FORT WAYNE – At first glance, they looked like people simply remodeling a bathroom in need of new vanities.
It’s what police say they loaded into those vanities that netted four northeast Indiana residents a slew of felony charges.
Inside the vanity boxes were expensive, high-end tools, including generators that were eventually sold to area pawn shops before the vanities were returned for refunds, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
As a result of the thefts from area Menards stores and sale of the merchandise to pawn shops, Troy S. Stauffer, 36, of Decatur; Chrystal R. Stauffer, 35, of Monroe; James J. Deleon, 54, of the 7500 block of Amber Road; and Alice G. Stovall, 59, of the 11300 block of Bethel Road, were charged with one count each of corrupt business influence.
According to the affidavit, the spree that occurred between March 7 and April 21 resulted in a loss to Menards of $12,569 and a loss to area pawn shops of $2,735.
The scheme involved taking bathroom vanities and filling them with tools or other merchandise in the stores before the buyer headed to the checkout line.
The buyer would pay for the vanity but would not tell the cashier there were other items in it, the affidavit said.
The vanity would then be returned for a refund, and the items that were stolen in it would get sold to area pawn shops.
Police were able to track down several of the stolen items that hadn’t yet been resold, including a $600 generator that was one of the most common items repeatedly stolen, according to Menards.
In addition to the Fort Wayne locations, stores in Warsaw and Lima, Ohio, were also targeted in the scheme, the affidavit said.
Warrants were issued for all four involved, but none was in custody Wednesday evening, according to Allen County Lockup.