About 3:30 a.m. on June 27, a man noticed two males dressed from head to toe in black heading into the Victoria Crossing Apartments at State Hill and Van Reed roads in Spring Township.
The man got into his vehicle and began chasing the males through the interior streets of the complex. He told police he saw a dark-colored Ford sedan leave the complex, presumably with the males on board.
The incident occurred during a 2½-week crime spree — 30 thefts from vehicles in Spring Township and Sinking Spring — that ended July 4 when Criminal Investigator Jonathan M. Zaun of Spring Township police stopped a Ford Fusion sedan occupied by four males in the lot of Will-O-Hill Apartments on Van Reed Road just a half-mile from Victoria Crossing.
Five men, all in their late teens and early 20s, eventually were arrested and charged with theft-related offenses and conspiracy.
The suspects would rummage through parked vehicles that were left unlocked during the early-morning hours for items of value such as wireless earbuds and headphones, Zaun said.
People who left their wallets containing cash and credit and debit cards in their cars had those items stolen and often were victimized a second time when the stolen cards were used to buy gasoline, food, sneakers and other products.
Zaun estimated the combined value of the stolen items and fraudulent purchases and attempted purchases at $20,000.
The thieves didn’t wait long or go far to use the stolen credit and debit cards, nor were the thefts limited to apartment complexes.
• On June 15, one of two credit cards reported stolen from a vehicle in the 3000 block of Grandview Boulevard in West Lawn was used at 2:30 a.m. that day to buy $74 worth of gas to fuel the suspects’ car at the Wawa store in the same neighborhood.
• On June 21, a debit card, $50 cash and headphones were stolen from a car in the 2100 block of Reading Boulevard in Lincoln Park. Before the owner discovered the theft, the debit card was used to pay a $174 AT&T bill and $18 worth of food at McDonald’s in northeast Reading.
• Two other thefts were reported June 21 on the same Lincoln Park street. One of the victims reported his wallet containing his credit card and cash totaling $700 was stolen. At 5:40 a.m. the same day, the card was used at Reading Adult Outlet in the 300 block of Penn Street for a $25 purchase.
• On June 24, a woman reported her wallet was stolen from her parked vehicle in the 2400 block of Penn Avenue in West Lawn. She canceled her debit card, and later that day someone tried to use it to buy merchandise at Footlocker and DTLR in the Berkshire Mall.
• Also on June 24, a wallet containing a credit card was stolen from a car parked in the 2600 block of Grandview Boulevard. An unauthorized person tried to use the card at the Wawa store in Bern Township, at Footlocker and Champs Sports in the Berkshire Mall and at Reading Smoke Shop, 902 Penn St.
• In Sinking Spring, also early on June 24, a resident reported his wallet was taken from his vehicle in the 100 block of Ray Road. One of his credit cards was used that day to buy $73 worth of food at McDonald’s as well as a $286 purchase at Champs.
Zaun said the crimes were committed by a group of five or six friends who would go out into suburban Reading locations during the overnight hours to steal what they could from unlocked vehicles. Based on his interviews with some of the suspects, he learned the group had an informal pact by which individual members would keep whatever money or items they got from vehicles but all enjoyed the spoils of the stolen cards.
They’d take turns using the stolen cards to buy fast food for the group and gasoline for the car, the investigator said. They’d keep the cards and try to use them again for purchases at the mall.
Security camera images from some of the stores where the cards were used helped police identify suspects Joshua Gonzalez and Adrian Bobet-Torres, both 22 and of Reading, as well as the vehicle used in the crime, Zaun said.
According to the probable cause affidavits:
Police learned Gonzalez owned a 2007 Fusion that was linked to the crimes by video and eyewitness accounts.
Gonzalez and Bobet were taken into custody by Zaun on July 4 after police stopped the car and saw some of the stolen items, including a pistol holster and Apple Airpods, on the center console.
The car was impounded and Zaun obtained a search warrant. Investigators found several items belonging to victims of the crime spree, including a camera bag and a wallet containing a driver’s license that was swiped from a car in the 2400 block of Penn Avenue on June 24.
A search of Gonzalez’s phone revealed video of Gonzalez holding the same olive-green handgun that a man reported was stolen from his car June 27 in the 2000 block of Franklin Place in the Berkshire Estates Condos, adjacent to Victoria Crossing.
Further evidence linking Gonzalez and Bobet-Torres to the thefts was provided by one of the victims via an Apple mobile app. After his Airpods valued at $200 were stolen June 24 from his car at Will-O-Mill Apartments on June 23, the app located the wireless listening devices at a home in the 400 block of Birch Street in Reading, where Gonzalez and Bobet-Torres reside.
Gonzalez and Bobet-Torres were charged with multiple counts of theft, access device fraud and conspiracy.
Bobet-Torres was held for court after a preliminary hearing Aug. 23 before District Judge Ann L. Young in Wernersville. He’s being held in Berks County Prison in lieu of $10,000 bail to await further court action.
Gonzalez waived his preliminary hearing before Young and remains free awaiting further court action
A third suspect, Raheem Baptiste, 22, of Reading, faces similar charges. He was scheduled to be arraigned in Wernersville on Wednesday.
Two other suspects, Savaun Concepcion, 19, West Lawn, and Terrel B. Brown, 20, Reading, were identified from security camera images, Zaun said, but before he could charge them, they were picked up by Reading police, who found the pair in a stolen vehicle parked at the Wawa at 413 Lancaster Ave. on July 10.
Police recovered from the car items stolen in thefts committed June 24 and 25.
Concepcion was also found carrying a firearm without a license, police said.
Brown and Concepcion were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to commit access device fraud.
Brown was committed to Berks County Prison in lieu of $5,000 bail after arraignment last week before District Judge Alvin B. Robinson in Reading Central Court.
Concepcion’s arraignment in that case was scheduled before Young in Wernersville on Wednesday.
Concepcion faces separate felony firearms and theft charges from Reading police, who said they identified him as the driver of the stolen car. He was held for court after a July 22 preliminary hearing before District Judge Priscilla Campos. He remains free on $50,000 bail to await further court action.
Source: Berkshire mont