County Sheriff’s Department busts large-scale theft ring

FLINT — Two suspects have been arrested in connection with a large-scale theft ring that spanned three mid-Michigan counties since February.

Last Wednesday, Interim Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson announced that Edward Thornton and Zachary Cross had been taken into custody for stealing thousands of dollars-worth of lawncare equipment and off-road vehicles in Genesee, Oakland and Tuscola counties. The pair was apprehended by police in the early morning hours of May 3 in Vienna Township, where they were caught attempting to break into a store.

Police have not yet released information on where the suspects are from. Both men have been lodged in the Genesee County Jail.

Swanson said that Thornton and Cross are believed to be the leaders of a theft ring that hit multiple businesses and homes over the past three months. He said that the ring got started by stealing catalytic convertors and progressed to taking zero turn lawnmowers, ATVs, Can-Ams and lawncare equipment posted for sale.

In addition to hitting commercial areas and businesses, the suspects are alleged to have broken into residential garages, barns and trailers.

Swanson said that the suspects were likely using the theft ring to finance heroin and meth activities.

“Amid this pandemic, there’s still a drug trade and the drug addicts,” he said. “They’re still looking for opportunities to steal property, (both) commercial and residential.”

Swanson said that while personal property crimes are down during the COVID-19 pandemic, his department has seen a slight increase in commercial theft. He advised business owners and homeowners alike to be increasingly vigilant when it comes to protecting their property.

“If you have (equipment) outside for sale, bring it in at night,” he said. “If you (have) a commercial business, make sure your parking lot lights are all on. If you have surveillance cameras, make sure they are all working and up to date.”

More details on the theft ring bust are expected to be released this week.