LaTorre estimated the value of the property recovered to be approximately $150,000.
Moore has been charged and he remains in custody at Berks County Prison in lieu of $20,000 cash bail.
In addition to Moore, police arrested Glenn Robert Christie Jr., 27, of Sanatoga; and Thomas Anthony Gallagher, 19, of Pottstown.
Police believe as many as 30 people allegedly participated the ring. LaTorre would not describe Moore, Christie, and Gallagher as the group's top-ranking members, only that "these three are the three that were arrested."
The investigation into the thefts is ongoing and Lt. Brian Naylor said he anticipates "many, many more arrests."
All law enforcement officials, including Chester County District Attorney Joseph Carroll and Berks County District Attorney Mark C. Baldwin, praised the cooperation of the two state police stations and seven municipal departments that were part of the task force created to investigate the ring.
Five Chester County departments had police on the task-force: North Coventry, West Pikeland, Upper Uwchlan, Easttown, and Willistown.
"This demonstrates the benefit of law enforcement cooperation across municipal borders," Carroll said.
Police believe the ring operated for about 15 months. LaTorre said the pieces of the investigation began to come together when police from different departments began discussing the thefts in their jurisdictions at countywide law enforcement meetings with state police and similar tri-county sessions hosted by the Tredyffrin police.
Between Aug. 29 and Aug. 30, an undercover officer who had infiltrated one of the crews allegedly observed individuals stealing items and reportedly selling them, Among the stolen items were power tools, construction equipment, golf clubs, jewelry, car stereos and small electronics such as iPods, cell phones, laptop computers and GPS systems.
LaTorre said investigators are conducting a forensic investigation of the computer Moore allegedly used to sell the items online, and they have requested paper records of sales allegedly linked to Moore's account from eBay.
In the meantime, state police are in the process of determining a date when victims can go to the Embreeville barracks to retrieve their property, LaTorre said.