A man with a record of car break-ins used others to do the job for him after he completed probation for his last crime, Pittsburgh police said on Wednesday.
Anthony Mieglitz, 34, of Spring Garden is the ringleader of a six-man crew responsible for at least 55 car break-ins in the city, investigators said at a news conference at headquarters in the North Side.
âHe wasnât going to be caught the same way he had before,â Detective Bill Churilla said of Mieglitz, who has a warrant for his arrest. âHe had these five individuals doing his bidding.â
Detectives believe the group could be responsible for as many as 150 car break-ins in the city. Between January and June, there were 1,027 thefts from vehicles in the city. A rash began in July mainly in the Strip District neighborhood, prompting the investigation.
âThis was an organized crime spree,â said Zone 2 Cmdr. Eric Holmes. âI think (the arrests) could put a dent in this type of crime.â
Police arrested Joseph Pail, 27; Joseph Vidnic, 19; and Brandon Hulboy, 20, all of Spring Garden, in connection with the thefts, and are seeking Mieglitz; his brother, John Girvin, 27; and Richard Phillips, 20, also of Spring Garden.
Detectives developed Mieglitz as a suspect after a break-in on Spring Way in the Strip. That led to interviews with the other suspects, who admitted their involvement and showed detectives how they broke car windows, Churilla said.
The men would target vehicles with accessories such as tinted windows and custom wheels in the belief that the owners would have expensive items inside, such as radios or speakers, Churilla said. They also broke into cars with items left in view, such as iPads, golf clubs, bowling balls and GPS units, and told detectives that the owners âdeservedâ to have their property stolen for leaving it out, Churilla said.
Becky Rodgers, executive director of Neighbors in the Strip, said police told her that they were aware of the problems with break-ins and were investigating.
âEvidently, they worked their magic,â Rodgers said. âIt not only helps in the Strip; Iâm sure it helps in other areas of town.â
The suspects admitted to break-ins in the North Side â" mainly near the Heinz Lofts along River Avenue â" in South Side, in Mt. Washington and in Oakland near Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, but also said they were high at times and could not remember every incident, Churilla said.
Mieglitz gave the other suspects heroin and money in exchange for committing the break-ins, the detective said.
âHe used that as a tool to get them to do what he wanted,â Churilla said. âHe had them out there every day doing this.â
Mieglitz served three years of probation after he pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property in 2009, court records show.
He also has convictions for theft from motor vehicles.
The latest thefts were executed in daylight in teams with someone doing the break-in, another person acting as lookout and the third serving as the driver, Churilla said.
âThey were very bold with it,â he said.
Detectives have recovered few of the stolen goods, Churilla said, which Mieglitz sold at flea markets.
He said he expects there will be more charges.This article was written by Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE.