MENTOR, Ohio-- An on-board camera was rolling as a Mentor police officer caught up with a red Toyota Corolla. A concerned citizen followed the car after a neighbor witnessed a young boy stealing a package from her porch.
Authorities in Lake County were looking for a small red car in connection with the theft of a large number of packages from porches and mailboxes over the past couple of weeks.
As the officer spoke with the driver and her 10-year-old brother, he noticed a package in the back seat. It turns out the item was addressed to the woman who witnessed the theft of the parcel from her porch.
The driver, 18-year-old Corey Whalen, of Kirtland, told police she had been driving around Lake County communities with her brother and 14-year-old sister. Police said she admitted they were stealing any packages they came across.
Whalen is facing charges that include theft, receiving stolen property, possession of marijuana and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
"It just boggles your mind, doesn't it? That you would take your brother and your sister in the holiday season, when you should be teaching them the right things to do, and teach them the wrong things to do. It's mind boggling," Lake County Sheriff Dan Dunlap said.
Police recovered dozens of items that Whalen and her siblings took in the past couple of weeks.
"I thought they might be following delivery trucks, but that wasn't the case. They were simply spotting packages and even entering mailboxes and taking items,” Dunlap said.
Whalen told investigators any items that she or her siblings did not want or could not sell online, they threw out the window.
"Unfortunately, some of the stuff, like clothing and stuff that didn't fit, that they didn't have any use for, they simply dumped it at the end of a cul-de-sac or in a park," Dunlap said.
Authorities said the case illustrates why law enforcement is now encouraging consumers who are not at home during deliveries to have the packages sent to their workplace or placed in lockers that are now offered at a number of local stores.
"I can't think of another industry where I would take something valuable, throw it on your porch and leave it for you," Dunlap said.
Investigators said when they asked Whalen why she would steal so many packages and corrupt her siblings, Whalen could only tell them that she needed money.
U.S. Postal inspectors are also investigating because some of the packages were taken from mailboxes, which is considered tampering with mail.