Another thief in a theft ring that stretched across nine counties has pleaded guilty to money laundering and theft charges in Delaware County Common Pleas Court.
Michael Jenkins, 32, of Marion, appeared Wednesday before Judge Everett Krueger and entered a guilty plea to a charge of money laundering, which is a third-degree felony, and two counts of theft, both fifth-degree felonies.
Jenkins was a member of a circle that followed leaders of the theft ring. The ring leaders reportedly would use drugs to addict the followers and then send them out to steal from stores.
Jenkins told Krueger that on Jan. 16 and Jan. 17, 2015, he went to the Kroger store on U.S. 23, visited the laundry aisle and filled his shopping cart with Tide pods and detergent before moving to the candy aisle and adding bags of candy and jerky to the cart — before taking the cart out the door without paying.
Jenkins said he would take the items to 82-year-old Philip Burkholder, in Forest, Ohio, who would sell the items at auction.
Other members of the theft ring told similar stories when they pleaded guilty to charges late last year.
Jenkins told Krueger he did this 12 to 15 times in the course of January to February 2015. That’s when he was arrested in Marion.
Assistant county prosecutor Douglas Dumolt said Jenkins, along with three other thieves in the ring, were motivated by drugs at the time of the thefts.
Krueger accepted Jenkins’ guilty plea and dismissed a charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony, and two counts of theft, which are fifth-degree felonies.
Krueger scheduled Jenkins for a sentencing hearing on Feb. 8 at 8:30 a.m. Krueger told Jenkins he could face between nine and 36 months in prison for the money-laundering charge and up to a year in prison for the theft charge.
Jenkins’ bond, which does not allow for drug use, was also discussed during the hearing. Krueger said he had learned that Jenkins relapsed on Dec. 26. Jenkins’ attorney, Nick Mango, said that Jenkins reported his relapse to his probation officer in Marion County.
Krueger decided to continue Jenkins’ bond and warned him that if he wants to avoid prison time, he has the next month to demonstrate that he can handle probation in lieu of prison time.
Jenkins is the third thief in the ring to plead guilty to charges. Sasha Steele, 24 of Marion and Stevie Henry, 25, of Marion are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25 at 10:30 and 11 a.m. respectively.
Justin, Wendy and Jordan Emmons, all of Marion, are alleged to be the leaders of the theft ring. Prosecutors say the Emmonses would recruit friends, get them addicted to drugs and then force them to steal in order to support their habits.
The remaining five defendants, including Burkholder and the Emmonses, are scheduled for trial on Feb. 2.
Prosecutors allege the ring is responsible for stealing between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of goods from stores in Delaware, Crawford, Seneca, Richland, Marion, Franklin, Morrow, Hancock and Logan counties.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.