Northridge man indicted again in metal thefts that hit former GM, tornado-damaged sites

Tornado-damaged sites and industrial electrical equipment at a former General Motors plant were among targets in a metal theft ring police say may involve more than $1 million in ravaged or stolen property across Montgomery County.

The crimes happened between June 1 and Nov. 25, 2019, in Harrison Twp., Moraine, Riverside and possibly other communities, and police said the thefts caused power outages to businesses.

One of the men charged — 45-year-old Donald Roger Leeth III of Northridge — was indicted Tuesday by a grand jury on more charges in the case.

Leeth was issued a summons to appear Aug. 9 for his arraignment in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; four counts of breaking and entering; and three counts of complicity to commit theft.

Credit: Montgomery County Jail

Credit: Montgomery County Jail

“The defendant’s house was the hub of the metal theft, where stolen metal was taken and stripped, then to have various participants take the metal to be scrapped for a portion of the proceeds,” according to a document filed by the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.

Leeth’s second indictment listed additional thefts targeting the former KMart at 601 Woodman Drive in Dayton; Brightwood College at 2800 E. River Road in Moraine; Tyler Technologies at 1 Tyler Way in Moraine; and Paint Plant at 4000 Springboro Pike in Moraine.

His arraignment is on the same day a final pretrial hearing was scheduled ahead of his Aug. 16 trial. He initially was indicted Dec. 24, 2019, for aggravated robbery; two counts of breaking and entering; and two counts of receiving stolen property, court records show. It is not clear whether the new charges will cause further delay to his case, which already has had multiple trial dates rescheduled.

Moraine police Sgt. Andrew Parish previously said they were pursuing a charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, which shows that the defendants had “done this in a pattern of theft … a continuation of multiple crimes that they’ve committed to benefit their organization.”

Leeth was booked into the Montgomery County Jail on Dec. 18, 2019 — one day before Moraine police and county law enforcement raided his home in the 2800 block of Coronette Avenue. He was released in January 2020 after posting a $10,000 surety bond and is on electronic home monitoring with work privileges, court records show.

The search of Leeth’s home followed a long-term investigation, said Sgt. Andrew Parish of the Moraine Police Division, the lead investigating agency. In Moraine, “they have caused hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in damage to these buildings,” he said previously.

Found at Leeth’s home were “electrical components that are unique” to the former GM Truck & Bus plant at 3501 Springboro Pike in Moraine, Parish said.

The site operated by the Industrial Realty Group is home to a “a compressor house” that contains “all the electrical components for what was (the) General Motors” plant and has “an immense amount of electrical equipment,” Parish said. The thieves “have gotten into live circuits, have caused massive surges in power, have interrupted the business of legitimate companies in the city of Moraine with these power outages and it’s very dangerous.

“These buildings aren’t just sitting there empty,” Parish said. “We have investment groups, realty groups who own the properties and managing these properties and trying to sell them or rehabilitate them.”

Police surveillance included following “individuals to some abandoned buildings in Riverside and in and around Northridge.” Parish said thieves also were “targeting some of the buildings that were affected by those Memorial Day tornadoes” from 2019.

Those involved would take the stolen metal to recycling centers, where they would receive between $1 and $2 a pound for their haul, Parish said. In some instances, he said, those hauls involved 1,000 pounds of copper “in a single transaction.”

Also charged with Leeth in December 2019 was Justin Lewis Clever, 35, of Troy for aggravated robbery; escape, and two counts each of receiving stolen property and breaking and entering, according to Clever’s indictment.

Clever was sentenced Aug. 31, 2020, to between 3 and 4½ years in prison after pleading guilty to engaging in corrupt acts; aggravated robbery; escape; possessing criminal tools and two counts of breaking and entering. He is in the Marion Correctional Institution and is eligible for release in November 2022, according to online Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction records. Following his release, he will be on supervised probation through the Ohio Parole Authority.

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

It is not clear who else, if anyone, has been charged in connection to the case besides Leeth and Clever.

We are working to learn more about this investigation.

Staff Writer Nick Blizzard contributed to this report.

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