UPDATE (March 6, 2019) — Rhonda Oliphant was sentenced to 1 year in the Bartholomew County Jail, all suspended, plus 18 months of probation.
UPDATE (Sept. 14, 2018) — Jason Warren was sentenced to 10 years in the Department of Correction.
COLUMBUS, Ind. — Hundreds of stolen items worth several thousand dollars were found inside a home in Columbus Monday.
Two people are now behind bars after Indiana State Police busted the theft ring this week.
State police were serving a search warrant around 3 p.m. when they made the discovery at the home on Keller Avenue. They were looking for a wanted person and gathered enough information to get a search warrant for the property.
Police found nearly two ounces of crystal meth and along with the items that had been stolen from several area residents and stores. Troopers spent more than 24 hours at the scene as they inventoried the stolen merchandise and contacted victims of the thefts.
Neighbors who watched the scene play out say the pictures don’t do it justice.
“There was tons of stuff, from mopeds to lawn mowers, you name it. All kinds of stuff,” said neighbor Ruth Rowland.
Rowland says the stolen items filled up her front yard as well as her neighbors.
Police arrested the homeowner, Jason D. Warren, 44, and his girlfriend, Rhonda A. Oliphant, 44, on numerous charges.
Ruth says before the bust, she didn’t have any complaints with the pair.
“You know they were friendly people. I didn’t have no problem with them,” said Rowland.
“These investigations often snowball into something larger than we expect,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine.
Much of the stolen merchandise was from Columbus-area retailers like Walmart, Lowe’s, Menards, Rural King and Best Buy, among others.
Those companies have already reclaimed their stolen merchandise.
Much of the property had also been reported stolen recently from homes in the area. State police are still working to return those belongings to their rightful owners, potentially solving hundreds of crimes.
“All this evidence is linked, so every time we can connect it to another crime or another suspect, the safer our communities are going to be,” said Perrine.
In addition to all the property, officers also found counterfeit money inside the home.
State police say the case illustrates why drug cases remain a priority for law enforcement across Indiana.
“We know the motive behind a lot of these thefts is drugs and so if we can shut down these drug operations and the stolen property that is traded for drugs our communities are going to improve,” said Perrine.
Preliminary charges against Warren include dealing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, maintaining a common nuisance, possession of a syringe, possession of stolen property and counterfeiting. Charges against Oliphant include dealing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a syringe, possession of stolen property and visiting a common nuisance.
Both were taken to the Bartholomew County Jail. Investigators said additional charges could be filed in the case against other people involved in the thefts or distribution of methamphetamine.