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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, August 12, 2017 1:00 am

Undercover buys lead to 4 arrests

Grabill maker's showers stolen, sold

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Executives at R3 Composites in Grabill could see the packaging on the stolen shower units was different, but the product was theirs.

In June last year, they discovered their products being sold illegally on Facebook after an employee alerted them to the sites “Mancave” and “Garage Sale.”

Documents filed in Allen Superior Court said the executives had a friend buy a shower from the sites and, after inspecting it, noticed it was one of the company's showers, down to the product name “Aquatic,” which is unique in the United States.

The executives installed more security cameras at their manufacturing site on Roth Road and started reviewing footage.

Video footage showed maintenance worker Joseph “Joey” Barone, 60, of the 600 block of Fallen Timbers Trail, driving away from the building with shower units or bathtubs loaded on the bed of his pickup truck. Another showed Barone using a forklift to load the units onto his truck, court records said.

A timecard audit confirmed that Barone left the parking lot right after clocking out.

According to court documents, the stolen showers and tubs were sold by Zachery Barone, 22, also of the 600 block of Fallen Timbers Trail, his younger brother, Joey, 19, both the elder Barone's sons, as well as Brendan Lewis, 24, of Avilla and Derek Moss, 24, of the 8200 block of Rocky Glen Place. A detective with the Indiana State Police discovered through Facebook that the men played college hockey together. Lewis and Moss were also employed at Zachery Barone's small landscaping company, court records said.

The executives' friend became a decoy client and was directed by Lewis to a barn in Allen County. Outside the barn, there were two or three vehicles loaded with product, and the barn was set up like a store.

The decoy client told the sellers he had an 88-unit apartment complex and wanted to buy 100 showers. He was told if he bought the full 100, they could get him more and would cut him a deal to sell the units for $100 apiece.

The decoy client said he needed the showers in late September or early October and the men agreed, saying they needed time to get the product. When the decoy client asked where they got the tubs and showers, they told him they were from a purchased storage unit. When he asked them how they planned on getting more, one of the men said “Dude, don't worry about it. We'll find another storage unit.” And one of the men winked at him, according to court records.

In August last year, an undercover state police detective contacted the men and met them at one of the storage units, where he was told the bathtubs usually sold for $250, but if he bought three, he could get a discount of $200 a piece. There were other storage units full of bathtubs and showers. They were undamaged and the product line was “Aquatic,” the detective was told.

When confronted, Zachery Barone and his two friends said they suspected the units might be stolen. They said they picked up the units from the elder Barone's residence and took them to storage units or a Dupont Road location. 

Zachery Barone confirmed he got the units from his father, who got them from R3 Composites. He understood that the products were “seconds,” but that there was nothing wrong with them, court records said. 

Moss said that he, Zachery Barone, Lewis and Joey Barone sold the showers and that Zachery split the money among the four of them. He thought the elder Barone received some of the money, but he did not know how much.

An employee who said he worked with Barone in the maintenance department often helped his co-worker load the products onto the bed of his truck. He estimated that Barone took product out of the plant about three times a week and thought he'd been doing it for about three months. Barone told him he had permission to take the items, but the co-worker thought it was odd that Barone would load the products just before leaving for the night and the amount he was taking. When the co-worker asked Barone why he was taking so many products, he told him “to chill beer, make some profit and to flip homes.”

The co-worker never told management because he did not feel it was his business.

On Aug. 18, 2016, Barone was fired. While his boss was walking him to the human resources office, Barone asked for “a huge favor.” He asked that the company not prosecute him, court records said.

Barone is at the Allen County Jail, charged Monday with corrupt business influence. His bond is $10,000 and there is a hold for him in Noble County. Zachery Barone, Lewis and Moss were taken into custody and released Monday on their own recognizance. Joey Barone was taken into custody Friday. 

jduffy@jg.net