LAPORTE | A tracking device on a stolen iPad is credited with ending a long string of LaPorte County burglaries.
Many of the victims like Glen and Ranell Lazzeri combed through thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise Wednesday, laying claim to what rightfully belongs to them.
"They pretty much cleaned us out," said Lazzeri, whose home near Michigan City was broken into about three weeks ago while he and his wife were in Florida preparing to retire.
Nicholas Rife, 33, is charged with three counts of burglary while his wife, Stephanie Rife, is charged with possession of stolen property.
According to police, detectives had no idea who was behind the dozen or more Michigan City area burglaries until Rife Nov. 26 was found with an iPad equipped with a built-in tracking device.
The iPad was taken in the last burglary in the string and the GPS tracking device first led officers to a home on Lindsay Lane near Michigan City where the couple resides.
The couple was then followed by police in their vehicle until it stopped on Johnson Road outside LaPorte.
Police recovered the stolen iPad from the vehicle and numerous other items from the couple's home later connected to the burglaries that date back to September.
Victims were allowed to look over the items on display in a building at the LaPorte County fairgrounds and take back anything they own.
Lazzeri said he found some of his tools and minor pieces of jewelry but did not locate much of the valuable jewelry pieces stolen along with many other things like an 80-inch LED TV and more than $1,300 in cash.
"It was like somebody kicked us in the stomach. What a sick feeling,'' said Lazzeri in describing his emotions when notified of the burglary.
Rick Doperalski walked away finding none of his belongings, which he didn't want to disclose.
"I'm not really too happy about this whole thing," Doperalski said.
Police were not sure if others were involved in the string but said more charges are anticipated.
LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said many of the stolen items likely already had been sold to pawn shops or individuals in the black market and probably had not found a buyer yet for the property recovered.
LaPorte County police Detective Sgt. Andy Hynek said an increasing number of arrests are being made as a result of the increase in electronic items being made with built-in tracking devices.
He said the eyes of watchful neighbors are still vital, though, in solving burglaries.
"They know what vehicle belongs in a driveway. When they see suspicious activity, let us know," said Hynek.