OCEAN CITY — A Berlin man faces first-degree burglary, theft and malicious destruction of property charges this week for his alleged role in a series of break-ins at a north Ocean City condominium building.
Last Friday, Ocean City Police responded to the Avalon condominiums on 140th Street and Coastal Highway for a reported burglary. OCPD officers met with an employee of a construction company doing work on the condo building who told police one of the company’s ladders was leaning up against the building and there was an open sliding door on one of the balconies. The employee told police his company was only doing work on the exterior of the building and the ladder hadn’t been used in several days.
The investigation revealed a unit on the third floor had been burglarized and four flat-screen televisions, along with around $10 in change and several bottles of alcohol had been stolen. A search of the building revealed another unit on the fourth floor had been broken into. That unit had been entered by an unknown suspect or suspects.
According to police reports, it was obvious someone had searched the unit on the fourth floor with its drawers and cabinets opened and items lying out on the counter. The lock on the sliding glass door on the fourth-floor unit had been broken with a tool of some sort, which allowed access for the burglars. It was not immediately apparent if anything had been stolen from the fourth-floor unit.
The construction company representative told police one employee, identified as Jason Cooper, had not reported to work as scheduled and could not be reached by phone. OCPD officers went to Cooper’s residence in Fruitland and found Cooper at home. Cooper agreed to go with OCPD investigators to the Fruitland Police Department for questioning.
During the subsequent interview, Cooper said he left work at the Avalon condo in Ocean City around 4 p.m. on Nov. 11 and returned at around 6 p.m. and entered the units on the third and fourth floors utilizing the company ladder. Cooper told police he stopped along the way to pick up a friend, later identified as Mitchell Preston, 56, of Berlin.
Cooper told police he drove his vehicle to the condo building and parked in the parking area underneath, while Preston went into the units and stole the four flat-screen televisions and other items. Cooper told police Preston kept two of the televisions and he kept the other two. Cooper told police he and Preston used the ladder to gain access to the condo units.
Two of the televisions were located in Cooper’s vehicle, along with a DVD player stolen from the third-floor unit. OCPD detectives later met with Preston in Ocean City. According to police reports, Preston admitted he went with Cooper and committed the burglaries. Preston told police Cooper called him and asked him to go with him to the condo burglaries. Preston also told police both he and Cooper entered the third- and fourth-floor units and stole the televisions and other items.
A check with the condo owners revealed the televisions and other items stolen from the third-floor unit were valued at over $2,000. The estimated damage caused by the burglars breaking the lock on the sliding glass door of the fourth-floor unit was estimated at around $200. Based on the suspect’s statements and the evidence, OCPD detectives on Wednesday charged Preston with two counts of first-degree burglary along with lesser burglary charges for each of the two break-ins, theft over $1,000 for the items stolen from the third-floor unit and malicious destruction of property less than $1,000 for the damaged lock on the fourth-floor unit.
No charges had yet been filed against Cooper as of mid-week. Preston had a bail review hearing on Wednesday and was ordered to be held on a $100,000 bond.