By Larry Hobbs
March 21, 2019
A pair of thieves broke into some storage units at Storage By the Sea early last month in the Lanier Plaza, absconding with approximately $25,000 in scuba diving equipment and other valuables, according to a Brunswick Police report.
But the loot was of little profit until the culprits could find a place to dump it in exchange for cash. And that is how Brunswick Police detectives caught up to Matthew Martin Stembridge and Thomas Lee Jones, who allegedly sold the stolen goods at pawnshops throughout the Golden Isles, according to Brunswick Police Lt. Jose Gladamez, the department’s criminal investigations commander.
In the process, police have managed to return a significant portion of the stolen goods to the victim, he said.
“They had to have come in there with a pickup truck or trailer and just loaded up,” Galdamez said. “Our investigation led us to these two guys, and we were able to find a lot of the property that had been pawned.”
Stembridge and Jones, both 29, remained Wednesday in the Glynn County Detention Center, charged with two counts each of second- degree burglary. Additionally, Stembridge, of Darien, is charged with seven counts of theft by taking and seven counts of theft by deception. Jones, of Brunswick, is additionally charged with five counts of theft by taking and five counts of theft by deception, according to jail records.
The victim discovered the break-ins on Feb. 2 and reported it to police. The thieves had removed the locks on several storage units at Storage By the Sea, 1825 U.S. Highway 17, the police report said. In addition to a large amount of expensive diving gear, the victim was missing other valuables, including generators, expensive bicycles and coolers, Galdamez said.
Detectives first discovered that some of the items had been sold on the Golden Isles Online Yard Sale Facebook page, Galdamez said. Using the internet investigating service LeadsOnline, police began tracking down still more stolen items at area pawnshops, Galdamez said.
“They started selling some of the property in Golden Isles Yard Sale on Facebook,” he said. “Eventually, we began checking the pawnshops and that led us to a good bit of the property.”
The theft by deception charges filed against Stembridge and Jones stem from the loss incurred by the pawnbrokers who unwittingly bought the stolen goods, Galdamez said.
“Sometimes it takes a while, but we are always working to solve these crimes,” Galdamez said. “And we do make the effort to get the property back for those who have been victimized by these crimes.”
The investigation is still ongoing and more stolen property may be recovered, Galdamez said.