An organized theft ring is responsible for at least 168 thefts across nine counties in central Ohio, according to Delaware County prosecutors.
Wendy Sue Emmons, 46, the alleged leader of the theft ring, was arraigned in Delaware County Common Pleas Court Wednesday afternoon. She pleaded not guilty to a charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony; money laundering, a third-degree felony; and four counts of theft, which are fifth-degree felonies.
Prosecutors said she is currently incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, serving a two-year sentence for a Marion County robbery, and is expected to be released in January 2017. Emmons will be incarcerated at the Delaware County Jail while the theft-ring case continues.
Assistant county prosecutor Douglas Dumolt said told Common Pleas Judge Everett Krueger that Wendy Emmons, along with her adult sons Justin and Jordan, recruited friends by getting them addicted to heroin and forcing them to steal to feed their habits.
Prosecutors said the thieves in the organization would go to various stores, like Wal-Mart, and steal small shopping carts full of small but valuable items, like fishing lures, batteries and bags of candy, before taking them back to Wendy Emmons, who would in turn sell them to Phillip Roger Burkholder, 82, of Forest, Ohio, who would sell the stolen goods at auction.
Prosecutors allege the ring is responsible for stealing between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of goods.
Prosecutors allege that the group stole from stores in Delaware, Crawford, Seneca, Richland, Marion, Franklin, Morrow, Hancock and Logan counties.
Justin Emmons and Jordan Emmons are wanted on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony, and money laundering, a third-degree felony; and six counts of theft, fifth-degree felonies. They remain at large.
Wendy Emmons is the fourth of eight members of the ring to be arraigned in Delaware County. Wendy Emmons’ trial was set for Dec. 15, the same date as the trials for Burkholder; Stevie R. Henry, 25, of Marion, whom prosecutors say was a thief in the organization; and Michael Jenkins, 32, of Marion, another alleged thief.
Burkholder, Henry and Jenkins have all been released on bond.
Two other individuals who were indicted by a Delaware County grand jury in connection with the case remain at large. They are:
• Brittany A. Chafin, of 74 Griswold St., Delaware, on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony, and money laundering, a third-degree felony; and two counts of theft, fifth-degree felonies.
• Sasha L. Steele, of Marion, on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony, and money laundering, a third-degree felony; and two counts of theft, fifth-degree felonies.
Warrants have been issued for their arrests.
The investigation is being led by the Organized Crime Investigations Commission division of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in connection with several law enforcement agencies, including the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.