5 Texans jailed in Rolla may be gang of pharmacy burglars

Published: Aug. 9, 2017 at 12:34 PM CDT
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Quick work by Rolla police and state troopers seems to have busted five men suspected of being part of many pharmacy burglaries in Texas and several other states. The arrests followed a smash-and-grab break-in at a store in Rolla early Tuesday.

The burglary at the Walgreens store at 120 S. Bishop Ave. was reported at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. By the time officers arrived, the burglars had fled.

While officers were securing the crime scene, they heard from the Houston, Texas, Police Department that this burglary was like burglaries at other Walgreens pharmacies in Texas and throughout the Midwest, including a couple in Springfield last March.

Houston police pin the burglaries on what they call the Settegast Burglary Crew and say they’ve had it under surveillance for the past month. The Houston Police Department contacted the Rolla Police Department after being notified by Walgreens Corporate Security, which monitors its stores from a central office.

Surveillance video from the store in Rolla showed two men with their faces covered striking the drive-through window with large objects like sledge hammers. Two men got inside at 5:33 a.m. while a third man remained outside and continued to hit the glass.

The two inside men exited through the window two minutes later and forced a large trash bag through the hole in the window. The trash bag ripped and medication bottles fell to the ground, according to the probable cause statements used as the basis of the charges against the five arrested men.

Rolla police broadcast a description of the men and their two getaway cars. About an hour after the burglary, troopers stopped one car in Houston. Troopers stopped the other car in Cabool less than 30 minutes later. They arrested five men in the two cars.

In the cars, troopers found numerous loose pills of hydrocodone and OxyContin and a receipt for the purchase of an eight-pound splitting maul in Hope, Ark., on Monday night. The men in the cars also were wearing clothing seen in surveillance video at the store in Rolla, according to the probable cause statements. Alongside U.S. 63, troopers found two splitting mauls and a large amount of prescription drugs. A witness told officers about seeing the items being tossed from one of the vehicles. Troopers also found masks.

The five men are now in jail in Rolla in lieu of $500,000 bonds. They are Jeremy Phillips, 26; Micah Lazaro, 26; Walter Dallas, 28; Anthony Smith, 22; and Raymond Ford, 26. They’re all from Houston, Texas. Phelps County prosecutors charged each one with second-degree burglary, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, first-degree property damage, and possession of burglar’s tools.

Investigators believe these five men are part of a large organized crime group based in Houston, Texas, that is under investigation for multiple Walgreens pharmacy burglaries. Springfield police think the men, or others in their gang, may be the burglars who tried to break into two Walgreens pharmacies in Springfield early on March 20. Springfield police don't think they have enough evidence to bring charges however.

Anyone with more information about the burglary can call Rolla Police Detective Derrick Dillon at (573) 308-1213, or you can remain anonymous by calling the Rolla Police Department’s Confidential Tip Line at (573) 364- 0111.