Editor's note: All charges against Robert Bertino have been dropped and expunged from court records.
The owner of Crazy Bob's Electronics in North Charleston faces 13 charges after detectives investigating a rash of home burglaries found stolen goods in his store, authorities said.
Robert Bertino, 54, was arrested Friday on 13 misdemeanor counts of possession of stolen property valued less than $2,000, according to North Charleston Police Department spokesman Spencer Pryor. He posted bail the next day and was released from jail.
Reached by telephone this afternoon, Bertino said he routinely cooperates with the police in burglary and theft investigations. Asked about the items in his store, however, Bertino said, “I probably don't want to comment anymore.”
“I'm totally upset about it,” he said of his arrest. “I'm an open book. Any time (the police) need information, they can come and see me.”
Investigators from the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office first searched his store at 8410 Rivers Ave. in connection with what they called a burglary ring. That probe resulted in the Sheriff's Office filing burglary charges against seven young men and a boy.
Sheriff's investigators managed to crack that case with help from the Archdale community, which was targeted during the spree. After a break-in in early March, a resident who was watching for suspicious activity noticed some young men carrying suitcases down a street, sheriff's Lt. Tony Phinney said.
The resident's description of the men matched the men another resident photographed as they snooped in a backyard, Phinney said. Investigators used the photo to identify some suspects, who led to more suspects, the lieutenant said.
“It all started to unravel from there, and everything started pointing to this same group,” Phinney said. “The patrol division, the detectives and the community came together, and we finally got a break.”
The effort to find items stolen from the homes led to the search of Bertino's store Friday, when the North Charleston police opened its own investigation. Pryor said detectives linked some of Bertino's goods to three burglaries in which nearly $40,000 worth of jewelry and electronics was taken. A summary of those incidents, all of which were in the Dorchester County portion of the city:
•On Jan. 16, a resident of Habersham Lane reported that his back door had been forced in. An Apple iMac computer worth $2,000 was missing.
•On March 1, a Gellatin Lane man told the police that he returned home to find his back door had been kicked in. IPhones, iPods, watches and laptops were taken. The value of the items totaled $14,900, according to an incident report. The victim said he was an electronics salesman.
•Then on March 5, a woman coming home from work found that the front door to her Copley Circle home had been broken. About $21,800 in jewelry, laptops, liquor and gaming systems was missing.
It was not immediately clear how many of the items were recovered in Bertino's store.
His website states that the business pays cash for gold jewelry and old electronics. The store also offers computer repair services and items for sale on eBay, an online auction site.
Bertino made headlines in December 2011 when he said he confronted a robber armed with a shotgun. He foiled the attempt by putting the robber in a headlock, he said.
He has been arrested once before in South Carolina, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. In June 2004, he faced a felony charge of threatening the life of a public official, but the count was dismissed during a preliminary hearing, according to court records.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.