PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Two arrests were announced Friday in connection with a theft ring that targeted hardware stores in at least three counties.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said that 67-year-old Joseph Payea and 49-year-old Penelope McClain both face a number of charges.
The pair allegedly used a network of people to steal from Lowe's and Home Depot stores in Montgomery, Lehigh and Berks counties.
The investigation began in December 2021 when Lower Pottsgrove Police determined that recent retail thefts in their area were not isolated acts but instead were being committed by a network of individuals.
Authorities say Payea and McClain were the leaders of the ring.
Payea would allegedly use social media or text messages to provide shopping lists of desired merchandise to a group of individuals suffering from substance use disorder.
"This was a high-volume organized retail theft ring that caused the targeted businesses to suffer significant losses, both through the thefts themselves and through the loss of customers who bought the stolen merchandise from the defendants. At one point, the two main defendants made more than $50,000 in one day's sale of stolen items at a mud sale. That is a significant loss for any business to withstand on an ongoing basis," said DA Steele. "Additionally, the fact that the corrupt organization was using individuals suffering from addiction is unconscionable and furthered their addiction to poisons."
Police seized more than 500 stolen tools worth nearly $100,000.
The pair were arraigned on Thursday.
Payea's bail was set at $500,000 unsecured and McClain's bail was set at $250,000 unsecured.
The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office also said three other defendants are facing felony charges in connection with the theft ring.