Original Writing – News Story
By Clinton Randall – The Early Bird
DARKE COUNTY – Officials from multiple departments and agencies publicly identified seven suspects involved in a theft ring operation that plagued numerous businesses and property owners from central Ohio to the Indians state line for more than a year. The suspects’ names were made public during a press conference held at the Darke County Sheriff’s Office on Friday afternoon.
A Grand Jury recently handed down a 74 count combined indictment out of Clark County against the co-defendants. Sheriff departments from 11 counties, eight police departments and a team from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) were involved in the criminal investigation and dismantling of the operation.
The investigation started in October 2014 after Det. Rodney Baker with the Darke County Sheriff’s Office discovered at least one known suspect from a prior theft case he had worked on.
“I made a few calls to some other agencies and everything took off from there,” Det. Baker told The Early Bird.
Darke County Sheriff Toby L. Spencer nicknamed the current suspects – “Band of Thieves II” – since this is the second round of dealing with some of the subjects by the department.
“I am not sure if this is addiction driven criminal behavior… I just think it is their nature,” Sheriff Spencer said. “We hope this is the end to our Band of Thieves saga and there is no part three!”
The seven individuals associated with the theft ring made away with as much as a million dollars worth of property, according to Sheriff Spencer. They were actively committed the crimes up until Dec. 1, investigators say. They targeted businesses and out buildings – taking pretty much anything they could get their hands on.
The seven suspects listed in the indictment are: Billy Barrett, Markus Barrett, Jerry Bush, Jesse Rieder, Ricky Large, Ricky Terry and Kenneth Melton. With the exception of Melton, all of the suspects are loosely related in some way.
The gang was rounded up Thursday while authorities, including US Marshals, executed arrest warrants at several locations where the suspects were believed to be. Each were eventually transported and arraigned in the Clark County Common Pleas Court on various felony charges, including Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity, Burglary, Breaking and Entering, Safe Cracking, Vandalism, Theft and Receiving Stolen Property.
According to Clark County Prosecutor Andrew Wilson, the cases will go through Clark County simply due to it’s central location of the overall investigation.
“This investigation was a success only because we had so many members of law enforcement working as one team and in constant communication with one another,” concluded Det. Baker.
The 11 counties involved in the investigation were Clark, Clinton, Darke, Delaware, Franklin, Madison, Miami, Montgomery, Pickaway, Preble and Shelby.
If you see criminal activity in your area, contact the Darke County Sheriff’s Office at 937-548-2020 or the Darke County Crime Stoppers tipline at 937-547-1661 – you may remain anonymous.