Theft Suspect Claims Debt to Drug Dealers

Charles Larry Leroy told a sheriff’s deputy Steubenville drug dealers ordered him to steal merchandise from a store at The Highlands to pay a debt he owes to them.

Ohio County Magistrate Charles Murphy arraigned Leroy Saturday on a charge of entering without breaking. Leroy, 29, of Wintersville posted $5,000 bond and was released from the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville.

Wal-Mart loss prevention staff on Saturday told an Ohio County sheriff’s deputy they caught Leroy attempting to exit the store with two air conditioners valued at $104 each. Leroy reportedly attempted to force his way past store personnel when they stopped him at the exit.

The suspect told employees “he owed some drug dealers money and he was stealing the air conditioners for the drug dealers to work off his debt,” court documents state.

Leroy was taken into custody and transported back to the sheriff’s department, where he reportedly told a deputy he owed Steubenville drug dealers about $400 for heroin. Leroy said “he was in debt to some drug dealers in Steubenville … and was told by them to steal the air conditioners from Wal-Mart to work off his debt,” the report states.

The dealers told Leroy specifically to steal two 5,000 BTU window units, he said. They reportedly threatened to harm his family if they did not receive the stolen merchandise or the money that day.

Leroy has an 11-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. He receives $364 monthly in food stamps and earns $500 a month doing odd jobs.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. Monday in front of Magistrate Patty Murphy. Assistant Public Defender Keith Hart has been appointed to represent Leroy.