Gastonia man sentenced to prison in series of car break-ins at national forest

Gastonia man sentenced to prison in series of car break-ins at national forest
(Source: WBTV/File)

ASHEVILLE, NC (WBTV) - A man was sentenced to prison Thursday for a series of car break-ins that happened at a national forest.

David Duane Banchetto, 43, of Gastonia, was sentenced to 36 months in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in a series of car break-ins at Pisgah National Forest.

Banchetto was also ordered to pay restitution to all the victims for the costs of the vehicle repairs and for the value of the property that was stolen.

According to court documents and Thursday's sentencing hearing, Banchetto and co-defendants, Elija Antwon Hope, Heather Nicole Postell, Montzerrath Tello-Aguilar and Kaleb Alexander Weaver engaged in a scheme to break into cars at Pisgah National Forest, to steal credit cards, debit cards and other items from vehicles parked in the area.

Court records show that on June 29, 2017, law enforcement began to receive reports of multiple vehicle break-ins in that area.

In the days that followed, at least five vehicle breaking and entering cases had been reported.

Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement recovered surveillance videos and pictures from local businesses where the stolen credit/debit cards had been used.

On July 16, 2017, law enforcement arrested the five co-conspirators after a suspicious vehicle was reported in an area of Pisgah National Forest.

According to court records, law enforcement determined that Banchetto was the person responsible for breaking out the windows of the vehicles from which the items were stolen.

On Nov. 22, 2017, Banchetto pleaded guilty to destruction of property on national lands.

Tello-Aquilar was previously sentenced to six months in prison and two years of supervised release.

The remaining three co-defendants, Hope, Postell and Weaver, are currently awaiting sentencing.

In announcing today's sentencing, the judge referred to the national forests and parks of the Western District of North Carolina as "national treasure" and property of all citizens, noting that these types of crimes deter people from coming and enjoying them.

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