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Northern Ohio theft ring busted, authorities discover stolen goods

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Five suspects believed to be part of a theft ring were arrested after authorities say they caught them in the act.

"We wanted to actually physically catch them in the act with the materials on hand," says Lt. Eric Sheppard of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The Trumbull County Sheriff's Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Hubbard Township police and Youngstown police worked together to nab the suspects Monday morning at 412 West Laclede Avenue at about 7 a.m.

Four men and one women were arrested and taken into custody for questioning. Charges have not been filed and the suspect's identities have not been released.

About $200,000 worth of stolen property beloning to Smart Scapes Landscaping in OlmSted Falls was discovered at the home.

All agencies worked together overnight to track down the suspects.

"We found them up on the Ohio Turnpike, at which time, we had people follow them to the point where we were able to round up enough law enforcement to safely conduct an arrest," Sheppard says.

Incidents of thefts and break-ins believed to be linked to the investigation have been reported in Mahoning, Trumbull and Cuyahoga counties and in parts of Pennsylvania. Sheppard says incidents reported in Stark and Ashtabula counties could also be linked.

In some instances classic cars and equipment worth thousands of dollars were stolen at a time.

"It involves stolen vehicles, trailers and other equipment throughout northern Ohio," he says.

Investigators believe the suspects used the home on Laclede Avenue to harbor hot items to possibly pawn off for cash.

Beginning in June, at least a dozen reports of thefts and break-ins were reported in Trumbull County. The Trumbull sheriff's office has been working with police in Vienna Township and Hubbard Township on incidents they believe to be related.

Reports that could be linked were also made in Brookfield Township, Fowler Township and McDonald Village.

Vienna police report at least $100,000 worth of stolen property is still missing from businesses in town.

Executive Landscaping is out almost $30,000 after thieves cut into the company's storage building in October. The owner says he's since repaired the hole they left behind.

"I came out to look around and noticed that yes, there was definitely a large hole in the back of the building and a lot of things moved around, and a trailer was missing," says Ken Bauer, owner of the business.

Bauer says his truck and trailer were recovered, but lawn care tools and mowers are still missing.

An alarm system scared away suspects who tried to cut their way through a gate at McCullough's Hardware in Vienna in February.

The pattern pointed out by police still has neighbors keeping on the look out for one another.

"The reason I think so many people in this community are concerned, and you have a heightened awareness now of what's going on around you and going on in your community, is because we've never seen quite this level of crime here in Vienna," says Mary Swift, president of the Vienna Neighborhood Watch.

Swift says she passed along an email to the neighborhood watch group via email, once police notified her of suspicous activity in town.

Maj. Thomas Stewart with the Trumbull sheriff's office says a search for three more possible suspects on Dean Avenue in Youngstown turned out unsuccessful Monday.

As the investigation continues, he says they hope to recover as much as possible and get those items back to their rightful owners.

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