By Jeff Gallatin
Two cousins from Lorain were scheduled to be arraigned yesterday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on about 50 charges stemming from their indictment for allegedly robbing nearly 20 businesses at knifepoint, including five in North Olmsted and Rocky River.
Chad Thomas Nichols, 31, and Maria Vlahopoulos, 34, were indicted by the Cuyahoga County grand jury Nov. 24 on multiple charges of aggravated robbery, kidnapping, petty theft and possessing criminal tools.
Cuyahoga County authorities said Nichols, in addition to robbing four businesses in North Olmsted and one in Rocky River between Oct. 21 and between Oct. 21 and 30, he also robbed ones in Berea, Middleburg Heights and Strongsville. Lorain County officials said he could face charges there for alleged robberies in Elyria and North Ridgeville. Police said Nichols would go into the businesses with his face covered, demand money at knifepoint, then go back outside, where Vlahopoulos would be waiting in a blue 1996 Mercury Sable.
Detective Sgt. Bob Wagner of the North Olmsted Police Department said a lot of good police work went into the indictments.
“(Detective) Mike Gasdick did a great job of putting a lot of the information together,” Wagner said. “We had descriptions from the different cities of what had been done and he found the consistent parts and then when he got info from Elyria about a possible car he got it out there for all the police in the area. Then, when Rocky River got the word out fast about its robbery, that car went right by (Patrolman) John Downs just minutes after the Rocky River robbery, that officer got the vehicle stopped and he and (Patrolman) Manny Roman were right on it and saw that the people and the vehicle were the ones suspected of doing all the robberies.”
Gasdick, who was the police officer who helped the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office present the case to the grand jury, said there was a high level of cooperation between all the different departments.
No attorneys were listed for the suspects yet in court records as West Life went to press.