April 16, 2014

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Traveling pool players indicted for stealing $800 in quarters from car wash

car

Surveillance video provided by the North Ridgeville Police Department

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — A pair of men who police said traveled the country as professional pool players have been indicted for the June theft of $800 in quarters from a local car wash bill-changing machine.

A county grand jury returned indictments Tuesday against Larry M. Scearce, 35, on charges of tampering with coin machines, a fifth-degree felony, and theft, a first-degree misdemeanor, and against Tyler J. Hotaling, 27, for tampering with coin machines and theft.

The tampering charge against Scearce is a felony count due to his prior convictions on tampering with coin machines and theft charges, according to North Ridgeville police Detective Patrick West. Scearce, who gave Kentucky authorities a Christiana, Tenn., address, has a more extensive criminal history, West said.

West learned from Internet news feeds that Scearce had been arrested July 9 with Hotaling and two other men for stealing coins from a Frankfort, Ky., car wash in a manner similar to the June 25 North Ridgeville incident.

In the local case, security cameras at the Wash Wizard car wash on Center Ridge Road recorded two men who used a technique known as “stringing” to steal change from the car wash bill-changing coin machine.

The method involves feeding paper currency into the changer and withdrawing it before it is taken entirely into the machine, which dispenses coins each time the bill is scanned by the changer.

North Ridgeville police believe the suspects stole about $800 in 10 minutes.

Although the men got away, the surveillance cameras provide police with “superb” images of each suspect, West said at the time.

Hotaling listed his home as Lambertville, Mich., which is just across the Ohio-Michigan border near Toledo, West said. Anonymous tips received from sources in Tennessee and Ohio who saw media coverage of the North Ridgeville theft helped confirm Hotaling’s identity, “along with other corroborating evidence,” West said.

“These two hung themselves with their own stupidity,” when arrested in Kentucky by trying to hide their identities with masks and hats, West said.

Scearce and Hotaling fled after being confronted by a Frankfort, Ky., area car wash operator who viewed both men stealing money from a coin machine via surveillance video.

Because the suspects’ methods in Kentucky were identical to those used in North Ridgeville, West contacted Frankfort police, who provided video images of the men that included tattoos which matched Scearce’s tattoos seen in the local car wash video.

The man’s physical description and facial features also were seen on the video, West said.

North Ridgeville police also learned that Scearce had been arrested in Tennessee for a similar theft, and is wanted on theft and coin machine tampering charges in a number of southwestern Ohio communities.

Neither man is in custody, but details as to why were not immediately available.

Police in Kentucky and Tennessee learned the two men were committing their coin machine thefts as they traveled around playing in pool tournaments.

While the pair could face possible extradition to Lorain County, West admitted that might not occur due to the cost and logistics involved.

If either man returns to Ohio and is arrested, odds of their being returned to the area to face charges are far greater, West said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.

  • Joe Smith

    The method involves feeding paper currency into the changer and withdrawing it before it is taken entirely into the machine, which dispenses coins each time the bill is scanned by the changer.

    Did the paper really need to put that info out so more people will try this?