SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An ex-con from Ramona was behind bars Wednesday on suspicion of taking part in a burglary ring that targeted numerous victims, including local Girl Scouts, in recent months, sheriff's officials reported.
Mark Jeffrey Ertman, 56, was arrested Tuesday morning at his home in the 2400 block of San Vicente Road, Sgt. Bill Hout said.
The suspect's property, nicknamed "the Chicken Ranch," allegedly served a crew of East County thieves as a place to conceal stolen property and try to render it untraceable, according to Hout. Detectives believe the group carried out at least 20 residential and commercial burglaries over the last year, he said.
The arrest culminated a two-month investigation during which authorities booked 13 people on criminal charges and seized methamphetamine, $8,000 in cash and about $44,000 worth of stolen property, including vehicles, guns and explosives.
Most of the crimes involved storage sheds and garages left open, unlocked or unsupervised, providing easy access for the bandits, who mostly stole power tools, Lt. James Bovet said.
Two of the burglaries took place at Camp Winacka, a Girl Scout wilderness retreat in Julian, last June and August, according to Bovet. There, the thieves made off with chainsaws, a leaf blower, weed trimmer, generator, golf cart and fuel can with gasoline in it. The monetary losses totaled more than $13,000, the lieutenant said.
The perpetrators of the heists allegedly used Ertman's home to store and alter the stolen goods, removing serial numbers and other identifying features so they could sell the items at swap meets and through online classified ads with less risk, according to Bovet.
Ertman was booked into San Diego Central Jail on multiple charges of receiving and possessing stolen property, and an allegation of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was being held in lieu of $180,000 bail pending arraignment, scheduled for Thursday afternoon.