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State police burglary probe leads to Mystic jewelry store

By Karen Florin

Publication: The Day

Published November 21. 2012 4:00AM   Updated November 21. 2012 1:21PM

Serial burglary suspect Justin P. Weissinger and his younger brother sold more than $100,000 worth of stolen jewelry, precious metals and antique items to a Mystic jewelry dealer, visiting the store 15 to 25 times over a period of several months, according to state police.

Details of the continuing investigation into the activities of Weissinger, a 25-year-old former Marine from Old Lyme who has been connected to burglaries from Chester to Salem, were revealed in court documents Tuesday after police lodged additional charges against Weissinger.

The new charges include three counts of criminal possession of a firearm, third-degree larceny, fourth-degree larceny, sixth-degree larceny, three counts of criminal possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The investigation is continuing, and more arrests are expected.

"I fully expect our investigations to yield more arrests," state police Sgt. John Mesham said. "Recovery of physical evidence and information from a number of cooperating witnesses have moved these cases forward. Any interference with this process will not be tolerated, and (will be) met with the full force of law."

Weissinger has remained incarcerated in lieu of a $50,000 bond since he was arrested July 10 following a high-speed police chase in Montville. At his arraignment on the new charges Tuesday, New London Superior Court Judge John J. Nazzaro set additional bonds of $150,000, noting the cases involve a number of different types of weapons and high-end merchandise.

"In my opinion, this is pretty involved conduct," Nazzaro said. "In my opinion, there is a risk to the community."

Weissinger was in possession of a .380-caliber pistol stolen from a Salem residence and a variety of illegal narcotics, including heroin, methadone and marijuana, when he was arrested following the police pursuit, according to state police.

Two days later, troopers executed a search-and-seizure warrant at a barn on the Lyme property of former First Selectman William T. Koch Jr., who is the boyfriend of Weissinger's mother, Nicole Weissinger. Justin Weissinger didn't live at the property but used the barn for various projects, according to Koch.

The troopers found a gun locker containing a 12-gauge shotgun and a .22-caliber rifle stolen from a burglary on Bashan Road in East Haddam and two air rifles stolen from a burglary on Hagen Road in Salem.

Troopers seized a Volkswagen Jetta that Weissinger had parked at the barn on Brush Hill Road, Lyme, and recovered a loaded .177-caliber rifle, a loaded air pistol, various ammunition and an iPod that had been stolen during a burglary on Ballahack Road in East Haddam. They also seized a marijuana pipe and a small amount of marijuana.

The ongoing probe led state Trooper Gary Inglis to the Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Co. jewelry store at 9 W. Main St. in Mystic. Inglis went to the store on July 24 and ran into Weissinger's younger brother, 21-year-old Karl Weissinger, who was attempting to sell two stolen watches and a gold chain, according to the court documents. Weissinger said he had taken the items from a pair of pants in the barn at Brush Hill Road after the state police search. He surrendered the items.

Inglis spotted several stolen items on display in the store, including a Narwhal ivory tusk that had been taken during a burglary of a home on Selden Road in Lyme, according to the documents.

A week later, store owner Matthew Hopkins and his attorney went to the Troop F state police barracks with financial records from the transactions with the Weissingers and several bags of assorted jewelry and silverware that Hopkins said he had purchased from the Weissinger brothers over the past several months.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Hopkins said he had been naive and that he is now buying merchandise from dealers only and not from the public. He said he hopes the publicity doesn't harm his business, which mainly involves designing custom jewelry.

"When I did find out the property was stolen, I did whatever I could to get the property back to the victims and cooperated with the police," Hopkins said. "It's unfortunate."

Some of the items, including sterling silver flatware and monogrammed tea or coffee service sets, had been sold to a refinery for their melt value.

New London attorney Matthew G. Berger has been appointed to represent Weissinger, who is due back in court on Dec. 12. At the arraignment Tuesday, Prosecutor Michael E. Kennedy informed the judge that Justin Weissinger, who admitted to carrying out several burglaries while stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, is a witness in a home invasion/murder case in that state. California authorities have lodged a detainer against Weissinger so that he will eventually be brought back there, Kennedy said.

In the murder case, four fellow Marines are accused of forcing their way into the home of a Marine sergeant and his wife, ransacking the home and sexually assaulting the wife before killing both of them and setting the house on fire. Weissinger was locked up on a burglary charge at the time but said one of the Marines, with whom he had carried out burglaries, had confided the details to him.

k.florin@theday.com

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