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Police: 2 broke into more than 100 vehicles

By Dwayne Parker, Reporter, DParker@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 23 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 23 2012 10:06:52 PM CST

Police: 2 broke into more than 100 vehicles

It was an addiction to heroin that motivated a boyfriend-and-girlfriend duo to break into more than 100 vehicles across several counties, authorities said.

Police have since arrested Samantha Kochel, 27, along with her boyfriend, Frank Howe, 44.

Both admitted to the crimes through in-depth written statements, investigators said.

Many motorist across Berks County applaud the efforts of the police.

"I think it feels wonderful. It's about time they start cracking down on these individuals," said Lisa Miccicke from Exeter Twp.

Kochel and Howe's crime spree started back in August and stretched across Berks, Montgomery, Schuylkill and York counties, investigators said.

Court documents indicate that at least two cars were broken into at the Antietam Valley Shopping Center in the borough of St. Lawrence.

Pete Zackon said he remembers the break-ins well. Two of the victims were his customers at World Gym.

"It's a relief. I'm glad they got them. Hopefully it doesn't break out again. But it is comforting to know that we don't have to worry about it so much anymore," said Zackon, evening manager at World Gym.

Detectives said Kochel and Howe used a spring-loaded center punch to shatter car windows, and then stole about $250,000 in DVD players, gift cards, wallets and purses.

"We're paying the insurance and they're stealing our cars, and we have to pay the deductible, you know, things out of our car, so, it's frustrating," said Laura Harak, Exeter Twp.

Fingerprints left on vehicles, as well as surveillance video, are what helped police identify the suspects, detectives said.

Kochel and Howe were finally arrested at the Econo Lodge in Wyomissing, police said.

The couple is currently being held at the Berks County Jail.

As of Thursday night, officials said Samantha Kochel is being held on $1,000 bail for each of the 17 cases that has been filed against her so far. Officials said Frank Howe is being held on $1,000 bail for each of the 16 cases that has been filed against him to date.

Authorities said additional charges are expected to be filed by other police departments from around the region.

Both Kochel and Howe face a long list of charges, including theft from a motor vehicle and criminal conspiracy.