Ex warehouse worker accused of stealing $1M in water heaters

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Investigators say a former employee is responsible for the theft of more than $1 million in water heaters over two months from a Cascade Township warehouse.

The Kent County Sheriff Department said it learned about the thefts on Oct. 19, when the manager shared text messages that a friend of a friend had received from someone trying to sell some of the stolen water heaters. In the text message, the seller said they didn’t have any of the appliances available, but would obtain more of them that weekend.

Around 9:15 p.m. that Saturday, deputies staking out the warehouse at 5005 Kraft Ave. SE saw a car pull up, followed by a full-size truck pulling a trailer.  Deputies watched the truck back into the warehouse and shut the overhead doors.

When the vehicles began leaving 40 minutes later, deputies stopped them and found 90 Bradford White tankless water heaters worth approximately $162,000 in the trailer.

Inside the car was 34-year-old Jason Vanleeuwen of Caledonia; 46-year-old Ryan Ruehs of Ionia and 45-year-old Jason Hoendervanger of Saranac were inside the truck, according to probable cause document for the suspects’ arrests.

Detectives say all three men admitted to the taking the water heaters. The court document states Vanleeuwen told detectives he needed money and still had a key to the warehouse where he no longer worked. Deputies say he used the key to get into the warehouse after hours.

Investigators say Vanleeuwen sold the stolen appliances to 41-year-old Todd Reurink of Ionia and Ruehs, who then resold the water heaters by word of mouth and via the internet.

Detectives say they discovered more than $750,000 of the stolen appliances at an Ionia County pole barn owned by Reurink, as well an Ionia County house and home in Middleville.

Vanleeuwen, Ruehs and Reurink are charged with conducting a criminal enterprise. Hoendervanger is charged with breaking and entering a building in connection to the case.

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