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Police arrest suspected 'Internet Burglars' leader

September 28, 2011
The Floyd County Sheriff's Department has put a dent in Southern Indiana burglaries by arresting a ringleader of a group they dubbed "the Internet Burglars." Other arrests are pending.

Sheriff Darrell Mills had a press conference last week after his officers arrested 30-year-old Richard Lee Mullins, of Charlestown, for driving while suspended, possession of stolen property and attempted entry.

The group used online real estate sites to find unoccupied properties then followed up with surveillance and drive-bys before actually entering the property.

Mullins' arrest came on Sept. 18, after a resident along Quarry Road in Floyd County, who also owned a vacant home next door, called 911 dispatchers and reported that two suspects had made a forced entry into his property next door. After previous break-ins at the house, the owner had installed an audible alarm system. When the alarm sounded, the owner ran outside in time to see two men jump into a red vehicle and leave the scene.

The owner then followed the vehicle, staying in contact with the Floyd County Sheriff's Department by cell phone, until officers could intercept the vehicle and make a traffic stop. The driver, Mullins, and his passenger were arrested and taken to the sheriff's department for questioning.

"The suspects cooperated with us after they were arrested," Mills said. "We found that they had been hitting six to 10 places a week since January 2011. We now believe that they are responsible for at least 200 break-ins since that time. We have already confirmed 39 break-ins and are working on more."

Mills said that, for a while this year, it looked as if burglaries in the area had diminished.

"We began to think the burglars had left the area," Mills said. "But we now know that, during that time, Mullins was in jail on unrelated charges. Once he got out, the break-ins picked up again."

At a press conference on Sept. 20, police exhibited hundreds of items that had been recovered from the burglaries, including TVs, DVD players, knives, coin collections, a basketball signed by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, a boxing glove signed by former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and scores of other items.

"We spent Sunday evening and Monday going to houses and recovering this property," Maj. Jeff Topping, a detective with the Floyd County Sheriff's Department, said. "Some of this stuff was sold to acquaintances of the burglars, but a lot of it was advertised by word-of-mouth, that there were items being sold at good prices, and a lot of people bought it. Once we recovered it, we already knew where most of it was stolen. The suspects told us where it came from, and we matched it up."

"It's like drug trafficking," added Mills. "It's the same principle. Someone gets a good deal, then more and more find out about it."

The burglaries occurred in numerous counties, including Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Scott. Several break-ins took place in the Greenville area where the burglars entered new homes still under construction and stole electric wiring, water heaters and other items.

"They hit one development at Greenville pretty hard," Topping said. "They took a lot of copper wire, and most of it was sold at Charlestown Metals. It's hard to determine at this time just how much wiring was sold, but it was hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth."

The burglaries were recorded in a daily ledger the burglars kept. Once they had possession of the ledger, police were also able to connect the suspects with incidents in Lanesville, Corydon, Georgetown and other areas.

"That book also pointed to over 100 places that were future targets for the burglars," Mills said. "And we feel there are a lot of other places out there that have already been hit but haven't been reported yet. Some vacant properties aren't checked on regularly, so we could get reports of burglaries for a while yet. Those we have already confirmed include eight places in Clark County, five in Charlestown, five in Jeffersonville, five in New Albany, plus the Indiana State Police detectives are working on some related cases. This is one of the bigger rings I've seen lately."

Topping said that several agencies, including Clarksville, Georgetown and other police departments, are looking into the case and trying to match up burglary reports with items recovered and information gained after the arrests were made.

"There will be more arrests in the next few days," Topping said. "I hope the burglar business will slow down a while now."

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