It looked like a store threw up on the lawn of a North Spokane home Wednesday, one Spokane County sheriff’s deputy commented, after law enforcement officers uncovered a large cache of stolen goods.
Washing machine-sized boxes filled with shoes. Electronics stacked waist-high. Landscaping equipment scattered across the grass.
Passers-by in vehicles slowed to check out the inventory. But this was no yard sale.
Sheriff’s deputies raided the residence at 415 E. Montgomery Ave. on Tuesday, and on Wednesday they were still sifting through some $200,000 in stolen goods found inside the house, sheriff’s Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.
“This is the largest recovery in (money) and property that anyone can remember,” Chamberlin said.
He said the resident of the home, Troy Baumgardner, 37, was in Spokane County Jail on Wednesday on charges of second-degree burglary, first-degree theft and second-degree malicious mischief.
Chamberlin called the charges the “tip of the iceberg” and said they stem from a May 29 burglary at Discount Lumber, 8003 N. Market St., where $10,000 worth of goods were stolen.
That burglary was followed by a break-in at Aspen Sound on North Division Street over the Fourth of July, when more than $150,000 of electronics – essentially the store’s entire stock – were stolen.
On July 30, Payless Shoes in the Shadle area was hit for more than $40,000 worth of inventory.
Chamberlin said the investigation into the first burglary led deputies to Baumgardner, but he would not say how he was identified as a suspect. Deputies executed a search warrant on the house at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday and found goods from all three burglaries, he said, adding that Baumgardner fled the residence when law enforcement arrived but was quickly apprehended.
The Sheriff’s Office led the investigation because the Discount Lumber burglary took place in Spokane County.
Chamberlin said the investigation is ongoing, and it is unclear if Baumgardner worked alone in the thefts. He said Baumgardner is from the Fresno, Calif., area and was “prominent” in thefts in that area.
Fresno Deputy Fire Marshal Don Macalpine said Wednesday Baumgardner served time in California after he stole items from a restaurant where he worked and then used gasoline to set fire to the building in 2008.
After searching Baumgardner’s house in Fresno, Macalpine said, it was a similar scene to the one in Spokane on Wednesday.
“It was basically a big garage sale,” the deputy fire marshal said.
Chamberlin said investigators thought they might find items from more than just the one crime inside the house on East Montgomery Avenue, but they “had no idea there was going to be this much.”
Inside Baumgardner’s residence, “investigators had to maneuver around all the stolen property, there was so much,” Chamberlin said.
Once deputies identified many of the items’ original owners – which wasn’t hard since they said Baumgardner labeled almost every item with a sticky note – representatives from each store were on hand to take back their inventory.
Darian Jorden, store manager for Aspen Sound, said he was the first to enter the business the morning of July 5.
Normally, he said, an alarm sounds when the first person enters.
“I heard nothing,” he said.
He walked into the stockroom and saw empty shelves.
“That’s when I realized it was all gone,” he said.
Just as shocking, perhaps, was the phone call Wednesday that much of the stock had been recovered.
“It was pretty relieving and pretty exciting to show up and see so much stuff,” Jorden said.
The alarm didn’t notify police during the theft because a cable to the system had been cut, Jorden said, and the locks on a rear door were drilled.
“With how well they did the job getting in, I thought we’d never see it again,” he said.
With insurance claims pending, Jorden said he didn’t know what would happen to the merchandise. After the theft, the store was able to move inventory from other stores in the area to the burglarized location.
For Chris Corigliano, owner of C&C Yard Care, recovering from a theft was more of a hassle than anything. About $3,000 of his lawn care equipment and another $1,000 worth of his plants were stolen last weekend and recovered at Baumgardner’s home.
To recover the plants, Corigliano had to dig them out of the ground because someone had already planted them around the house.
This was the sixth time the business was the victim of a theft, Corigliano said, but this was the fastest he’d ever recovered the stolen items.
“We kind of lucked out that they raided here that soon after,” he said.