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Phony telephone technician a suspect in Staples burglary

January 13, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Finding a man posing as a telephone technician may be the key to solving an office supply store burglary that netted thieves about $100,000 in merchandise earlier this week, police said Friday.

At about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, a driver saw a U-Haul truck leaving the Staples store at 1631 Wesel Blvd. Just after 6 a.m. the store manager discovered the store had been burglarized.

Less than two hours later, the Washington County Sheriff's Department received a call about a stolen U-Haul truck matching the description of the one seen leaving the store.

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The 24-foot GMC moving truck with Arizona license tags AA56322 had been taken from a rental agency on Shawley Drive near Maugans Avenue. Police said it appeared someone stole the key from a drop box.

A Staples employee told police a man who appeared to be a telephone technician came to the store Tuesday afternoon, said Hagerstown Police Detective Steven Hoover. It was likely the man was not a phone technician, but was instead planning to burglarize the store, he said.

Police have released a sketch of the suspect based on the employee's description. The man was described as white, in his 30s or 40s, with a medium build and medium complexion.

Police found that someone entered the store through a vent on the roof. Hagerstown Police Lt. Rick Johnson said the description of missing merchandise, estimated at nearly $100,000, took 23 pages.

Police have contacted phone companies and determined that none sent workers to the store, Johnson said.

Police also found that phone lines to the store had been cut. The alarm system did not activate because the phone lines were damaged, Hoover said.

Hoover said the burglary appears to be the work of professionals, that it could be part of a broader pattern and that it is unlikely the burglars are still in town.

The man who went to the store appeared to have extensive knowledge of telephone equipment, Hoover said.

Hoover said the burglary appeared to be almost identical to one at a Staples store in Fairfax County, Va., last summer. He said in that case, burglars used a U-Haul truck to steal a store safe. The safe and truck were recovered in Queens, N.Y.

"I feel certain that the people are way out of the area right now," Hoover said.

Police asked that anyone with information call Hoover or Detective Patricia Moulton at 301-790-3700, extension 234.

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