Arrest warrants have been issued for three Florida residents in connection with recent break-ins of vehicles in the Macedonia Family Recreation Center. Police say they believe the thefts are part of a multi-state criminal gang that has hit the area in the last few months, including Hudson and Twinsburg.
According to Stow Municipal Court records, Brittney L. Mason, 32, Lenard H. McKenzie, 27, and Barry F. Fitzgerald, 21, are all charged with second-degree felony engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. The charges were filed and the warrants were issued on Feb. 13.
Police Lt. Vince Yakopovich said that a total of four locked vehicles had windows smashed and purses stolen during two incidents on Jan. 31 and Feb. 4. Two stolen credit cards from those break-ins were used to purchase about $2,000 in merchandise at the Streetsboro Walmart store and a failed attempt to use another stolen card at the Macedonia Walmart on Feb. 4.
He said police immediately contacted area stores and an officer went to the Macedonia Walmart, but missed one of the suspects by just a few minutes.
"The guy had just left, but he did leave the credit card so we sent that out for fingerprinting," Yakopovich said.
According to a police report, the male purchased a $500 Visa gift card with the stolen credit card and then tried to purchase a second gift card, but was told that he would have to wait because Walmart’s policy requires a manager to approve the second purchase. The male then left, taking the card he purchased with him.
Yakopovich said police are certain all four break-ins are related.
"Absolutely," he said. "The suspect vehicle is the same vehicle, a red Ford Explorer."
Yakopovich said it is believed that this is not the first encounter the area has had with the Felony Lane Gang. He said that a different group of suspects allegedly carried out similar thefts in the area last year.
Vehicle break-ins were also reported Dec. 3 at Goddard School branches in Macedonia and Twinsburg. Security video in that case showed an identical vehicle was involved.
Meanwhile, Hudson Police Chief Perry Tabak said the city had several incidents that it believes are connected to the Felony Lane Gang. These included vehicle break-ins at Orangetheory Fitness on Darrow Road on Oct. 19 and Nov. 30 and at Summa Wellness Institute on Nov. 18. Tabak said purses were reported stolen in the first two incidents, but he was unsure whether any credit cards were used.
"What you’re having, basically, is a smash and grab," he said. "Break the window, grab the purse, I mean they’re literally in and out in a minute or less."
Yakopovich said three of those suspects are now in southern Ohio, where they were arrested and are facing charges in connection with thefts from vehicles in Beavercreek, a Dayton suburb.
"Beavercreek had a nationwide warrant for them, so we let them have them," said Yakopovich.
In the meantime, Yakopovich and Tabak said their departments are working with other Northeast Ohio police departments to develop a combined case against the suspects.
"We’re putting our whole case together and when Beavercreek is done with them, we’ll get them," said Yakopovich.
According to the FBI, the Felony Lane Gang is a group that started in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. a number of years ago, but has fanned out across a number of states, committing crimes similar to those in Macedonia. The Felony Lane Gang Task Force, a law enforcement cooperative, uses a Facebook page to share information about gang activities and arrests, with the information provided by local police departments.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, email@example.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.