2 gospel musicians charged in Ga. church break-ins

| May 12, 2010

ATLANTA — Two gospel singers face multiple counts of burglary and theft after authorities say the pair played uplifting music for several middle Georgia churches, then stole some $100,000 worth of speakers, microphones, keyboards and other musical equipment.

Washington County Sheriff Thomas H. Smith said Tuesday that 28-year-old Deshawn Rico Thomas, of Augusta, and 28-year-old Rico Pionegro Blackshear from Dublin each are charged with nine counts of theft by taking and nine counts of burglary.

Smith said the men are being held in Washington County. Charges are pending in Johnson, Laurens, Twiggs, Bleckley and Jefferson counties, where authorities believe they may be linked to several more break-ins.

Thomas said the men are cooperating with police. Neither man had a listed phone number and The Associated Press was unable to find phone numbers for band mates.

"They played with a gospel group and while churches were having revivals, they would volunteer to play," Smith said. "They would scope the church out, and then several days later, come back and steal all the equipment. That's pretty bad."

He said the men told authorities they used a screwdriver to pry open church doors.

Authorities investigating a string of nine break-ins at churches across the county between February and April got a tip last week that the men might be involved, Smith said.

Working with law officers from two other counties, Smith said authorities executed a search warrant on Blackshear's Dublin home on May 6. He said they found musical equipment in buildings on his property. The same day, Smith said, investigators tracked Thomas to Sandersville, where they found him driving a white Ford Explorer full of equipment they believe belonged to various churches.

"They had a band, a church band, and they were using equipment for the church band," Thomas said the men told him.

Thomas said he did not know of any attorney representing the men.

More arrests are expected.



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Category: Church Security