The arrest of a burglary suspect on Monday led Benton police to discover and bust a Saline County criminal enterprise ring, officials said.
Officers responded to a burglary in progress around 12:45 p.m. Monday on River Heights Drive. While police were unable to locate the suspect — identified as Jason Hamilton, 33, of Benton — at the time of the burglary, Hamilton was later located in Pulaski County and taken into custody, the Benton Police Department said in a news release.
In an interview with Hamilton at the Benton Police Department, detectives learned that multiple people were using the America’s Best Inn, located at 1221 Hot Springs Highway in Benton, as a hub for their criminal enterprise, according to the release. Police identified the crime-ring suspects as Fred Michael Lamere, 56; Kristopher Hughes, 29; Bridgett Bearden, 33; Stephanie Bradshaw, 32; and Misty Hoggard, 34.
Police said detectives found four stolen vehicles, a large amount of stolen property and numerous articles of evidence related to identity theft and forgeries in the suspects' possession. Methamphetamine, prescription medication and ecstasy were also found on the scene.
The suspects purportedly used multiple rooms at the hotel to avoid detection and used stolen license plates and vehicles to avoid being caught, the release states.
Police said Hamilton is being charged with residential burglary, commercial burglary, two counts of theft of property, forgery, unauthorized use of another person’s property to facilitate a crime and possession of a controlled substance.
Hughes is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, simultaneous possession of drugs and a firearm and possession of methamphetamine. He also had prior warrants for his arrest out of the Saline County sheriff's office, police said.
Bearden and Bradshaw are both charged with theft by receiving and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Hoggard is charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Lamere is charged with theft by receiving.
Additional suspects and charges are expected as the investigation continues, police said. Any information about this case can be reported to the Benton Police Department at (501) 778-1171 or (501) 315-TIPS.