Contractor’s GPS Device Helps Uncover “Massive Theft Scheme”

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stolen construction tools gathered on warehouse floor Howard County Md police department
This photo is just a glimpse of the 15,000 stolen construction tools recovered by Howard County police. Check out the video later in this story to get a better view of the scope of the theft.
Howard County Police Department

A Virginia contractor helped lead police to $3 million to $5 million worth of stolen construction tools, thanks to his GPS tracking device.

The device was on tools that were stolen in January and tracked to Howard County, Maryland. Police followed the trail and uncovered a “massive theft scheme” beginning with a storage unit in Elkridge where the tracking device took them, according to Chief Gregory Der in a news conference May 23.

“The stolen tools were mostly kept in storage units in Howard County, and detectives believe they were sold at a variety of locations and through different means,” reads a department Facebook post.

Der called it one of the largest thefts cases in the region, stretching into Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Over four months, police recovered 15,000 tools after executing search warrants at 12 locations, 11 of which were in Howard County.

So far, more than 80 victims have been identified, and it’s likely that number will grow into the hundreds, possibly thousands, Der said.

The items were stolen from construction sites, stores, businesses, vehicles, residential properties. About one-fourth were new, still in the box, most likely stolen from retailers.

During the press conference, rows of tools were stacked on shelves in a warehouse, which Der said was just a portion of what was recovered. Here's a police department video showing the scope of the recovered tools:

He said several suspects are being investigated, and he expected charges soon. He said he could not provide further details on when arrests would be made.

“The scope of this investigation is enormous and ongoing,” he said.

Der said police are working to return the recovered tools to their owners, some of whom have lost work time and had to buy new tools to replace the stolen ones.

“These thefts affect their livelihoods,” he said. “We’ve heard from victims who have lost work because of their tools. It goes way beyond the cost of replacing these tools.”

The Howard County Police Department has set up a webpage with a form for people to fill out to recover stolen items. A detective will reach out to those who submit a form, Der said.