Woonsocket Police investigating the April 24 theft of 30 air conditioners from the Diamond Hill WalMart building followed a Woonsocket man and Johnston man to a Johnston scrap yard Oct. 11, arresting them in possession of more than $1,600 in metal tables and items from the Broaster House Restaurant.
Woonsocket Public Information Officer Det. Jamie Paone said the Broaster House owners were unaware the items had been stolen until police discovered them. She said they were taken after they had been put out for Autumnfest.
The WalMart building at 1919 Diamond Hill Road has been vacant since the store moved over the line into North Smithfield in Sept. 2011. Police report WalMart estimates the cost of the stolen air conditioners as high as $500,000.
Police arrested Larry Bates Sr., 52, of 1010 Hartford Ave. Johnston and Nathan Plante, 23, of 134 Rathbun St. Woonsocket at J&S Scrap, 36 Starr St., Johnston.
Bates was charged with two counts of conspiracy and larceny for the Walmart and Broaster House thefts, as well as possession of counterfeit bills. He is also in violation of his parole for an Aug. 28 theft of air conditioners from several northern RI businesses.
Plante was charged with one count of conspiracy and larceny for the Broaster House theft.
Bates and Plante are being held without bail.
Paone said detectives learned of Bates and Plante's involvement while interviewing people on an unrelated case and began surveillance of the pair, following them to the Johnston scrap yard, where they were caught with the Broaster House's stolen property.
Police also charged Jesse Marinaro, 21, of 7 Whittlesey Rd. Johnston and Matthew Bruckschen, 27, of 134 Rathbun St. Woonsocket, charging them with one count of conspiracy and larceny each in connection to the WalMart theft. Both men were already at the ACI on unrelated charges at the time, Paone said.
Paone said the four were apparently working together to steal items from area businesses to be turned in as scrap metal at the Johnston business.