Charges dropped in alleged eBay theft ring

Prosecutors will spend time gathering evidence for a felony indictment.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Prosecutors dismissed charges against a couple accused of using their four children to help them shoplift items they later sold on eBay so that they can have more time to study evidence.
Logan County Prosecutor Gerald Heaton said on Wednesday that he intends to seek a felony indictment next month against Todd and Laura Morris, both 35, of Bellefontaine.
"It was timing," Heaton said. "Our office has every intention of presenting this case to a grand jury and seeking new charges as quickly as possible."
A 197-page inventory filed in Bellefontaine Municipal Court lists more than 3,000 items identified as evidence against the couple. Authorities say they recovered an estimated $25,000 in merchandise, mostly clothing, from the Morris home, about 45 miles northwest of Columbus.
The couple's lawyer said they paid for the merchandise recovered from the house.
"My clients absolutely didn't do anything wrong," said Garron Fischmann of Kenton. "But they've already been tried, convicted and executed in the court of public opinion, and that's unfortunate because now the charges are dropped."
The alleged scam
Logan County Sheriff's deputies say the children often worked as lookouts while Laura Morris stole merchandise from stores across the state. Sometimes the family would check out, load their purchases into their car and then return to the store with empty bags and receipts. They would pick out identical items, put them in the bags and present the receipts if questioned.
Some of the clothes, DVDs, tools and stuffed animals would be returned for money. The rest, Todd Morris posted for sale on eBay, sheriff's detectives said.
Both adults were arrested June 16 and charged with receiving stolen property and running a criminal enterprise. They were out of jail on bond when the charges were dropped.
Their children, a 5-year-old boy and three girls ages 13, 15 and 17, are staying with relatives.
Fischmann said he will ask the juvenile court to return the boy to his parents in a few days.
The boy, staying with his paternal grandmother, has never been separated from his parents for long, Fischmann said.
The teenagers are staying with their maternal grandfather.
Heaton said he will oppose returning the children to the couple.

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