THOMASTON — The case of the recovered burgled jewelry that came to light following a traffic stop in Thomaston at the end of last month has led to the recovery of multiple hundreds of items and the arrest of a St. George man.
Thomaston Police Sgt. Tim Hoppe arrested Ricky Block, 46, Oct. 19 and charged him with one count each of burglary, theft by deception and criminal trespass.
To his credit, Thomaston Police Chief Kevin Haj said Block has been cooperating with the investigation.
"We are pleased that he's been turning things in, returning the stolen property," said Haj. "We want him to continue to do that, because some of the victims never thought they would see their things again, and for others, anything they get back is a plus."
In describing details of the investigation, Haj thumbed through a half-inch thick binder of evidence that included photographs of evidence seized during one of two search warrants. On most of the letter-size pages were groupings of individually numbered watches, earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets and corresponding written descriptions of the pieces and where they were allegedly recovered from inside Block's residence.
"There was no rationale to what he took," said Haj. "In addition to all this jewelry, there were TVs, tennis rackets, sneakers, all sorts of things."
Haj said that while it's a good thing Block is cooperating and helping reunite the stolen property with its rightful and sentimentally grateful owners, another important factor in the positive outcome is the cross-agency cooperation.
"It goes back to the original traffic stop, the communication that we have between departments and a great second effort by Nate," said Haj.
The Nate Haj spoke of is Knox County Sheriff's Deputy Nathaniel Jack. On Sept. 28, Jack arrested Block for operating under the influence in Tenants Harbor. During the arrest, Jack observed Block had numerous women's rings in his possession and decided to photograph them as evidence. Later that day, Thomaston police received a call regarding a residential burglary on Erin Street, where the victim reported rings and other items among those taken.
After reviewing the photographs taken by Jack, the victim identified the rings as the ones stolen from their home.
Further investigation by Jack, Hoppe, Knox Lt. Reggie Walker and Rockland Sgt. Chris Young led to the development of probable cause for a search warrant on an apartment in Tenants Harbor. According to a press release from the Sheriff's Office, more items related to the Thomaston burglary were found in the search, along with many other items believed to be connected with other burglaries reported recently throughout Knox County.
Haj said Tuesday that in addition to those burglaries, from which more victims were able to identify items seized during the search warrant, burglary cases in Washington County have also been connected to Block.
"We have had oodles and tons of jewelry we have had to separate, all of it tangled up inside bags, and we have catalogued more than 1,000 pieces, including watches, earring sets, single earrings and bits and pieces of broken jewelry," said Haj. "It was all taken from houses, not businesses, from what we have learned."
A lot of items have been identified and returned to victims, but some of it remains unidentified, and as such, unclaimed.
"There could be some people that don't even know they have things missing yet," said Haj.
Haj said that anyone who has claimed a burglary recently should contact the police department where they made the initial report to get the ball rolling.
"We'll entertain all phone calls. But ideally folks should go to the local police so that department can forward to us a list of items and photos to try and match up first," said Haj.
To aid in the identification and matching of items, Haj has also made copies of the evidence binder to forward to police departments with open burglary cases that might be connected to Block.
"I hope Mr. Block continues to cooperate and return more items, so they can be returned to their owners," said Haj.