DARKE COUNTY — The Preble County Sheriff’s Office and Eaton Police Division were two of the 24 national and local law enforcement agencies who helped bring down a local theft ring.
Seven individuals were charged in a 74-count indictment following a year-long investigation.
The Darke County Sheriff’s office hosted a joint press conference on Friday, Dec. 11, to announce the arrest of seven people suspected of operating a theft ring which spanned 11 counties in central and southwest Ohio.
Five of the seven individuals were arrested in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Dec. 8 — in a three-minute time span — after arrest warrants were executed. The two not arrested were in prison on other charges.
Darke County Sheriff Toby L. Spencer dubbed the group the “Band of Thieves 2,” because a similar group was arrested about a decade ago.
According to Spencer, no value has been determined for the property stolen. He said the amount is in the “multi-thousands if not millions” of dollars.
The first burglary was reported to the Darke County Sheriff’s Office in October of 2014. Detectives felt the “MO” matched that of a “Band of Thieves” from 2005-06 — and the yearlong investigation began, according to Spencer.
According to Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson, the group is responsible for at least 14 crimes in Preble County during 2015 and is suspected of being responsible for damage at the Preble County Landfill earlier in the year.
The group will face trial in Clark County according to Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson, due to the county’s central location to the crimes.
Wilson called the investigation “an excellent example of cooperation among many jurisdictions.”
“Hopefully we’ve made a huge dent in what all these counties are facing regarding the criminal activity they are facing,” Simpson added during the press conference.
“I think it’s just their nature personally,” Spencer said of the groups’ motives, adding, “This is just what this group does, it’s been born into them and been a part of their heritage for many years.”
He added, “They were taking pretty much about anything they could get their hands on.”
According to officials, most of the thefts happened in outbuildings and businesses, but it was noted one attached garage had been broken into.
Officials also stated the majority of the crimes took place between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.
The majority of those charged appeared to be living in the western part of Montgomery County, with officials naming the Drexel area specifically.
Officials however added the group most likely expanded out from the area at different times over the past several years.
The indictment covers eight counties with Clark, Darke, Delaware, Miami, Montgomery, Pickaway, Preble and Shelby counties all serving indictments. The counties of Madison, Clinton and Franklin were also involved in the investigation, as crimes were suspected of happening in those three counties as well.
Wilson said six of the seven people charged appeared to be loosely related and described some of the individuals as “fringe” players from the original “Band of Thieves.”
Crimes listed in the indictment include: engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, burglary, breaking and entering, safe cracking, vandalism, and theft and receiving stolen property.
• Billy Barrett — 28 counts with a maximum prison time of 43 and one half years and a bail set for $100,000.
• Markus Barret — 27 counts with a maximum prison time of 29 years and a bail set for $100,000.
• Jerry Bush — 16 counts with a maximum prison time of 16 years and a bail set for $100,000.
• Jesse Rieder — Six counts with a maximum of 17 years and a bond set for $100,000.
• Ricky Large — 29 counts with a maximum sentence of 46 years. He’s currently in the Madison Correctional Center for unrelated charges.
• Ricky Terry — 22 counts with a maximum of 37 and one half years. He is currently in the Franklin County Jail for unrelated charges.
• Kenneth Melton — Two counts with maximum of 12 and one half years with a bail set for $100,000.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.