Accused shoe bandit captured, now processing the evidence

    Newark Police sift through thousands of shoes that they say were stolen by one man during a 20 year crime spree.

    It may just be a case for the record books in Newark, Delaware.  Over the past 20 years, police say one man has been stealing shoes from homes around town.  46-year-old Walter Rubincan is facing 25 counts of burglary, but investigators believe he has burglarized hundreds of homes over the past two decades.  Newark Police Lt. Brian Henry says he’s never seen a case like this in his 20 years in the department, “A crime spree that’s gone on for two decades that’s involved so much property and has finally been brought to conclusion.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”

    100202mequote

    Police have recovered 150 boxes of shoes that they say Rubincan stole.  That’s not 150 shoe boxes, but rather 150 boxes containing several thousand shoes.  Lt. Henry says two officers are now slogging their way through the evidence box by box,  “They’ll empty it, inventory it, photograph it, then it goes back into the box, and they’ll do the same with box number two.”  In addition to the shoes, police also recovered eight guitars, a mandolin, eight snowboards, a surfboard, and other sports equipment.  Investigators have also seized photos Rubincan is accused of stealing from Newark homes.

    Now, the challenge is matching up thousands of stolen items with their owners.  Henry says, “The ones that can be linked will be linked.  We have the reports that were made at the times of the thefts, we’ll try to match up property with those reports.”  He admits matching thousands of pairs of shoes with hundreds of different owners will be difficult.

    web-xclusive-audio

    As for what motivated the thefts, Henry says police only know what they’ve heard from Rubincan,  “What he said to one of the investigators was that he derived some type of thrill from stealing these items and having them in his possession.”

    Click on image to view a slideshow.
    Click on image to view a slideshow.

    Henry says the vast number of thefts weren’t seen as a trend over the past 20 years in part because they were reported one or two at a time.  It also went under the radar because many victims didn’t report the thefts.  “They figured they lost their shoes, they misplaced them, in the case of college students, [they thought] their roommates borrowed them.”  Henry says it wasn’t until five similar burglaries were reported over the Christmas break that investigators noticed the trend.

    Police say as the burglaries drew more attention in recent weeks, Rubincan started to get nervous and dumped several bags containing 250 shoes in nearby Elkton, Md. in mid-January.  Police were able to follow a tip from a witness that the burglar was  driving a yellow Mitsubishi Eclipse to identify Rubincan as a suspect.  He was arrested January 29.  He’s now facing 25 counts of burglary, 77 counts of theft, and 15 counts of criminal mischief.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.