By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
LIBERTY -- A woman who had what police initially thought was a fairy tale has led them to uncover a major crime operation.
Liberty Police Chief Anthony Slifka, Liberty police chief, and Lt. Don Bishop, Warren Township police officer, said both communities have experienced a drop in crime with the arrests of eight people on dozens of charges.
Although the probe is ongoing, police have recovered about $140,000 in stolen goods.
The woman, who has not been charged, told police a truck's trailer full of wood on site for the construction of a Warren Township house was driven away. The wood was eventually used to build a pole barn in Liberty.
"There are no serial numbers on wood," Slifka said.
Liberty Detective Sgt. Richard Tisone said investigators had some evidence to corroborate the woman's story.
Three of those charged already have pleaded guilty.
Police said John Maroti, 38, of Lincoln Avenue, Liberty, whom they identified as the head or "fence" of the operation, would contact John Davis, 26, of Tod Avenue, Warren. A fence is a person who deals in stolen goods.
Davis would then contact the others to steal the goods that Maroti sold, police said.
Maroti owns Precision Automotive on Lincoln Avenue, Liberty, which police described as a "chop shop."
Maroti did not return a message left for him at Precision. He is one of those who already has pleaded guilty. The pole barn built from the stolen lumber is near the business.
Bishop said authorities didn't find any drugs during their investigation. He explained that only Maroti and Davis actually made money, with those who did the actual stealing being paid "peanuts."
Slifka said the case was like putting a puzzle together. "It's good cop work," he added.
Police recovered a truck trailer, truck, electronics, guns, bicycles, all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, power tools and a hot-water heater.
Bishop said the thieves would kick in the entrances of houses at Kline's Farm, an upscale Liberty housing development, and take what they wanted.
Owners were preparing to move into the houses when they were burglarized. Bishop said the goods were carted off on ATVs.
Some of the merchandise, Slifka said, was sold at flea markets.
Slifka cautioned people to get receipts for items they buy at flea markets because some stolen goods were retrieved from people who thought they had gotten a good deal.
Many items were taken to southern Ohio and sold. This is another part of the police probe, authorities said.
Warren Township Police Chief Thomas Rush called attention to what can result when there is cooperation among police agencies.
He said merchandise was recovered from eight jurisdictions.