A man who used his boat-cleaning job to scout waterfront Newport Beach homes to burglarize was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and silverware from the houses.
Law enforcement officials alleged that Steven Scott Warren, 23, of Costa Mesa, who donned scuba gear to clean the bottoms of the boats, used his time on land to check out houses for burglary possibilities.
Warren, who police said was suspected of engineering 60 burglaries, pleaded guilty to 20 counts of felony burglary on Aug. 29. Officials said he admitted taking the jewelry, contending that he sold it to two pawnbrokers who paid him $6,000.
“He claims he did this all for college so he could go to USC,” Deputy Dist. Atty. William Feccia told Orange County Superior Court Judge Leonard H. McBride. “Such a nice boy--he doesn’t tell us why he did not work for school, secure loans and grants,” or go to a public school, Feccia said.
The prosecutor said “a very conservative estimate” of Warren’s haul from the 20 burglaries to which he pleaded guilty was $300,000. Police estimated the total value of objects taken in all 60 burglaries at $800,000.
“We recovered the junk” that was included in Warren’s loot, Feccia said outside court. “All the valuable pieces of jewelry were not recovered.”
Feccia had asked McBride to impose the maximum sentence, 17 years in prison, on Warren. The defendant’s attorney, Paul Mast, requested a sentence of two to three years in prison.
Warren, who was convicted of burglary while a juvenile and of attempted burglary as an adult before being arrested in the Newport Beach thefts, mostly burglarized homes near the boats he was cleaning, the prosecutor said.
A victim’s neighbor spotted Warren in a house, copied down the license plate number of his car and notified police, according to the prosecutor. Although Warren obtained a new license plate, police used a helicopter, Harbor Patrol boat, and police cars and vans to keep an eye on Warren and his apartment. Officers said they arrested him March 5 while he was leaving a residence with stolen property.
Several of Warren’s victims were in court Friday, as were members of his family.
In sentencing Warren, McBride said he didn’t believe Warren’s claim that he walked into one house by accident, got carried away by the valuables and began stealing. Instead, McBride said, Warren “became a professional thief.”