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Man, 20, arrested in car thefts

September 10, 2008
The Crawford County Sheriff's Department successfully executed a sting operation early this week that exposed the theft of several automobiles taken from the Curby area and landed a Carefree man in the Crawford County Jail.

On Aug. 17, three cars owned by Brandon Smith of Louisville were reported stolen from property Smith owned on Curby Road. The following day, four more autos were taken from the same location. A barn on the property was also broken into and several items, including a lawn mower, tools and lumber, were reported missing.

On Sept. 2, Crawford County Deputy Debbie Young took over the case and began working on leads and compiling information furnished by other officers. Smith, who said he went to Gurtz Salvage near Depauw on other business, spotted one of his cars at the salvage yard and contacted Harrison County police, who confirmed that Smith was the owner through the VIN number on the vehicle.

"I had the vehicle towed and impounded," Young said. "There was only one of the cars at the salvage yard. (Greg) Gurtz, who has cooperated with us, told us that he had already crushed three of the vehicles at his yard. He also gave us information on who had sold the cars to him, which turned out to be a scrap dealer from Harrison County."

Young interviewed the dealer, who admitted buying the cars and had hauled them away from the property with a tow truck. He indicated he had receipts from the seller, but when Young checked the receipts, it was discovered that the person had sold the cars using a false name.

"He (the scrap dealer) gave me a description of the guy," Young said. "When I gave the description to two of our officers, Deputy Andy Beals and Deputy Conrad Bishop, they knew who he was almost immediately. Both of them had dealt with a man who matched that description while working on other cases."

Although Young knew the identity of the alleged perpetrator, she continued her investigation, hoping to find even more evidence linking the man to the crimes. She didn't have to wait long.

"The scrap dealer contacted me," Young said. "He had been approached by the man again, who wanted to sell more items from the property on Curby Road."

Young advised the scrap dealer to set up the deal, and officers would initiate a sting operation at the property. The dealer agreed to meet the man at the barn on Smith's property at around 10 a.m. on Sunday, supposedly to buy more scrap metal.

When officers arrived at the barn early Sunday, they noticed that the lock on the barn door, which had been replaced after the previous break-in, had been broken again.

Bishop hid inside the barn, Beals hid outside in some nearby weeds and Young stayed with the patrol cars parked out of sight just down the road. Just minutes later, a man arrived with the scrap buyer, entered the barn and allegedly made a deal to sell items in the building to the scrap buyer for $1,200. Bishop heard them make the deal and watched as the scrap buyer allegedly gave the money to the man.

When the suspect left the building, Beals came out of concealment and placed the man, Justin Busick, 20, under arrest without incident. He was taken to the Crawford County Jail and charged with four counts of theft. Other charges are pending.

"Debbie worked hard on this," Beals said, "but the work paid off. This was just a beautiful operation — a textbook perfect sting. He still had the money in his hand when I arrested him. And he never saw it coming. He was caught completely by surprise."

"But it's an ongoing investigation," Young added.

"This case may also be connected to a van that was reported stolen, and it's likely that there are other people involved. Busick is cooperating, so there may be more arrests soon."

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