WASHBURN COUNTY -- Criminal charges have been filed against 5 people in nearly 50 criminal complaints that were recently filed in Washburn County Circuit Court regarding a series of storage unit burglaries throughout Washburn County.

A lengthy investigation by law enforcement into a series of reported burglaries during the early part of 2020 has resulted in burglary charges and drug-related charges filed against Shaun Johnson, Sarah Kowarsch, Keith Velasco, Delayna York, and Samantha Okonek.

Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in the investigation after Investigators and Officers received complaints starting in January 2020 that storage units in the City of Shell Lake had been broken into and items were missing.

Subsequent reports received from February 2020 through April 2020 by the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office and Spooner Police Department indicated that various other storage units around Washburn County had been burglarized including units at Spooner Mini Storage, Tadpole Storage, Sarona Storage Units, Swan Storage, Mud Puppy Storage, Pine Ridge Properties, and Bashaw Valley Storage.

Officers and Investigators responding to the burglarized units found that padlocks had been cut and sometimes replaced, and at some of the storage units, the door handles had been cut to allow the padlocks to be taken off without unlocking or cutting them.

Items reported stolen from the units included firearms, fishing equipment and supplies, hunting equipment and supplies, power tools, propane tanks, chainsaw, welders, generators, golf clubs, ice shack, ice auger, ladders, vehicle titles, birth certificates, photo albums, china, jewelry, and other collectibles.

The information gained during the investigation led investigators to identify the burglary suspects as Shaun Johnson, Sarah Kowarsch, Keith Velasco, Delayna York, and Samantha Okonek.

In May 2020 Washburn County Investigators interviewed Sarah Kowarsch who was in custody in the Burnett County Jail. Kowarsch described a series of incidents where she and the others charged would “hit” (burglarize) the storage unit facilities; with either 2 or 3 of the group going at one time, rather than all of them at once. Kowarsch stated that she preferred to go during the daytime because then it would look like they were simply there to retrieve items from a unit.

Kowarsch also allegedly described that a lot of controlled substances were being used, including methamphetamine; stating that it would not be unusual for her to be up for a week or 10 days at a time. She went on to tell Investigators the names and locations of the various facilities that the group “hit”, according to a criminal complaint filed in Washburn County Circuit Court, and stated that they often used York’s vehicle.

Investigators were able to retrieve security camera footage from some of the storage unit facilities that were burglarized, and located footage from multiple dates showing a vehicle matching York’s vehicle.

Following the interview of Kowarsch, Investigators took her to Washburn County and drove to the various locations of the alleged burglaries, and Kowarsch confirmed numerous storage units that had been broken into.

In June 2020, Investigators received a phone call from Okonek, who then came to the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office to be interviewed, according to a criminal complaint. During her interview, Okonek corroborated Kowarsch’s statements, describing a series of incidents during which members of their group would go to various storage unit facilities in Washburn County and other surrounding counties, cut the locks on units, and remove items from the units.

Okonek told investigators that many of the stolen items were transported to Minnesota by Johnson or Kowarsch and either sold there or stored there. She provided location information where some stolen items had been left.

Also in June 2020, York went to the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office and spoke with Investigators, according to a criminal complaint. York allegedly drew a sketch for Investigators of some of the storage unit facility locations that the group burglarized. She described a series of events during which the group went to numerous storage unit facilities, broke into multiple units, and loaded many items into their vehicles. She went on to state that she believed at least some of the items may have been taken to Minneapolis, MN, and pawned, but she wasn’t sure what happened to all the items. York also described using a lot of controlled substances during the time period when the burglaries were occurring.

At least 7 storage unit facilities were burglarized in Washburn County, according to criminal complaints filed, with multiple units sustaining losses at each facility.

Shaun Johnson is charged in Washburn County Circuit Court with 9 counts of Class F Felony Conspiracy to Commit Burglary of Building-Dwelling; Class I Felony Possession of Methamphetamine; Misdemeanor Possession of THC; and 5 counts of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia filed against him in 10 criminal complaints. Johnson is scheduled to make an initial appearance regarding his charges in May 2021.

Sarah Kowarsch is charged in Washburn County Circuit Court with 9 counts of Class F Felony Conspiracy to Commit Burglary of Building-Dwelling; and 1 count of Class F Felony Burglary of Building-Dwelling filed against her in 10 different criminal complaints. She is scheduled to make an initial appearance on her charges in May 2021.

Samantha Okonek is charged In Washburn County Circuit Court with 9 counts of Class F Felony Conspiracy to Commit Burglary of Building-Dwelling; Class I Felony Possession of Methamphetamine; Misdemeanor Possession of THC; and 5 counts of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia filed against her in 10 different criminal complaints. She is scheduled to have an initial appearance in May 2021.

Keith Velaso is facing charges in Washburn County Circuit Court for 9 counts of Class F Felony Conspiracy to Commit Burglary of Building-Dwelling filed against him in 9 different criminal complaints. He is scheduled to have an initial appearance in June 2021 regarding his charges.

Delayna York is charged in Washburn County Circuit Court with 9 counts of Class F Felony Conspiracy to Commit Burglary of Building-Dwelling; and Misdemeanor Resisting or Obstructing an Officer filed against her in 10 different complaints. She is scheduled to have an initial appearance in June 2021.

A separate case filed in Burnett County Circuit Court charges Johnson with 3 counts of Class F Felony Burglary Building-Dwelling (Party to a Crime); Class I Felony Possession of Methamphetamine (Party to a Crime); and Class I Felony Possession of Burglarious Tools (Party to a Crime). In two separate cases filed against Kowarsch in Burnett County Circuit Court she is charged with 7 counts of Class F Felony Burglary Building-Dwelling (Party to a Crime); Class I Felony Possession of Methamphetamine (Party to a Crime); and Class I Felony Possession of Burglarious Tools (Party to a Crime); 6 counts of Class H Felony Bail Jumping; Misdemeanor Receiving or Concealing Stolen Property; and Misdemeanor Possess Drug Paraphernalia. Details of those Burnett County Cases are not known at this time, however, Johnson is scheduled to appear again in June 2021, and Kowarsch is set to appear again in May 2020.

Pursuant to the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicly, you are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


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