Four people, including two teenagers, are accused of stealing an estimated $400,000 in merchandise from Verizon Wireless stores around the state, including in Aiken.
Karen Moody, 24, and 40-year-old Rodney Robinson were charged with burglary and larceny, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department
Two juveniles, ages 14 and 16, were also charged with burglary and larceny.
The four were arrested on Monday at the Verizon Wireless store on West Dekalb Street in Camden after a Camden police officer saw them breaking into the business just after 3 a.m., Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said in a statement. They were apprehended after a short foot pursuit with assistance from multiple agencies.
Lott said investigators determined the suspects were responsible for a number of burglaries in Verizon Wireless stores in Columbia, Forest Acres, Richland County, Lexington County, Aiken County, Orangeburg County and Kershaw County.
A number of cellphones and iPads were stolen from each store, some of which were sold on Craigslist and others of which were found in Moody's home in Columbia, Lott said.
It's estimated the total amount of the stolen property is $400,000, of which about $200,000 has been recovered.
The suspects reportedly hit the Verizon Wireless store on South Aiken Lane in Aiken twice, according to Detective Jeremy Hembree, a spokesman for the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
The first burglary happened at the store in late August, during which the burglars got away with “several hundred” tablets and phones, Hembree said. Those were later recovered.
Investigators were left with little to go on after that burglary, Hembree said.
During the second burglary on Oct. 19, officers encountered the thieves when they responded to an alarm at the store. After a short vehicle pursuit, the driver of the vehicle crashed.
Destinee Chernae Stroman, 20, of Rocky Knoll Drive in Columbia, was charged with second-degree burglary, reckless driving, failure to stop for law enforcement and unlawful carrying of a pistol.
Hembree said investigators knew there were other individuals involved in that burglary that weren't identified at the time. Aiken Public Safety worked with the Camden Police Department, Columbia Police Department and the Richland County Sheriff's Department to identify the suspects and make the arrests.
So far, Stroman is the only person in the group to be charged in the Aiken incidents. None of the suspects are from Aiken.
“We're still following up on our leads,” Hembree said. “More charges are pending on some of those individuals. It won't be all five of them.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.