WESTMINSTER, Md. — On any given day, you will find trucks outside the Westminster Walmart loading and offloading merchandise, but late one night in February, four men pulled up, cut through a gate and made off with a pallet filled with 50 car batteries.
Captain Scott Peter of the Westminster Police Department said that with the help of surveillance video, charging documents and GPS data from what proved to be a rental truck, the investigation led them to 21-year-old Richard Turner of Baltimore.
"We had a description of the vehicle,” said Peter. “Based on phone records of the one suspect, we were able to put them in the area at the time this occurred."
Ultimately, it took more than four months to identify the suspects who used a portable fork-lift to steal the batteries in just six minutes time before driving away.
"They were professionals. They knew what they were doing. They'd been to multiple states, multiple counties,” Peter said. “It just happened to all come together for us in Carroll County with the help of our friends. It was definitely a pretty good case. $8,000 worth of batteries stolen. They were selling them independently out of the back of their own rental truck as kind of their own business on top of stuff they were scrapping at scrapyards."
It proved to be a high-volume crime with a payoff to match, which has become a trend in recent years.
"This is not uncommon. This has happened before with other things stolen from big box stores,” said Peter, “We've had like, if you'd believe, like big bails of recycled cardboard stolen at times. Guys are getting more organized. More bang for their buck. You get a rental truck. You load it up with stolen property and take it somewhere. You play the odds. Eventually, though, you're going to get caught."
It appears the theft ring may have targeted Walmart stores elsewhere in Carroll County, as well as Anne Arundel County and surrounding states, until their business built on hot batteries finally went bust.