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Howard police strike against tractor trailer theft ring

Howard police strike against tractor trailer theft ring
(Sherry DiBari / Patuxent Publishing)

With the conviction of a Brooklyn Park man on theft and burglary charges last week, prosecutors said that the Howard County Police Department has put a major dent in a tractor trailer theft ring that operated in Howard and surrounding counties.

At the conclusion of a four-day trial last week, a jury convicted Adam Gensler, Sr., 32, on one count of theft over $100,000, conspiracy to commit theft, conspiracy in the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and the theft of a motor vehicle, with a sentencing tentatively scheduled on Oct. 29, the Howard County State's Attorney's Office said.

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In July, a Glen Burnie man was also convicted of similar charges. According to prosecutors, Cokie Joe Gopshes, 43, drove a tractor trail rig from a Jessup industrial park at the direction of Gensler. Gopshes faces a maximum of 25 years in prison when he is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 29.

Howard County Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Yaeger said police caught the two men "red-handed" in the waning hours of July 12, 2014. In the days leading to the theft of a tractor trailer loaded with potatoes from the parking lot of Capital Produce Company, three vehicles owned by Gensler were under surveillance by police-installed GPS tracking devices. The surveillance continued through the evening of the robbery.

Yaeger told the jury that Gopshes stole the tractor trailer in Jessup and drove it to a secluded industrial lot in South Baltimore, where Gensler and others could strip down the expensive rig, valued at over $100,000, for its tires, parts and scrap metal.

At the industrial lot, behind a Baltimore City District Courthouse and adjacent to a CSX rail yard, Gensler and Gopshes were under observation by a camouflaged Howard County police detective from the repeat offender squad, hidden in a tree line just a few feet from the rig. Yaeger told the jury that Gensler ordered Gopshes and others to begin dismantling the rig but that they were spooked when a dump truck pulled into the lot and a Baltimore City Police helicopter circled overhead. He said the individuals got into Gensler's yellow box truck and left the rig at 801 Chesapeake Ave., in Brooklyn Park.

Once the helicopter left, the state's attorney's office said, Gensler returned and had Gopshes ditch the rig along a nearby road.

Officers continued to monitor the men's activities until they were arrested in September 2014, after indictments by the Howard County grand jury. In a motion to revoke Gensler's bond, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Brian Furlong wrote that before the July 2014 theft, Gensler had been convicted of three felony thefts— one of which involved the theft of a tractor trailer from a Howard County business.

Weeks before his Howard County trial, Gensler was convicted in Harford County of the Oct. 19, 2014 theft of a citizen's band radio from a truck.

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