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Boats, cars looted, items sold on eBay

With the help of a victim, investigators solved dozens of theft cases and uncovered a group of Oak Harbor thieves who were selling stolen electronics on eBay, according to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Detective Sgt. Mike Beech said investigators arrested three people last week in connection with a rash of boat break-ins on North Whidbey.

On Jan. 13, thieves broke into 20 boats at the Cornet Bay Marina and stole electronics, including GPS units, fish finders and radar. Just before Christmas, someone broke into a dozen boats in Mariners Cove, stole electronics and vandalized some vessels.

The detectives didn’t have a lot to go on until one of the boat owners noticed his stolen property was for sale on the Internet site eBay. Beech said Detective John Nieder and he worked quickly to identify who was selling the items before the electronics were all shipped off.

The detectives knocked on the door of the suspect’s Oak Harbor apartment, Beech said, and were given permission to search. They found a cache of electronic equipment that they estimated would sell on eBay for about $13,000.

They arrested 21-year-old Joshua Benjamin, 18-year-old Shane Moody and a 17-year-old Oak Harbor boy on suspicion of vehicle prowling in the first degree. They may face more serious charges.

Beech said the two younger suspects also confessed to prowling 20

to 30 cars in the Oak Harbor area. The detectives are working with Oak Harbor Police to clear those cases.

Beech said the younger suspects claimed that Benjamin was the ringleader of the operation. They claimed Benjamin would give them alcohol, drive them to the area where he wanted them to steal stuff, tell them what to steal and pick them up afterward. Benjamin then sold the items on eBay, Beech said.

The teenagers said they began the life of crime by stealing items from unlocked cars in Oak Harbor, but Benjamin convinced them that boats were more lucrative, Beech indicated.

Among the many items the detectives recovered was a digital camera apparently stolen from a car. Beech said they looked at the photos and were able to identify the owner from an image of little girls standing in front of a house in Admiral’s Cove. The detectives contacted the man, who thought that the camera was just lost.

“He got all his Christmas pictures back,” Beech said. “He was really happy.”

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