Gregory Benner, one of several men who was connected to a string of thefts that occurred in June 2020, was sentenced Thursday to three years of community corrections.
Benner, 29, pleaded guilty to one count of auto trespass and one count of felony forgery for his participation in the crime spree.
Benner will be held at La Plata County Jail until a bed becomes available with community corrections, said 6th Judicial District Judge Suzanne Carlson.
According to an arrest affidavit, Benner admitted to detectives that he and three other men came to Durango to buy marijuana and steal items they could find in unlocked vehicles. He also admitted to stealing two vehicles, first a 2016 maroon Nissan Frontier in Gallup, New Mexico, and then a 2005 silver GMC truck.
The 2020 crime spree occurred June 19-20 and June 23-24, and included 22 victims.
Benner was initially wanted for one count of burglary, two counts of aggravated motor vehicle theft, 22 counts of first-degree criminal trespass and one count of conspiracy, all felonies, according to the affidavit.
Items taken during the crime spree included a black Inland brand M1 carbine rifle valued at $650 and a Makita brand reciprocating drill valued at $100. The items were stolen out of the victim’s garage in Durango, according to the affidavit.
Another victim reported various electric and hand tools in bags stolen out of a 2006 blue Dodge work truck that belonged to Silverpick Contracting, according to the affidavit. The total estimated value of the stolen tools was $1,683.
A La Plata County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant reported his 2019 black Chevy Tahoe’s rear window was broken and his badge, body armor, duty belt, Taser gun, Glock handgun, magazines and a collapsible baton were stolen. The equipment had a total value of $3,625.
A silver Ford F-150 valued at $20,000 was stolen in Durango. The vehicle was equipped with a GPS and the owner was tracking its movements. The vehicle was tracked to somewhere between Shiprock and Gallup, according to the affidavit.
Benner admitted to stealing some items, such as a Mexican guitar and two bicycles, according to the affidavit.
Benner’s defense lawyer said Benner has a history of addiction and was using fentanyl during the back-to-back crime sprees in June 2020. But she said he has spent his time productively in jail. Benner was working on obtaining his GED and working with Axis Health System in jail. He also found counseling and medication-assisted treatment options that he could participate in if he were to be released from jail on probation.
Sean Murray, deputy district attorney-appellate, said a probationary sentence would be setting Benner up to fail and asked for three years in community corrections, which the judge ultimately issued.
Benner said he is trying to improve his life, and he would take his actions back if he could.
“I really apologize for what I’ve done,” he said.
Carlson said it helps to hear an apology from Benner, but she agreed with the prosecution in that he wouldn’t be successful on probation. Carlson concluded that community corrections sounds appropriate.
Benner has served 142 days in jail.