A Missouri man pleaded guilty Monday to stealing expensive auto rims and tires from a Pekin car dealership lot two years ago.
Area police said that crime followed a pattern in which dealerships were struck in North Pekin, Peoria, Quincy, southern Illinois and Missouri, possibly by an organized theft ring.
Brian Mims, 58, will be sentenced on Sept. 5 for felony theft and possession of a stolen vehicle, to which he entered so-called blind guilty pleas in which a judge will determine his punishment. That will range from probation to seven years in prison.
Mims’ case captured attention both for the crime’s similarity to others and how he was captured, shortly after a witness chased two men from the Ray Dennison Chevrolet dealership off Illinois Route 29 to a nearby lake shore.
He was captured a second time in Missouri last March, 15 months after he disappeared while free on bond.
Mims claimed he was working alone when he stole 28 tires and rims worth about $1,000 each from the dealership lot before dawn on June 27, 2017. Police concluded at least one other man was with him.
The witness, arriving for work at the dealership, spotted two men crouching between vehicles in the lot, where electrical wires on light poles had been cut, stated court records.
The men jumped into a truck and sped north on Route 29 to a Twin Lakes shoreline off Chateau Drive. The witness followed as he called the police, who arrived in time to hear a splash along the dark shore.
They spotted Mims hiding under a shoreline dock. He jumped into the lake, swam to its middle as officers surrounded it and remained there for 10 minutes before surrendering, stated records.
Officers found a pair of shoes on the shore and the apparent footprints of the second man. They speculated he emerged from the lake and was driven from the area, possibly by a third partner.
The tires and rims were recovered from the truck, which police learned had been recently stolen in Missouri. Stolen vehicles to transport rims and cut electrical pole lights were tactics also used in other dealership thefts, said area police.