A Lower Saucon couple who burglarized 77 homes in four counties to fuel their heroin addictions stood before a Lehigh County judge on Monday and were sentenced for the six-month crime spree, which cost homeowners more than $150,000.
Patrick Quinn, 28, will serve nine to 20 years in a state prison. His girlfriend, Kelly Cunningham, 23, was sentenced to eight to 18 years. Both will be on probation for four years after they complete their prison terms and must pay full restitution.
"If you look at these crimes, it's astonishing," said Deputy District Attorney Craig W. Scheetz. "The effect this had on the community is vast."
Quinn and Cunningham pleaded guilty in May to breaking into homes in Lehigh, Northampton, Bucks and Carbon counties. The cases were consolidated and heard in Lehigh County Court.
They admittedly targeted homes that were listed for sale, using real estate websites to find the addresses. Once inside, they'd strip the properties of copper pipes and wires, and steal other items to sell for scrap.
From November 2012 to May 2013, the couple entered houses in Lower Macungie, Lower Milford, North Whitehall, South Whitehall, Upper Macungie, Upper Saucon, Whitehall and Washington townships, and Coplay and Emmaus in Lehigh County.
They were caught after the owner of a Catasauqua scrap yard became suspicious of their frequent visits and called police.
Scheetz said most of the homes were unoccupied, and the thefts would often be discovered when a real estate agent brought a prospective buyer to see the home and found the damage. Many owners had to take the properties off the market while repairs were completed, and the neighborhoods earned the stigma of being considered unsafe by home buyers.
"Because of all those factors it's impossible to calculate how much money was lost," Scheetz said. "This occurred when the housing market was down, and people were already having a hard time selling their homes."
Quinn, of Riverside Drive, was on probation at the time of the crimes, after pleading guilty to trashing the home of Cunningham's parents during a 2012 fight with Cunningham.
He told Judge William E. Ford that he became addicted to heroin after abusing prescription painkillers, and that all the money he and Cunningham made from the thefts was spent on the drug.
"My words today come from a place of shame and deep remorse," he said. "This is the longest I've been sober since I was 12 years old. I feel like for so long I've been in a free-fall."
Cunningham wept as she stood before the judge and listened to her mother and other supporters describe her downfall from honor student to criminal. She vowed to change her ways and learn from her time behind bars.
"I truly never set out to hurt people and I am sincerely sorry," she said.
Scheetz called the crimes "calculated," and noted that both defendants used their intelligence to break the law.
"This was not going to stop. Had it not been for that concerned citizen and law enforcement, instead of 77 burglaries it could have been 200," he said.
Ford recommended that both defendants undergo drug treatment in the state prison system. He said he fashioned the sentences to balance Quinn and Cunningham's need for rehabilitation and punishment, and to send a signal to other would-be burglars.
"The message has to be that crimes like this will not be tolerated," the judge said. "You left a long trail of victims. There was a real callousness to what you did."