Police: Crime ring leader used mother to steal goods

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Six people have been arrested as part of a crime ring led by a convicted felon, investigators say.

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office made the arrests as part of "Operation Recommit", which targeted individuals that were stealing goods and selling them on the street as well as to pawn shops.

Surveillance confirmed the group’s involvement in criminal activity over a period of several weeks, which included thefts at multiple Walmart, Home Depot, Publix, CVS, Walgreen’s, Best Buy and Sweetbay locations from Sarasota to Venice.

Investigators say that 44-year-old Michael Rowles was the group's ringleader.  He has 22 previous felony convictions and was most recently released from Florida State Prison in February.

According to the sheriff's office, some of the stolen property was sold through Jim's Pawn on South Tamiami Trail, whose owner, 66-year-old James Smith, knowingly took in the stolen property.

The crime ring included Rowles’ 63-year-old mother, Saundra Schaub, 19-year-old Gregory Cloud, 23-year-old Caitlyn McGrath and 26-year-old Melanie Masalko, who are all charged with Dealing in Stolen Property.

The TAC Unit seized two vehicles in this operation and dozens of additional charges are forthcoming as the investigation continues.