County police arrested a Jessup man Sunday and charged him with stealing up to $100,000 worth of computers and office equipment from Columbia businesses.
Police suspect that Sherman Wayne Lee, 34, of the9900 block of Guilford Road, committed five break-ins during a rash of burglaries in March and April, said Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a countypolice spokesman.
Investigators, acting on a search warrant, found approximately $30,000 worth of the stolen equipment Monday at Lee's home, which they have returned to the businesses, Gardner said. Police are continuing the investigation in an attempt to locate the rest of the merchandise.
Police said seven businesses have been broken into since March 17. Lee has been charged with one count of burglary and one count of being a rogue and vagabond.
Police said more charges are pending. Detectives believe Lee is responsible for at least five of the recent thefts, Gardner said.
The stolen equipment included computers, printers, FAX machines and computer software, police said. Nearly all the thefts were committed during weekends.
In each of the break-ins,the burglar entered by prying open a door or smashing a window.
Hardest hit by the thefts was Business Systems Inc., a computer networking firm in the 10800 block of Guilford Road. Approximately $57,000 worth of computers and software was stolen from the small business onback-to-back weekends in April.
About half of the equipment has been returned, but a lot of work time has been lost, said Dave King, the owner of the business.
King said most of the stolen items are not easily sold on the black market or in second-hand shops.
"I don't think this is the kind of stuff you'd be able to sell for very much," King said. "If you were able to get 10 cents on the dollar for it, you'd be pretty lucky."
Among the other businesses burglarized during the recent rash of thefts were Century Computer Services of the9600 block of Gerwig Lane, the Ryland Group office of the 5700 blockof Sterrett Place, and Business Computer Graphics of the 9800 block of Broken Land Parkway.
Two other Gerwig Lane businesses, Color Systems Printing and REA Inc., also reported thefts, police said.
Lee was arrested 11 p.m. Sunday after police conducted a surveillance of the Gerwig Lane business area.
Police said he was pulled over for questioning after an officer saw him driving his car with no headlights on. Several suspected burglary tools --including a flashlight and wrenches -- were found in the car, police said.