Hair weave theft suspects linked to several smash-and-grabs

In a matter of minutes, so-called hair weave thieves have done thousands of dollars worth of damage, using a technique now familiar: Drive a stolen car into a beauty supply store; grab pricey hair extensions; hit the road before police can arrive; make off with up to $60,000 worth of products.

Robberies like that have been reported across the Atlanta area more than a dozen times in recent months. But Marietta detectives believe they know at least two of the people responsible, police said Monday.

“We were able to uncover a criminal enterprise ring that has been going around through the metro Atlanta area, and we have been able to identify at least two suspects,” Officer David Baldwin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Working with other police agencies, Marietta police linked Eddie Lee Howard III and Joe Nathan Ford to at least six smash-and-grab crimes at beauty supply stores, Baldwin said. But the two could have been part of at least 16 similar crimes, according to arrest warrants obtained by The AJC.

“We really feel it’s going to be a tremendous amount more,” Baldwin said.

Ford, of East Point, was arrested late Friday and booked into the Cobb County jail, where he was being held Monday night without bond, jail records show. Howard was not in custody Monday night, but investigators believe they are closing in on him, Baldwin said.

Investigators believe Howard and Ford are part of a criminal ring that may include several others, Baldwin said. Both are accused of racketeering, and also face burglary and theft charges.

That list of charges is expected to grow as the investigation continues, according to police.

Among some of the recent crimes, smash-and-grab thieves hit The Top 1 store in Marietta on July 23, driving a stolen Dodge Ram truck through the front of the store. They went into the store and swiped about $46,000 worth of hair products, police said. Days later on Aug. 1, The LA Beauty Supply shop was targeted. This time, a 2003 Dodge Stratus was driven through the front of the store and the thieves left with $24,000 worth of products, according to police.

Some store owners have gone out of business after being targeted in the smash-and-grabs, according to police.

“A lot of these businesses that are hit cannot financially recover,” Baldwin said.

In Cobb County, investigators believe the suspects are responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property damage and merchandise loss, Baldwin said.

Police in Clayton and Fulton counties are investigating similar cases.

Anyone with information on the crimes is asked to contact Marietta Detective Russell Henson at 770-794-5345 or the department’s anonymous tip line at 770-794-6990.