Man sentenced to 5 years behind bars for stealing house

CLEVELAND - A man has been sentenced to five years in prison for moving into a $300,000 house left vacant by a couple and stealing $200,000 worth of furnishings, appliances, electronics and automobiles, authorities say.

Richard Lenard, 27, of suburban Richmond Heights, pleaded guilty in December to multiple counts of theft and other charges. He was sentenced Thursday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

The theft was discovered when Jon Thomas of New York returned to the house in Shaker Heights and found someone living there. The home belonged to his late parents, Percy and Regina Thomas, who shuttered it when they moved into an assisted living center in 2000.

Thomas said Lenard stole more than the house and its contents.

"He destroyed or sold 50 years of memories," he said. "In short, I have no legacy left. It's all gone."

Records show Lenard had obtained a fraudulent $160,000 mortgage on the property and was renting the house.

"I made a terrible decision," said Lenard, who apologized to Thomas in court. "I had a drug addiction problem, but I'm clean now."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.