Two cousins have been arrested in connection with a theft ring that targeted St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties.
Jeremy Whitaker, 34, was booked on April 24 and is still in custody on a $1,000 bond for one count of burglary and two counts of theft.
Danny Whitaker, 35, has bonded out with a $1,000 bond for one count of burglary and one count of theft.
Police say the cousins targeted local businesses and construction sites, stealing tools, saws, and other equipment.
“They were going after higher value construction equipment and power tools,” said Lt. Matt Blank, from St. Joseph County Police. “They are things that pawns shops often have great inventory of. Things they felt could get them cash rather quickly.”
The total value of stolen equipment was estimated between $60,000 and $70,000.
Police had received a tip concerning the men and decided to run surveillance on them.
While being watched, one of the accused men was seen visiting the pair's storage unit while in the possession of stolen items.
That storage unit, located on the 10700-block of McKinley, is where police found a large assortment of stolen items.
“We’ve been able to close at least five cases in St. Joseph County,” Blank said. “Three burglaries and two thefts. Also, there are a number of cases in Elkhart County that we believe we should be able to close out.”
Authorities have already returned approximately $12,000 worth of stolen items.
Several theft and burglary victims showed up at a St. Joseph County storage facility Wednesday morning to inspect the items that were found.
Dave Douglas, president of the Elkhart Conservation Club, said the club lost close to $2000 worth of equipment earlier this month after their facility was burglarized.
“We were very surprised that they found anything,” Douglas said. “Glad to see what we got back.”
The club’s property caretaker lost numerous personal items during the burglary.
“You feel like you’re violated a little bit,” George Pestow said. “That big TV I got back has a big scratch on it now. They took stuff I’d never used before.”
Pestow is still having trouble getting over the incident.
“You feel like people are still there even though they’re not,” he said. “It’s a weird feeling to go into your house and feel like somebody is watching what you’re doing.”
Jeremy Whitaker is scheduled to appear in court on May 12. Danny is scheduled for May 13.