OCEAN CITY — A Church Hill, Md. man was arrested last week on first-degree burglary and theft charges last week after detectives were able to connect him to break-ins at multiple units occupied by foreign student workers evacuated due to Hurricane Irene.
On Aug. 28, an Ocean City police detective was dispatched to an apartment complex on Trimper Ave. in reference to the burglary of two units. A total of five victims, all foreign student workers living in Ocean City for the summer, were identified although there were as many as 15 other tenants in the two burglarized units.
The investigation revealed the burglaries had occurred sometime between Aug. 25 and Aug. 28 when all foreign student workers were ordered to be evacuated from Ocean City prior to the arrival of Hurricane Irene.
During the apartment break-ins, numerous items were reported stolen including clothing, shoes, personal items, money and even food and liquor in some cases totaling hundreds of dollars. During the course of the investigation in September, detectives learned there were five units in the apartment building, four of which were occupied by foreign student workers. The fifth unit was occupied by a local man, although he had been recently arrested and was in jail during the window of three days when the burglaries occurred.
However, the fifth unit was also occupied by another man, identified as Bennett Thomas McNeill, Jr., 52, of Church Hill, Md., at the time of the burglaries. The Ocean City man who was in jail at the time of the burglaries told police when he returned after being released, he found two bottles of liquor in the unit with foreign writing on the label. When asked where the liquor came from, McNeill allegedly told the witness he had gotten them from a co-worker. When questioned further, the victims of the break-ins told police they too had seen the bottles of liquor in McNeill’s apartment through the window and had taken pictures of them. The victims told police the liquor was Slovakian vodka and was not available for purchase in the U.S. and that they had brought it with them.
In October, OCPD detectives met with McNeill’s ex-wife, who told police during the timeframe of Hurricane Irene, McNeill came to her residence with two duffel bags full of various items including female clothing, shoes, hats, toiletries, personal items and perfume.
Detectives confiscated the stolen goods as evidence and later presented it to the victims, who identified them as their property stolen during the burglary when they were evacuated during Hurricane Irene.