by: Tom Regan Updated:LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. —
An online attempt to sell items stolen from a church backfired, leading to the arrest of two men suspected in dozens of church break-ins in two counties over the last six months.
Authorities in Lumpkin County arrested Skyler Michaelson and Johnny Roque in connection with nearly a dozen church burglaries in Lumpkin County. Additional charges are pending in Dawson County.
Investigators told Channel 2's Tom Regan the break in the case came when one of the victims spotted some of the stolen items posted for sale on Craigslist and notified authorities. They set up an undercover sting operation, posing as buyers of the stolen goods. They say they contacted Michaelson.
"We met later on that afternoon. The suspect showed up to sell us the items. As a result of that, he was taken into custody and admitted to the break-ins," said Dawson County Sheriff's Office Major Ray Goode.
The second suspect, Johnny Roque, was later arrested as an accomplice. Investigators say in all, two dozen churches were burglarized and an estimated $60,000 in electronics, computers, sound equipment and musical instruments was stolen.
"They targeted churches because they were easy targets. That's their words, not mine. They said they went in through open windows or open doors," said Goode.
In some instances, entry was gained through a broken door or window. Leaders of some of the churches that were burglarized said they are relieved that arrests have been made.
"These guys have the opportunity to face what they have done, and maybe grow from this, learn from their mistakes," said Church at War HIll associate pastor Micheal Jeffords.
Authorities have recovered few of the items that were stolen, and are working to locate the rest that is still missing.
"Now we're trying to retrieve the stolen items, which is difficult for us because they sold most of them on eBay or Craigslist. They shipped it out all over the United States to people who bought it and we're trying to get them to ship it back," said Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle.
Carlisle said his investigators will likely arrest a woman accomplice in connection to the burglaries.