Burglary cache discovered in South County

Three men are arrested after officers find 800 stolen items, including guns and meth

acornejo@thetribunenews.comDecember 10, 2009 

Arroyo Grande Police Chief Steve Annibali displays some of the recovered property from arrests made Saturday. Investigators say it will likely take months to return items to their original owners.

THE TRIBUNE

The Arroyo Grande Police Department is investigating what it considers the most extensive burglary ring uncovered in recent years — one believed to have spanned all of the South County and possibly reached into other parts of San Luis Obispo County.

Law enforcement arrested three people Saturday after an investigation found more than 800 stolen items, including more than 35 guns and $80,000 worth of methamphetamine.

Investigators say that more arrests will likely follow and that it might take months to track down the owners of the stolen property.

The items were taken from private residences, businesses and cars, Arroyo Grande Police Chief Steve Annibali said.

Investigators also recovered hundreds of keys — likely stolen from victims and potential victims of burglary. The keys nearly fill two gallon-sized bags.

Annibali said it is not yet known how the keys were stolen.

Hundreds of recovered items are still being catalogued by Arroyo Grande police, and lists of those items will be forwarded to all local law enforcement agencies to aid in getting the items back to their owners.

“There is so much evidence that we are renting a storage pod to put our own supplies in to make room for all of it,” Annibali said.

The gun cache — police say many of the weapons were stolen from registered owners — included a 45-caliber submachine gun, commonly called a “tommy” gun.

“We will not allow this on the streets of Arroyo Grande,” Annibali said.

Recovered items include gaming systems, laptop computers, flat-screen televisions, jewelry, golf clubs, sports memorabilia, a ukulele and coin collections. Investigators say they have not yet been able to determine the overall monetary value.

Investigators say the burglaries likely began six months ago or earlier.

The Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Pismo Beach police departments, the regional Special Weapons and Tactics Team, state parole and the regional Narcotics Task Force assisted in the investigation.

On a tip, investigators served a total of four search warrants on Saturday at two homes in Arroyo Grande, at 195 Talley Ho Road and 172 Pine St., and one home at 368 N. 14th St. in Grover Beach. The fourth warrant was served on a storage container located at 844 Farrell Road in Grover Beach.

Arrested were Arroyo Grande residents Aaron Kirby, 32, and Christopher Layng, 32, and Grover Beach resident Michael Wheeler, 29. All of the men have past criminal records, according to police.

• Kirby was arrested on suspicion of possessing narcotics for sale, burglary, receiving stolen property, being a felon in possession of a firearm, grand theft, conspiring to commit a crime and being a felon in possession of ammunition.

• Wheeler was arrested on suspicion of burglary, receiving stolen property, being a felon in possession of ammunition and grand theft.

• Layng was suspected of possessing a controlled substance, cultivating marijuana, possessing paraphernalia, possessing a hypodermic needle, receiving stolen property and conspiring to commit a crime.

Layng remains in County Jail in lieu of posting $20,000 bail. Wheeler remains in custody with $50,000 bail. Kirby posted his $25,000 bail.

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