Five residents of southeast Iowa have pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud conspiracy charges. Authorities say the guilty pleas follow an organized retail theft investigation. The five defendants are William Allen, Joseph Alan Shafer, Lynn Harriman, Margaret Haines and Gretchen Starr.

The investigation into the theft operation was led by Ottumwa Police with assistance from the Southeast Iowa Inter-Agency Drug Task Force, the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, and police from Fort Madison, Oskaloosa and Dubuque. The stolen merchandise – valued at nearly $70,000 – included tools, electronics, and pet supplies. The operation involved a pawn shop in Ottumwa and sales on E-Bay.

Sentencing dates for each defendant have not been announced.

By Mike Buchanan, KBIZ, Ottumwa