By Bowdeya Tweh and Rachel Richardson
Four people have been indicted in what authorities describe as a statewide crime ring involving sneaking into dozens of companies including Procter & Gamble Co. & Cintas Corp. and stealing employees’ credit cards and items left unattended on desks or in offices.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Monday a grand jury indicted Larry Cobb, 55, of Leavittsburg; Deshawn Mitchell, 35, of Columbus and Jodie Petty, 31, and Kristina Petty, 46, both of Cleveland.
In Warren County, P&G’s Mason Business Center and Cintas were targets, Fornshell said. Collectively, the four stole more than $100,000, he said.
Cobb, who acted as the primary thief, formed the criminal enterprise in 2012, authorities said. He and his co-conspirators used stolen credit cards to quickly buy electronics, gift cards, and other items they could sell for cash, special prosecutors with DeWine’s office said.
“He’d (Larry Cobb) walk in dressed like an employee or vendor would appear, primarily acting like he fit in,” Fornshell said. “He’d go in with a group of people and be in a pack of people and even open the door for employees. Once he got inside, he would easily proceed to go around to different offices or areas and quickly look for credit cards.”
Cobb has previous convictions for similar offenses, said Fornshell. He’s currently incarcerated at the Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield on charges of attempted burglary and robbery.
Jodie Petty is incarcerated at the Northeast Pre-Release Center in Cleveland on charges of misuse of a credit card and forgery, among others.
It’s believed that Cobb and his accomplices hit the Mason businesses while in town for a court appearance in Hamilton County for one of his accomplices, said Fornshell.
The engaging in criminal enterprise charge is a first-degree felony that could bring the defendants at least 11 years in prison, he said.
“That’s the one with some teeth,” Fornshell said of the charges. “We hope to demonstrate to the court that this was a criminal enterprise. This is not someone who gets the urge to shoplift on a one-time occasion. They are professional thieves.”
“Larry Cobb and his co-defendants are not going to stop stealing from people in the state of Ohio unless they’re locked up for a long time.”
Cobb is facing 17 counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities, conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activities, burglary, money laundering and misuse of credit cards. Petty is facing eight counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities, receiving stolen property and misuse of credit cards. Mitchell and Petty are facing eight and seven counts respectively of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities, conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activities, money laundering, and misuse of credit cards.
More than 25 law enforcement agencies investigated the case with help from the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office and the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.