A Live Oak man still hasn’t recovered the urn containing his wife’s ashes that is believed to have been stolen from his home by the Johnson brothers.
But more than 100 victims from a dozen counties — including Nevada County — have reclaimed property that might have been swiped by the Yuba County brothers, who investigators believe used their business, A-1 Asphalt, to scam and steal from Northern California residents for decades.
Between half and two-thirds of the property that authorities recovered is still unclaimed — including family heirlooms, pounds of jewelry, tools, weapons and paperwork — meaning there could be hundreds of additional victims.
The alleged burglary careers of Mark James Johnson, 54, and Jerry Allen Johnson, 51, ended last July when they were arrested by Sutter County investigators.
Now, prosecutors from Sutter, Yuba and Placer counties are working to reach a global resolution in the brothers’ multiple burglary cases, while Sutter and Yuba County sheriff’s departments continue to store hundreds of stolen items waiting to be picked up by their rightful owners.
Both brothers have been charged with multiple counts of burglary, but before negotiating a plea, prosecutors are still working to sort out charges. One complicating factor is that stolen property recovered in one county may have come from a burglary in another county.
Yuba County District Attorney Patrick McGrath said those conditions add to the challenge of identifying charges, given that defendants cannot be charged twice for the same act.
“My concern is I don’t want to go charging something that may cause a problem for another county’s case,” he said.
The Johnson brothers appeared in Sutter County Superior Court on Wednesday and are scheduled to appear again April 23. Mark Johnson is being held on $1.55 million bail and Jerry Allen is being held on $1.05 million bail in Sutter County Jail.
Victims get a chance to get their stuff back
Mark and Jerry Johnson are said to have stolen “everything that wasn’t bolted down” and are accused of hoarding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods, including many items with more sentimental than monetary value.
Caches of loot acquired by the Jonhsons and stored in their homes and trailers in Yuba, Sutter, Butte and Shasta counties were discovered by authorities during the investigation, according to Sutter County Sheriff’s Lt. James Casner.
Beginning in September, the Sutter County Sheriff’s Department launched into the arduous task of trying to get the goods back to their rightful owners.
About six months ago, Sutter County held a week-long viewing, where they displayed all the items Yuba and Sutter County sheriff’s deputies had recovered.
Victims came from Placer, Yuba, Sutter, Sacramento, Nevada and other counties to collect their goods.
“It was just heartbreaking to see these people come in,” Casner said.
He said an elderly woman brought in some silverware, looking for her missing matching sets. When she found what had been stolen from her, “She almost collapsed on the floor,” Casner said.
Another woman retrieved a medallion her father had received for Pearl Harbor.
Many people didn’t realize what they were missing before they saw it in the loot piles, and some items had been stolen decades ago.
Casner said one man from Biggs retrieved items that were reported stolen 25 years ago. Another item had been reported stolen in Utah in the mid-1980s.
The Johnson brothers worked a corridor in Northern California as contractors, gaining access to potential victims’ homes, according to Casner.
They’d go to a house and offer to do work, from installing a new roof to repaving a driveway, then steal items while working the projects or use the opportunity to case the house for a future burglary, he said.
“Some of the (victims) had known them for years,” said Casner.
Monica Vaughan is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.