Anthony James Russo, 30, was arrested and taken to the Kent County Jail on March 7.
The sheriff’s offices in Kent, Ottawa and Ionia counties say they believe that Russo was operating in all three counties.
According to Lt. Andrew Bucholtz of the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to Young Chevrolet of Ionia and found a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe with the wheels removed. Working with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, deputies stopped Russo’s vehicle just inside the Kent County border and found the stolen wheels in his pickup truck.
Russo has been charged in Kent County District Court with larceny from a motor vehicle and receiving and concealing stolen property between $1,000 and $20,000. He was released from jail March 8 on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond.
While Russo does not have any criminal record in Ottawa County, he is from the Grandville area, just west of the Ottawa County and Kent County border. No charges have been filed against him yet in Ionia County for the theft at Young Chevrolet as of Monday, but the case remains under investigation and will be presented to the Ionia County Prosecutor’s Office.
Police said an auto dealership near Sparta contacted the Kent County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 27 after they found a couple of their vehicles on blocks with tires and rims removed. Similar incidents had taken place and been reported to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, Grandville Police Department and Kentwood Police Department.
Capt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office said Russo is suspected of stealing car wheels from DeNooyer Chevrolet in Holland, Todd Wenzel Chevrolet in Hudsonville and Betten Baker Chevrolet in Coopersville.
“It was discovered quite a few weeks ago that there was an epidemic of specific wheels being taken at car dealerships,” Bennett said. “We were able to put together enough for a search warrant.”
Bennett said the three sheriff’s offices worked together and shared notes and surveillance videos to put together enough information to arrest Russo.
“We constantly compare investigative notes on our cases and we look at incoming crime trends,” he said. “We got together and formulated a plan of investigation, which included search warrants and videos.”
Russo has not been arrested in Ottawa County, but Bennett said the Sheriff’s Office plans to make a presentation to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office for all three suspected car dealership larcenies in the county. Bennett said Russo is “due to be charged here very shortly.”
Bennett said it’s not uncommon for sheriff’s offices to deal with a thief taking specific parts of a particular type of vehicle.
“It’s pretty indicative of what we see,” he said. “They’ll have a specific market for the stolen property. These wheels tend to bring the biggest buck, and if you have a couple decent tools, you can go to town pretty quick.”