GOSHEN — A couple from Elkhart are charged in an alleged heist that ripped off hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and antiques from a Goshen landlord. And the two, Matthew Smiechowski, 25, and Katelynd Landess, 23, were arrested after apparently flashing C-notes at Meijer last week.
Smiechowski appeared in Elkhart County Circuit Court for an initial hearing Thursday. He’s charged with a Level 4 felony count of burglary in one case, and a Level 2 felony count of possession with intent to deal morphine as well as two Level 3 felony counts of dealing scheduled substances in another case.
Landess is also charged with burglary in a Superior Court 2 case, as well as charges of possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia in a Superior Court 5 case.
The situation developed after Ronald Davidhizar filed a report with Goshen police July 28 that a house was burglarized in the 200 block of Middlebury Street. He said a duffel bag containing $250,000 in cash, along with antique pocket watches, money orders and vehicle titles, were stolen, according to police in a probable cause affidavit in the case. The affidavit states Davidhizar had placed the currency in the bag around the year 2000.
About two days later, on July 30, Goshen police responded to a call from Meijer staff who suspected a customer passed counterfeit $100 bills at the store, 4522 Elkhart Road. Police determined the money was authentic and, according to the affidavit in that case, an officer said he recalled Davidhizar’s burglary report.
As police left Meijer, they saw a vehicle driving through the parking lot. The officers ran the license plate number, saw it both belonged to a different vehicle and was expired. They conducted a traffic stop and found Landess driving the vehicle with Smiechowski as a passenger, the affidavit shows.
Landess told police she purchased the vehicle in a deal set up through Facebook. They apparently met a man outside a liquor store in South Bend and paid $5,000, but didn’t have sales paperwork or insurance, according to the affidavit.
Police ordered the vehicle impounded, and then searched it, finding cash and pill bottles containing morphine and prescription medications in the glove box. Smiechowski said he had purchased the drugs. He and Landess were taken into custody, the affidavit shows.
A detective investigating the burglary said in his affidavit, a bag containing nearly $160,000 and numerous pocket watches were also recovered during the traffic stop.
At the Goshen Police Department later, Smiechowski denied he was involved in the burglary during an interview. He claimed the money came from some type of inheritance from an overseas relative he didn’t know, and about $130,000 in older currency was sent to him in packages, the affidavit shows.
Landess, however, gave a different account. She admitted she, her boyfriend Smiechowski and two others went to a house to burglarize it based on a tip there were valuables inside, the affidavit shows.
Landess said she didn’t go in the house, but waited for the others in the vehicle she drove for the heist. When they returned several minutes later, she said they had taken $400,000, and the money was divided evenly among the group. Landess said she and Smiechowski drove to Mishawaka after dropping the other two suspects off in Bristol, the affidavit shows.
In court Thursday, Judge Michael Christofeno entered a not-guilty plea on Smiechowski’s behalf, appointed a public defender to the case and took Smiechowski’s request for a bond reduction under consideration.
Smiechowski is in custody on $350,000 in bonds in the burglary and drug cases, according to jail information.
Christofeno also scheduled Nov. 4 as the date for Smiechowski’s trial.
Initial hearings were held in Landess’ cases this week as well, court information shows.
Several other hearings were held in Circuit Court Thursday.
Among them, Phillip Stoll, 40, of Nappanee appeared for an initial hearing in a robbery case. He’s charged with a Level 5 felony count of robbery and two more Level 5 counts of attempted robbery.
Nappanee police allege Stoll demanded $40 from a woman in January and approached two other women to get money from them around the same day.
Stoll was arrested on a warrant and jailed Monday, about a week after the charges were filed.
Judge Christofeno entered a not-guilty plea on Stoll’s behalf, appointed a public defender to the case and took Stoll’s request for a bond reduction under consideration. He also scheduled the trial to begin Nov. 4.
And Lorenzo Ortiz, 27, South Bend, appeared in court for an initial hearing to face a Level 3 felony charge of possession of cocaine and a Level 6 felony count of possession of methamphetamine.
Ortiz was arrested by Elkhart County police July 31 following a traffic stop in which police said the drugs were found during a search.
Judge Christofeno entered a not-guilty plea on Ortiz’s behalf and scheduled his trial to begin Nov. 4. Ortiz indicated he is working to hire a private attorney.
Aimee Ambrose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 316.