CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Victims of storage unit thefts didn't even know they were victims until a multi-law enforcement agency effort nabbed two Chatham County men who admitted to the crimes.
The Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team released the information about the bust Wednesday, and that stolen items ranging from golf clubs to dirt bikes will be returned to their rightful owners.
Two real Grinches thought they'd be safe holding the stolen items in a storage unit in the Georgetown area, but police say their cover was blown during a drug investigation in neighboring Effingham County.
When the Effingham County Sheriff's Office Drug Unit learned that Austin Flanagan and Lance Bazemore broke into numerous storage units in both Bryan and Chatham County, they contacted Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics to look into it. CNT found the storage unit in Georgetown Tuesday night, with the stolen items inside. One of those stolen items, a set of golf clubs, had the name of an active-duty Fort Stewart soldier on them.
Investigators were able to get in touch with that soldier to let him know they'd been found, even though he wasn't even aware he was a victim.
Both Flanagan and Bazemore admitted to investigators that they stole the items.
WTOC spoke to a CNT spokesperson who says these arrests wouldn't have been possible without the exchange of information and cooperation with all of the law enforcement agencies involved. He also explained what a suspected motivation is behind these thefts.
"It's very common that throughout the course of a drug investigation, you receive information of other crimes. And that's because you're dealing with criminals, most of whom are some type of drug addict. And sadly those people in an effort to feed their habit, will go out and steal items, and then try to sell them at a reduced rate and/or exchange them for drugs," said Gene Harley, CNT. "Maybe it's because of the Christmas spirit, but I saw a lot of people really going above and beyond to try to work hard to get these items back, because a lot of the people involved felt that, hey, these could have been potential Christmas gifts, and the last thing we want to have happen is for someone to go to pick up the would-be present, and find it was not there."
Both Bazemore and Flanagan were scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. CNT says the investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected.