Avon Lake man admits to stealing 500+ signs: ‘They’re a distraction’

AVON LAKE, Ohio -- If you have advertised a garage sale, a sporting event, or home improvement service on a tree lawn recently, it's possible very few people saw it.

A man is charged with stealing hundreds of signs, claiming they were dangerous and should not be there.

Avon Lake police filed a felony charge against John Hoelzl, 62, but he admits to stealing signs in neighboring communities as well.

Police displayed a picture of the more than 500 yard signs that Avon Lake police say they confiscated from Hoelzl's home. They say the total value is more than $5,500.

"They're an eyesore, they're a distraction," said Hoelzl, when Fox 8 visited his home.

Hoelzl says he's been removing signs from city-owned right of ways for about 10 years because he believes they are a distraction to drivers.

"I never thought I'd get arrested for it.  I wasn't really arrested.  They came and asked me and I said, 'Yeah, I got 'em' ... I gave them all my signs -- it was over 500 of them," he said.

Avon Lake police charged Hoelzl with one count of receiving stolen property, a fifth-degree felony. He says with one exception, he only took signs from public property.

"There was nothing on the sign saying this sign is allowed to be here.  I probably shouldn't have done it because, you know, I'm in trouble now," said Hoelzl.

"In the past year and a half, I've probably lost between 40 and 50 signs," said business owner Kyle Ohearn.

Ohearn, owner of Power Green, a pressure washing company, says he noticed his signs disappearing late last year. At first, he thought it was a competitor.

"Everything I do is out of my own pocket, so those signs are pretty expensive, they go anywhere from 17 to 15 dollars per sign, so when those go missing, that's a main source of our advertisement," said Ohearn.

Police say for months they have received complaints about signs being removed from tree lawns. They say some were illegally posted, but in most cases, the city had granted people approval.

"They'd be places I'd have prior permission from the city or the local municipality to put them out and they'd still be taken over and over and over again," said Ohearn.

"I'm not taking them no more," Hoelzl conceded.

Hoelzl also contacted Fox 8 to say he wanted to express his apologies for taking the signs.

**Additional coverage, here**