Samantha Kochel, convicted in rash of car break-ins, strikes again, police say

Author: , Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published: Dec 04 2013 05:01:19 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 04 2013 06:38:36 PM EST
Samantha Kochel
BERN TWP., Pa. -

A Wernersville woman is back behind bars for allegedly ransacking cars outside a hospital, and police said she has struck before.

Samantha Kochel was arrested Tuesday evening after she was caught on camera breaking into cars in the parking lot of the St. Joseph Medical Center in Bern Twp., Berks Co., police said.

"There were people walking by, just not close enough to hear or close enough to see what she was doing at the moment she was doing it," said Dan Billings, the hospital's director of security.

Car windows were left shattered, and hundreds of dollars of valuables were stolen. The hospital's security cameras captured Kochel committing the bold crime in broad daylight, said officials.

According to police, Kochel returned to the hospital some seven hours later, but security recognized her and she was taken into custody.

"We made some recoveries of items that indicate the crimes are multi-jurisdictional," said Chief Wesley Waugh, Bern Twp. Police Dept., who added Kochel was visiting someone at the hospital.

Kochel, 29, was convicted in 2012 for her involvement in a four-county vehicle theft ring spanning Berks, Montgomery, Schuylkill and York counties. Kochel and her boyfriend, Frank Howe, broke into more than 100 vehicles and got away with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, said investigators.

Kochel admitted to breaking into the cars Tuesday, according to court documents.

Police said thefts soar right before the holidays, so now they're putting out a warning before someone else falls victim.

"Lock your car and don't leave personal items or any items of value in the vehicle in plain sight," said Waugh.