Burglary ring busted
Two Carson City residents on probation for theft were charged late Thursday with multiple counts of possessing stolen property after authorities searched their apartment and found hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of paintings, jewelry, electronic items and other material listed in theft reports dating to June.Jeira Polanco, 24, and Timothy Sparacino, 27, were charged with 22 counts apiece following a surprise visit to their home by Kim Vine, their state Parole and Probation officer. Vine had become suspicious about their activities following their probationary sentences imposed in April 2011 on three theft counts apiece. They also had been ordered to pay $22,000 in restitution.The two have been in the Carson City Jail on a parole and probation hold since Dec. 11, when Vine made the surprise visit to their home.Sparacino is facing an underlying sentence of 2-9 years on his theft convictions. Polanco faces three underlying prison sentences adding up to 44-128 months. Vine, backed up by three other officers, first knocked and then pounded on the door, seeing movement inside the apartment but not getting an immediate response. “I know you’re in there,” she shouted.Polanco finally opened the door and Vine, who in a Nov. 11 visit had observed a nearly bare front room, was floored by what she now saw.“I go, oh my God, look at all this furniture,” she said, describing allegedly stolen items that were in plain view, including furniture and paintings hanging on walls. One of the parole and probation officers then called the Carson City Sheriff’s Office. The investigators visually identified allegedly stolen property and then applied for a search warrant. Once they had the warrant in hand, they searched the entire apartment and discovered more items. “I found an extremely large amount of stolen property,” a sheriff’s detective wrote in a police report that listed jewelry, coins, collectibles, silverware, china, two iPads, a 55-inch TV, Christmas gifts, eight paintings, furniture and utensils that had been reported as stolen. At least 22 different victims have been contacted since the arrests.Eight Bev Doolittle paintings hanging on the walls were valued at $28,950.“What a way to enter Christmas, with your personal effects returned,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Ken Sandage.“This arrest is a direct correlation to the increase (in residential burglaries) for the past two months,” Sandage said. “The folks we have in custody are a direct link to that (increase.)”Detectives weren’t too surprised to find the two iPads. Tracking devices in the iPads had led officers to the apartment complex on Nov. 15, but they couldn’t pinpoint which apartment they were in.The reported burglaries weren’t just in Carson City. At least six Douglas County victims were able to retrieve their property, most of it jewelry.One victim, a 34-year-old man who declined to be named, said he had gone out for less than an hour in July with his son to get haircuts. When they returned, the back gate was open, a kitchen window was shattered and their dog was frantic. Electronics, cash and his collection of baseball cards were gone.“I had them (the cards) since I was a kid,” the victim said. “I couldn’t just go out and buy them again.”The man said he still feels violated and unsafe after the theft, even though he has since moved.“I get up in the middle of the night if I hear something,” he said. “I check every room when I get home,” often three times, to make sure no prowlers are in the house.One victim whom Sheriff Ken Furlong spoke to said his neighbors noticed people coming in and out of her house with property, but did not think to call the sheriff’s office.“Had someone called,” the thieves may have been caught there and then and been stopped sooner than Dec. 11, he said.Furlong praised Vine for her efforts, saying, “It’s one of the most substantial cases that has been broken in quite some time.”Vine’s follow-up on activity that raised her suspicions and her plan to surprise her two probationers with a home visit were of the highest caliber, Furlong said, adding, “That’s the type of initiative we want in our officers.”The sheer quantity of property stolen turned the case into a massive undertaking.“It has just exploded into an enormous workload of what belongs to whom,” the sheriff said, terming the case one of “the most labor intensive in years.”TIPS TO PREVENT BREAK-INSDoors• Lock all outside doors and windows when not at home.• If you have just moved into a new house or apartment, have the locks changed.• Change locks immediately if your keys are lost or stolen.• Install a peephole or wide-angle viewer in all entry doors so you can see who is at the door without opening it.• Keep the garage door closed.Windows• Put lights and a radio on timers to create the illusion someone is home. Leave shades, blinds and curtains in normal positions.Yard• Keep your yard well maintained. Store ladders and tools in a locked area when not using them.• Keep gate entrances padlocked. • Have adequate exterior lighting. A motion-sensitive light is recommended for backyards.• Plant shrubbery around windows, this will make getting to a window more difficult from the outside of the house. Mailbox• Don’t hide keys in mailboxes, planters or under doormats. These are the first places burglars look. If you have a trusted neighbor, give them a key.• Don’t allow daily deliveries of mail, newspapers or fliers to build up while you are away. Other Household Tips• Homes without a home-security/alarm system have a significantly higher break-in rate, so invest in an alarm system to protect your home.• Maintain an inventory of all valuables, including serial numbers. Take photos or videos of them.• If you return home and think your home has been entered, don’t go in. Call the Carson City Sheriff’s Office (911) or 775-887-2008 from a cell phone, a neighbor’s home or public telephone.