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MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that on March 13, 2013, John C. Birk appeared in the Oconto County Circuit Court and was convicted on his pleas to four felony burglary counts and agreed to numerous read-in offenses before the Honorable Michael T. Judge. Specifically, Birk pleaded to one Outagamie County burglary and three Oconto County burglaries. The combination of the offenses of conviction and read-ins covers crimes that Birk committed in four counties, namely, Oconto, Outagamie, Brown and Marinette. At sentencing, Birk faces a maximum possible penalty of 50 years of imprisonment and $100,000 in fines. Sentencing is set for May 30th, 2013, before the honorable Michael T. Judge.
According to the Oconto and Outagamie County criminal complaints, Mr. Birk participated in the planning and the execution of various burglaries in the summer of 2012. These burglaries targeted gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores and the like. In many of the incidents, Mr. Birk would saw a hole through the roof of the establishment as the point of entry. Upon entering, Mr. Birk would gain access to the contents of machines, such as ATMs and coin-operated game machines, by sawing them open. Birk would then take any cash or money that was available. The combined loss from the property damage and thefts was substantial.
Within the investigation, Mr. Birk’s DNA was recovered from one of the crime scenes and an accomplice’s fingerprints also were recovered from the same crime scene. In the final burglary before apprehension, Mr. Birk and an accomplice exited through the roof, jumped from the roof and fled from the police. Upon his arrest nine hours later, Mr. Birk was found with an injured leg and in the same clothing as the person in the security video of the break-in, which was recorded at approximately 2:00 a.m.
It should be noted that a bloodhound specialized in the search for missing persons was deployed and was able to track Mr. Birk’s scent from the location of the final burglary. Additionally, Mr. Birk and his accomplices were all arrested in the vicinity of the burglary, on the same day, within hours of the burglary, approximately 50 miles away from their respective homes in the cities of Green Bay and De Pere. The accomplices cooperated with law enforcement and confessed to their role and explained Mr. Birk’s role in all of the burglaries.
Further, text messages were recovered from one of Mr. Birk’s cell phones as well as the cell phone of his getaway driver. The text messages unequivocally demonstrated that Mr. Birk was involved as the director of the burglaries. Finally, some of Mr. Birk’s family members confirmed his role in the burglary spree.
“Crimes like these harm local businesses but also threaten the feeling of safety for business owners, neighbors and the surrounding community,” Attorney General Van Hollen said. “I wish to thank those involved in this extensive investigation for working toward justice and accountability from those responsible for the crimes.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice assumed responsibility over the Oconto County cases in January and is now serving as special prosecutor for Oconto, Brown and Marinette counties. The investigation was conducted by the Oconto County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Oconto Police Department, the Oconto Falls Police Department, the Gillett Police Department, the Suring Police Department, the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office, the Fox Valley Metro Police Department, the Shawano County Sheriff’s Office, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Green Bay Police Department. The successful prosecution of these cases could not have happened without the excellent work done by each of these law enforcement agencies and the work of the missing persons bloodhound handler Joanne Disher and her bloodhound, Pollie.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Eric D. Défort.