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Man charged with stealing donated tornado relief supplies in Fairdale

A man has been charged with stealing a large quantity of supplies donated to victims of the tornadoes that killed two people and injured at least 20 others earlier this month in northern Illinois.

Richard Burtch is accused of stealing six to seven pickup loads worth of supplies, from tarps and tubs, to wheelbarrows and rakes, DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said.

Burtch first arrived in Fairdale to help a family member, whose home was among several destroyed in the April 9 twister, according to a report from the sheriff’s office.

After his relative’s home was cleared of debris, the 44-year-old stuck around the area and continued collecting tubs of items donated to the relief effort, sheriff’s police said. Donated items including medicines, toiletries, cleaning supplies and food.

On Saturday evening, a Fairdale resident called police after noticing Burtch making multiple trips to load up his vehicle with donations. A police officer confronted Burtch, who unloaded a wheelbarrow and baby stroller filled with supplies, and then left the scene, police said.

The next day, deputies visited his home in Stillman Valley, about 10 miles west of Fairdale, and found even more supplies.

Among the goods were 35 storage tubs, which were intended for Fairdale residents to move items and keep their remaining belongings safe, Scott said.

Authorities also found three wheelbarrows and more than a dozen rakes, shovels and brooms, police said.

Burtch faces felony counts of looting and attempted looting, and was ordered held in the DeKalb County Jail on a $50,000 bond pending his next court hearing, police said.

If he is released on bail, he will be banned from re-entering the disaster recovery area in Fairdale, Scott said.

All of the supplies have since been returned to Fairdale residents, police said.