‘Test driver’ admits crimes

Man would visit dealer, make keys, steal cars

LISBON –George E. Faulkner Jr., who was involved in stealing vehicles after test driving them and making keys, obtaining false titles and even tampering with VINs, pleaded guilty in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Tuesday to five counts of receiving stolen property and one count of arson.

Assistant County Prosecutor Ryan Weikart said the 31-year-old Faulkner, whose last known address was in Struthers, faces up to 18 months in prison for each count, which are each fourth-degree felonies. Each charge stems from stolen vehicles found in Faulkner’s possession between December 2015 and February 2017.

According to court documents, the first vehicle was found on Dec. 11, 2015 — a 2006 Jeep Wrangler stuck in the area of 50600 state Route 14 in Unity Township after it was stolen from Brittain Motors. Faulkner and his girlfriend had previously taken the vehicle on a test drive and then used a key they had made to steal the Jeep.

The same pattern of behavior led to Faulkner being found with a 2003 Jeep Wrangler, which was test driven by Faulkner and his girlfriend a day before it was stolen from Southern Park Auto Mall in Boardman. A scrap vehicle title was later issued in his girlfriend’s name. That vehicle was used to obtain two title loans, driven by Faulkner and his girlfriend to Shook Auto in New Philadelphia, where they drove another vehicle. The 2003 Wrangler was later recovered from a storage unit rented by Adam Faulkner, his brother.

Faulkner and his girlfriend took a 2006 Dodge Ram for a test drive at Shook Auto in October. Again a scrap vehicle title was issued to Faulkner’s girlfriend. The vehicle was later recovered by authorities after a high-speed pursuit with both Faulkner and his girlfriend in the vehicle in Mahoning County.

A fourth vehicle involved was a 2000 Jeep Wrangler. This one was test driven by Faulkner and his brother in November 2016 at Colonial Auto Sales in Beaver Township. The dealership later reported it missing and the vehicle was located at Faulkner’s home with a false VIN plate from a junk vehicle, which also was titled to Faulkner’s girlfriend.

Another vehicle, a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado, was stolen from Fuller Auto Sales in New Philadelphia in January 2017, after Faulkner and his girlfriend test drove it. It was found by authorities with a scrap vehicle title and a temporary tag in his girlfriend’s name at Faulkner’s home.

The final count involves a 2007 Ford F150 burned in the area of Yellow Creek in Saline Township, Jefferson County. The vehicle had been reported stolen and an insurance claim was made to Allstate Insurance. However, before it was set ablaze, the vehicle had been stripped of the tailgate, hitch and wheels. The wheels and tires from the vehicle were later found at Faulkner’s home.

Sentencing for Faulkner is scheduled for April 16.

When asked by Judge C. Ashley Pike whether Weikart has the facts in the case correct, Faulkner at first talked about the plea deal and then admitted he was guilty of some of it.

“I will say I’m guilty,” Faulkner said.

After the hearing Weikart credited East Palestine Patrolman Dan Haueter with solving the case, along with now East Palestine Police Chief Jim Brown, who was working at the time as an investigator with the county prosecutor’s office.

Faulkner’s girlfriend, Anlynn N. Allison, 24, also last known address in Struthers, is currently facing 26 charges for her involvement in the case. Her case is currently scheduled for a jury trial on May 2.

In a somewhat related case, on Friday Adam J. Faulkner, 20, state Route 14, East Palestine, was placed on four years community control for receiving stolen property. On Aug. 23, 2016, Faulkner had a 1997 Jeep Wrangler belonging to the Elkton Auto Corral, which had two VINs scratched off and the dash VIN had been tampered with.