TANGIPAHOA PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Two men have been charged after authorities say they were busted in an organized traveling vending machine theft operation.
After a six-month burglary investigation, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said 38-year-old James Dean Johns Jr. of Adrian PA. and 54-year-old Louis John Alberti of New Castle PA were arrested and charged in the operation.
According to Edwards, late last month, Johns and Alberti were taken into custody by the United States Marshal's Office in their home state of Pennsylvania.
On May 14,they were extradited to Tangipahoa Parish where they were each charged with at least 20 counts of burglary in excess of $25,000.
The two are accused of breaking into countless coin-operated vending machines throughout multiple states, including our very own state of Louisiana, according to Edwards.
In October 2017 Edwards said the suspects were caught on surveillance video burglarizing several coin- operated machines at the Bedico Supermarket on Hwy 22 and the Loranger Supermarket located on Hwy 40.
A second rash of vending machine burglaries occurred in December of 2017, and again in January.
As the investigation began to take shape, TPSO detectives quickly learned that these events were part of a much bigger operation. By reaching out to and joining forces with law enforcement agencies in Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and North Carolina it was determined that the accused would travel from Pennsylvania down the East Coast and across the Gulf Coast Region engaging in crime activities such as burglary and theft, as a full-time job. Essentially, they are professional traveling thieves. Some would even refer to them as Gypsies.
Their operation was observed to be extremely structured. In all known cases, the duo would obtain rental car, committed their burglaries during midnight hours, while operating in a uniformed fashion rarely leaving evidence behind. In one particular incident, these guys were caught on surveillance video successfully breaking into five (5) vending machines in three minutes flat.
Consequently, TPSO Detective Jason Johnson was able to secure arrest warrants on both individuals. Partnering agencies in this investigation are also in the process of obtaining warrants. 54-year-old Louis John Alberti was additionally charged with an active warrant from the state of North Carolina related to similar charges dating back to May of 2017.
Both subjects remain in custody. Louis Alberti is being held on a $300,000 bond and James Johns, $450,000 bond.