Sale of stolen goods from business break-ins leads to Bluffton arrests

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Sale of stolen goods from business break-ins leads to Bluffton arrests

Published Wednesday, December 14, 2011   |  508 Words  |  

Two Bluffton brothers face felony charges after undercover investigators bought computers from them that were stolen during two recent break-ins, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

Steven Lamar Stapleton, 39, and Alexander Stapleton, 33, were arrested Tuesday as authorities searched their Shady Glen Lane home.

Officers bought a computer from Alexander Stapleton stolen Nov. 21 from the Bluffton-Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in Bluffton, the Sheriff's Office said, and they bought a laptop computer from Steven Stapleton reported stolen Monday from a Bluffton veterinary clinic.

Despite similarities in 30 break-ins since October at businesses in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island, Sheriff P.J. Tanner said he believes more than one group is committing the crimes.

"I'm still cautious about saying how these are connected because I think there are independent groups that aren't connected to each other committing these crimes," Tanner said.

Tanner said the brothers have been involved in multiple burglaries, but he declined to provide details, citing the ongoing investigation.

They were not responsible, however, for two Bluffton break-ins early Monday on Plantation Park Drive, at the Sunshine Hardscape, Landscape & Nursery and at the Ultimate Carwash, Tanner said.

He declined to say if an investigative task force of deputies and Bluffton officers has identified other suspects.

Tanner said investigators have made progress based on evidence and surveillance videos from businesses. He also said authorities have identified some of the stolen property, but declined to go into details.

Evidence and DNA samples collected during a search of the men's home are being analyzed by the Sheriff's Office Forensic Laboratory, along with evidence collected by Bluffton police from other burglary investigations. The lab is expediting the tests, Tanner said.

"DNA is going to be a tremendous help in these cases," Tanner said. "We're connecting the dots."

The Stapletons will be prosecuted under the state's property-crime enhancement statute, which allows for increased penalties for those previously convicted of three or more property crimes, according to the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office. Both have multiple convictions, the Sheriff's Office said.

The men were awaiting bond hearings Wednesday afternoon at the county jail, according to the jail log.

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