ROCHESTER – A $10,000 cash bond was set Thursday for Brian Ruppel, 36, of Waukesha, who was accused of stealing catalytic converters from a truck sales and repair business here in November.
In addition, criminal charges were initiated on Thursday against a second Waukesha man, Nicholas Koutsios, 47, for allegedly participating in the crime.
The Racine County District Attorney’s office charged Ruppel with three counts of removal of a major part of a vehicle-party to a crime, three counts of criminal damage to property-party to a crime, felony theft of movable property, seven counts of felony bail jumping and seven counts of misdemeanor bail jumping.
According to the criminal complaint, a Racine County Sheriff’s deputy responded to a theft report from Lynch Truck Center on November 24. Company employees reported that catalytic converters were removed from three trucks early that morning. The loss from the theft was estimated at $2,100 to $6,000.
A Lynch employee found a Wisconsin Quest food stamp card, belonging to Brian Ruppel, underneath one of the trucks. The card’s transaction history indicated that it had last been used at an East Troy convenience store at 2:51 a.m. on November 24 and was reported stolen at 8:46 a.m. that same day. Ruppel’s identity was later confirmed by matching a known photo with video at the convenience store.
A “black sedan” with “a distinct sun worn face on the front passenger side quarter panel” that Ruppel was driving was identified in video from the convenience store and surveillance video from Lynch Truck Center, both from November 24, according to the complaint. Investigators also located the same vehicle at Ruppel’s Waukesha residence.
Video from Lynch Truck Center showed the same black sedan entering the parking lot at 4:20 a.m. on November 24. After driving around the lot, a suspect “who has a noticeable gate (sic) to his walk” is seen walking through the lot, according to the complaint. A suspect is seen using an electric saw to cut off the catalytic converters. The vehicle’s driver follows the suspect to load the converters into the vehicle.
Based on a review of previous criminal charges against Ruppel in Waukesha County, a Racine County Sheriff’s deputy interviewed Koutsios, who was known to be an associate of Ruppel and was being held in the Waukesha County Jail on an unrelated case. Before speaking with Koutsios, the deputy observed that he had a similar gait in his walk as the suspect shown in the Lynch Truck Center surveillance video, the complaint stated.
The deputy read Koutsios his Miranda rights and Koutsios agreed to make a statement. He confirmed that he was with Ruppel at the time of the Lynch Truck Center thefts and admitted to cutting off the converters. He stated that he “drives Ruppel around because he has a valid driver’s license” and received $150 for assisting Ruppel in the thefts, according to the complaint. Koutsios also stated that he knew Ruppel had left his EBT card behind at Lynch and reported it stolen.
Ruppel was in custody Thursday afternoon when he made an initial court appearance. He was out on bond from an October 12 initial court appearance and an August 26 initial court appearance, both in Waukesha County. As a condition of the bonds, Ruppel was ordered not to commit any crimes.
A preliminary hearing for Ruppel is scheduled for December 8 at the Racine County Law Enforcement Center, 717 Wisconsin Ave., Racine, according to online court records.
Second Suspect Charges
Charges were initiated against Koutsios in Racine County on Thursday. He faces three counts of removal of a major part of a vehicle-party to a crime, three counts of criminal damage to property-party to a crime, felony theft of movable property and seven counts of felony bail jumping.
An initial court appearance for Koutsios is scheduled for December 17.
According to online court records, Koutsios made an initial appearance on November 29 in Waukesha County on charges of felony bail jumping, possession of cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting-obstructing an officer. He posted a $1,500 cash bond on Friday.