Burglar uses 12-year-old as ‘lookout’ to break into cars at Georgia national park, officials say

ATLANTA — A Lawrenceville man has been sentenced to prison for burglarizing vehicles near a Georgia national park.

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Park rangers at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area began investigating a string of car burglaries occurring in Aug. and Sept. 2022.

Officials said the rangers began noticing a pattern, where the car’s passenger door would be pried open with a special tool, and credit and debit cards left in the car were stolen.

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the cards would then be used almost immediately at local malls to make expensive purchases including jewelry and Apple products.

During the investigation, rangers noticed two cars that would be present when the burglaries were reported.


In Sept. 2022, while patrolling the area, a park ranger reportedly notice, Mihail Ilie, crouching between vehicles, and appeared to be tampering with another car.

Officials said Illie used a then, 12-year-old girl as a lookout. As park rangers searched Illie’s car, they reportedly found receipts for jewelry and Apple products, including some out-of-state purchases and burglary tools.

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On October 4, 2022, a grand jury indicted Ilie with two felony violations for possession of burglary tools and attempted car burglary. He was convicted on December 12, 2022, after he pleaded guilty.

“This case is an example of the importance of citizens reporting property crimes. Without the reports from other visitors to the park who were victims of car burglaries, rangers would not have identified and arrested Ilie in the act of committing another offense,” Buchanan said.

Ilie was sentenced on Friday to one year and a day in prison, followed by one year of supervised release. He’s been ordered to pay $802 in restitution.