Update: 5 charged with burglarizing 77 cars, 4 businesses

SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - Five men who allegedly entered buildings through ventilation systems and air conditioning units confessed to burglarizing 77 cars and four businesses, according to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office said Wayne Fisher, 19, Darren Vine, 17, and Gregory Simms, 20, confessed to the burglaries last week.

Curtis Heels, 19, and Chamar James, 18, were also wanted for questioning. On Tuesday, the teens turned themselves in to authorities.

The burglaries spanned 15 subdivisions throughout parish over the past six months, according to authorities.

Craig Young found the burglars used a unique and damaging way to break into his Slidell restaurant, Young's Steakhouse.

"Gives you goosebumps when you walk in. Feels like you've been violated," said Young. "We pull in and open the door and there are knifes laying all over and there's a hole punched in the wall."

"We've been here since February of 69' and we've only had two other small occasions and nothing like this one where someone came through an exhaust fan," said Young.

First entering through the ventilation system, Young said, a burglar then punched a hole in a stairwell wall and climbed through it to unlock the door and let others inside.

"This is where they went through. It's only about 8 to 10 inches wide to about 12 to 14 inches long. So they had to be a little small guy to get through," said Young.

Slidell Police say these men confessed to the burglary and dozens of others across St. Tammany Parish over the last six months once they were caught on a business's camera.

In total, burglars stole items such as money, iPhones, and camcorders from 77 cars and four businesses.

"Seventy-seven is a significant number," said St. Tammany Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Brian Trainor. "This is a busy group. There's five individuals and it appears that they have hit all unlocked vehicles."

Quail Creek near Mandeville Middle School was one of 15 subdivisions targeted. One resident said the burglaries didn't surprise him.

"There's a lot of teenagers who hang out around here. But I can't believe they got into 77. That's kind of a lot," said Allen Johnston.

Allen Johnston and his son Jake said the area is much better known for its tennis courts than any sort of crime.

"People have been ding-dong-ditching us, but that's not a worry," said Jake Johnston.

On the other side of the parish, Castle Manor was also targeted. It's the subdivision right across the street from Young's Steakhouse and next to another restaurant targeted, T LeBlanc's Creole Kitchen. Here, burglars found another unique way to break in.

"They had gone through an air conditioning unit and two other places I had heard of they pushed the air conditioning unit in and crawled right in. So if you have an air conditioning unit I suggest you bolt them in from the inside," said Young.

It's a warning Young says he never expected he'd have to give when his family opened his restaurant here 45 years ago.

"It's not like the old days, you know? Slidell is not a little sleepy town. You used to know everybody. You don't know everybody anymore," said Young.

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