FORT WAYNE – In August, Fort Wayne police searched five area homes and a business and found stolen items linked to a rash of motorcycle thefts over the summer.
On Thursday in Allen Superior Court, four people were charged with corrupt business influence, accused of running an elaborate scheme to steal and then sell the motorcycles at a local auto dealer’s lot.
Charged are Richard L. Schlatter, 35, of the 1600 block of Steup Avenue; Richard Carl King, 36, of the 2000 block of Emerson Avenue; Angela R. Martin, age unknown, of the 2800 block of Hillegas Road; and Jerrad W. Impton, 39, of the 2500 block of Hillegas Road.
Police said in August that the homes raided included three in the 2500 and 2600 blocks of Hillegas Road and two in the 2000 block of Emerson Avenue.
According to court documents, during the course of an unrelated investigation, police received information about the stolen motorcycles. An informant told police the bikes were moving through Kasper Auto Sales on Brooklyn Avenue.
The informant said the bikes were sometimes repainted and refitted with different vehicle identification numbers and that the auto lot provided fraudulent bills of sale to “leave the impression that the motorcycles were legitimately purchased.”
During a routine traffic stop, police pulled over a motorcycle driven by King. He had no registration for the bike, and police found the VIN did not match the motorcycle’s license plate, according to court documents.
Martin, a Kasper employee, came in to claim the motorcycle from the impound lot and presented documentation that indicated the bike was being repossessed by Kasper. The documents contained the same VIN as the bike. But further investigation found the VIN actually belonged on a motorcycle frame sold on eBay, court records said.
Impton had 16 motorcycles at his residence, including inside his kitchen. Several matched the makes and models of bikes stolen in Allen County between April 5 and July 29, according to court documents.
The owner of the car lot, Todd Vonderau, lives next door to Impton and denied being involved in the thefts, according to court documents.
When police searched the homes, they found a variety of stolen vehicles, including a flatbed tow truck stolen from Toledo, a 2007 Red Yamaha YZF motorcycle with no proof of ownership, and a 2004 GMC Sierra 2500 pickup truck stolen from Martinsville.
Vonderau, who has not been charged, “denied being directly involved in selling stolen motorcycles with stolen parts,” but conceded to police he suspected Impton and Schlatter were involved in something illegal, according to court documents.
One of the men named in court documents, but not charged, is Allen Baysinger. He has prior convictions for auto theft and receiving stolen property, among other charges. He told police that Vonderau was the leader of the criminal enterprise and that Vonderau paid him $200 to change the VIN plates on the vehicles. He said he was also paid a finder’s fee for identifying motorcycles later stolen by Impton, Schlatter or himself, according to court documents.
The stolen motorcycles were stripped down and put back together using a frame that had not been stolen and had a valid VIN. The motorcycles were then sold for a profit, Baysinger told police.
Baysinger remains in the custody of the Allen County Jail, on unknown charges.
A message left for Vonderau at Kasper Auto Sales was returned by Martin, who seemed unaware of the pending charges against her.
“Those are all allegations,” Martin said. “I’m not saying anything until charges have been filed against us and the company.”
She denied Vonderau was the leader of the enterprise, then referred calls to her attorney.
As of Thursday evening, there was a warrant out for her arrest.