Three men were arrested on burglary, theft and related charges after the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office said they hit 21 area homes, including several in Upper Salford and New Hanover townships, netting more than $117,000.
The men, identified as Michael Benner Jr., 28, Joseph Samsel Jr., 25, both of the Ridgeview Terrace Trailer Park, 165 W. Ridge Pike, Limerick, and Philip Becker, 26, of the 200 block of Geiger Road, Douglassville, were arraigned Jan. 31 by Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar of Lower Providence District Court.
They were taken into custody after a collaborative investigation by PA State Police, Skippack barracks, and numerous local police departments in western Montgomery County and Berks County.
According to court documents, the men forced their way into homes by breaking a window or door or prying off the lock, beginning with a July 20, 2012 burglary in the 100 block of Lederach Road in Upper Salford. Police said in a few cases, the homes were unlocked at the time of the crime.
Almost all the homes targeted were set back off the road and not easily visible to roadway traffic.
In the Upper Salford burglary, which Benner reportedly committed alone, he broke open a side door and stole five long guns, jewelry and electronic equipment, estimated around $28,500, from inside.
Benner reportedly went on to break into several other houses, including two in Lower Frederick, one in the 100 block of Meng Road and one in the 100 block of Gerloff Road, where he and Samsel or Becker stole jewelry, a change jar and a variety of medications. They also broke into two more in Upper Salford, where the men broke in the 2100 block of Hendricks Road and the 1300 block of Clemmers Mill Road, taking a digital camera, an assortment of jewelry and a Ruger .367 magnum gun.
Benner and Samsel later stole jewelry and a laptop from a home in the 700 block of Hildebrandt Road in New Hanover Dec. 10 and hit several other homes in the Limerick area.
A Dec. 27 crime in the 400 block of Colonial Road in Upper Frederick resulted in the theft of more than $33,000 in jewelry, coins and a computer.
On three instances, Benner walked into occupied homes and met with residents, whom he told he was looking for someone who didn’t live there. Each time he left the scene in a blue Hyundai, often driven by Samsel.
In one of the Limerick-area crimes, he came face to face with an 82-year-old woman. According to the criminal complaint, the woman was staying at a relative’s home when she was awoken by a knock on the door. She got up and found Benner, described as 6’2, 280 pounds, standing in the kitchen. When she asked him what he was doing, Benner reportedly said he was looking for “Charles” or “Chris” and quickly left the house.
After more burglaries, with two in Robeson Township, Berks County, Benner was arrested hitting a home in the 100 block of Kurtz Road in New Hanover Jan. 17. He was under surveillance at the time of that crime, authorities said, by New Hanover and Upper Providence police.
Some of the stolen items were recovered from Benner’s home and at Dove Jewelry in Royersford.
At arraignment, Rebar set Benner’s and Samsel’s bail at $50,000, 10 percent. Becker’s bail was set at $10,000, 10 percent.
Benner and Samsel waived their preliminary hearings Tuesday. Becker’s court appearance was continued until Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. Benner and Samsel are scheduled to be formally arraigned March 27. According to court records, all three men are in Montgomery County Prison after being unable to post bail.
The case is being prosecuted by Montgomery County ADA Christopher Dean.