RIDGEWAY — Three men are charged and a fourth man in custody in connection with one of the biggest and most bizarre theft rings in this area of the state.
Aaron Sells, 27, and Michael Moore, 21, both of Mount Victory, and Jasin Rorabough, 19, of Ridgeway, all are charged with receiving stolen property, a fourth-degree felony. They have bond hearings scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday in Hardin County Municipal Court, a court spokeswoman said.
The three were being held in the Multi-County Correctional Center in Marion without bond.
A fourth unnamed man is in custody but not formally charged. None of the men are related, Hardin County Sheriff Keith Everhart said.
Some of the men have given statements to detectives, Everhart said.
“We haven’t gotten real far,” he said.
As the paperwork was being prepared in court Friday afternoon, sheriff’s deputies and an independent earth moving contractor were digging at 16363 Township Road 204, just north of Ridgeway. By Friday afternoon, after nearly four days of digging and searching five buildings and a home on the property, it was estimated more than $100,000 worth of presumed stolen property was recovered, Everhart said.
An operator on a trackhoe and another with a backhoe were digging three feet down and sifting the dirt looking for stolen items, mainly guns that were wrapped in plastic garbage bags. All-terrain vehicles, electronic items, lawn mowers and other items were found inside the buildings.
Everhart said he never has witnessed anything like he saw this week in nearly 20 years in law enforcement.
Deputies also searched a home in the 300 block of North Main Street in Mount Victory for evidence, he said.
A semi-trailer sat on the road in front of the old, dilapidated farmhouse on the township road that officers were filing with ATVs, lawn mowers, a table saw, bikes and numerous other items presumed stolen. They also filled two, 20-foot trailers and two small enclosed trailers with property, Everhart said.
“We’re talking hundreds of items, possibly thousands,” he said.
Everhart said it will take months to go through every item trying to track stolen property reports and search for owners. Some items, due to the large numbers, may never be reunited with their owners especially if it was not reported stolen. That property will be auctioned off or destroyed, Everhart said.
The sheriff’s office will contact all police agencies in the area to pass on information in hopes of finding all owners, Everhart said.
The men were breaking into houses when people were not home, stealing items to bring back to the Township Road 204 home, Everhart said.
At least three other county sheriff agencies were included in the investigation, which has stretched as far away as Hamilton County. Everhart said the crime spree may have touched six counties, possibly more.
Everhart does not know why the weapons were buried, other than to conceal the guns and possibly provide a hiding place until things cooled down before they tried to sell the guns, he said.
“I’m sure they sold quite a bit of stuff but there’s a lot of it that we have found that they didn’t sell,” he said.
Dan Freeman, the only nearby neighbor who lives to the west of the home on Township Road 204, said he knew there were problems at the house. He said Aaron Sells always was coming and going at all hours with ATVs, cars and other items.
Sells also would sit out back going through trash before burning the trash and some property. Sometimes he would burn rolls of wire to recover the copper, Freeman said.
“I didn’t know anything was buried out back,” Freeman said.
Sells had long been on the radar of detectives but investigators got their break Monday night during a traffic stop that led to an individual passing on information about stolen property kept at the property, Everhart said.
“It snowballed from there,” he said.
SWAT officers armed with rifles raided the home rendering it safe Tuesday so other officers could enter.
Freeman said it was no secret Aaron Sells was a convicted thief. He said the man had been in trouble with the law and even shot three years ago after he broke into a home. Freeman installed cameras and other security measures at his home to protect against a break-in, he said.
Court records from Hardin County showed Sells pleaded guilty to breaking and entering, a fifth-degree felony, and theft, a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to three years probation and 10 days jail.
The home on Township Road 204 is owned by Elizabeth Sells. Freeman said she is Aaron Sells’ mother and lives in that home with her husband, Herbert “Mike” Sells. Aaron Sells lives in Mount Victory with his wife, Freeman said.
Freeman said he is hoping he has seen the last of the Sellses. He said he has had nothing but disputes over issues such as property lines. He and the Sellses moved into their homes in 2002, he said.
“Hopefully they’re ex-neighbors,” he said.
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