A Martinez man was arrested Friday afternoon in connection with the burglary of a charity’s storage unit in late February, a Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy said. Jason Crites, 38, of Martinez, was arrested in connection with burglary and felony vandalism of a charity’s warehouse in the 1800 block of Shell Avenue, according to Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jimmy Lee.
The Martinez-based charity, Christmas for Everyone, raises money and gifts for needy families and seniors each Christmas, according to the charity’s director Mary Perez. Perez said she returned to the organization’s Martinez storage building on Feb. 25 after being gone for a few weeks to find the place had been ransacked. “They took everything — pots and pans, tables and chairs, our presents, everything we use to do our program with,” she said. “Twenty-eight years of accumulation is gone.” The thieves stole an estimated $60,000 worth of property including 68 tables, 100 chairs, tools, toys, winter coats and barrels filled with gifts from the charity, she said. Perez said the burglars also cut the building’s electricity, stole copper wire and de-activated an alarm system before cutting a hole in the back of the building and looting it.
She had installed a costly alarm system, in addition to special locks, and was considering installing cameras in the building after a week long series of thefts there in 2009. Perez believes some of the same suspects involved in that burglary played a role in last month’s theft. Recently, she and a friend headed to a North Concord flea market when they spotted some of the items stolen from the charity for sale. Perez said was able to buy back some of those items, and learned after questioning the seller that a local parolee had provided them.
After paying a visit to the Martinez home of the parolee’s mother, where he had been staying, Perez said she and a friend were able to recover about $800 more of the stolen property. Perez and other charity volunteers are working to clean up the looted storage building, which she plans to move from. “We can’t stay in this place, it’s too unsafe,” Perez said. “We’ve been blessed by being given this enormous building for 15 years — and we don’t have the money to pay for storage.” Perez is asking anyone who may have purchased the stolen furniture or other property to return the items to the charity.
On Friday, detectives served a search warrant at a residence in the 4200 block of Via De Flores in unincorporated Contra Costa County. More than 30 items that were stolen from the warehouse were recovered during the search, detectives said. The items were positively identified by the charity staff and returned to the charity. Detectives also located items in the residence that they believe may be linked to another burglary case, deputies said. Crites was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility and is being held in lieu of $25,000 bail. Detectives said the burglary remains under investigation.
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