Burglars hit South Georgia storage units - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Burglars hit South Georgia storage units

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

July 16, 2008

TURNER COUNTY, GA (WALB) - It seems thieves are running rampant in South Georgia. Sometimes even if your belongings are under lock and key, they're still not safe.

Turner County Sheriff investigators arrested two people they say cleaned out storage units in at least two counties.  There could be more. Now authorities are trying to reconnect the crime victims with thousands of dollars worth of stolen property.

Back and forth between Turner and Tift Counties, authorities say a man and woman had a profitable illegal business. "Very busy," said Investigator Steve Mauldin with the Turner County Sheriff's Office.

They were busy hitting up storage units including one right behind the Ashburn Police Department. "They had been doing this for approximately six months," said Mauldin.

About two weeks ago, Investigator Mauldin received a tip. "They got two laptops they stole out of there and they're trying to sell them right now," said Mauldin. So Mauldin did some investigating.

"I just went up to the storage place and started opening up bins and lo and behold we found four bins that had been broken into," said Mauldin.

The investigation led to Barbara Sue Fletcher's home. "And sure enough there was a laptop there that matched the description of one of the laptops missing," said Mauldin. Two laptops were eventually recovered along with everything from a washer and dryer to golf clubs. Both Fletcher and Benji Swain are now in custody and charged with burglary.

"What they were doing was going out and getting this stuff from storage bins and then selling it immediately to get money for motel rooms," said Mauldin.

The suspects even stole lawn equipment. Authorities also recovered a three-wheeled lawnmower. They're hoping someone will recognize it or anything else they've recovered. "Give us a call because we're sure they came out of somebody's storage bin somewhere," said Mauldin.

More stolen goods line the wall of a shed at the Turner County Sheriff's Office. They include dishes, a washer, a DVD player and even a video camera. "We haven't identified who these owners are and they may not even know that their stuff is missing yet," said Mauldin.

Investigator Mauldin says Swain is also involved with at least three 4-wheeler thefts in Tift, Turner and Lee Counties. He also expects more arrests in this case.

Mauldin encourages people in Tift and Turner Counties to check on their belongings at storage facilities.

If you discover items have been stolen from your storage unit, call the Turner County Sheriff's Office at 229-567-2401.

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