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Posted on Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Former crew member describes methods used in home invasion schemes

By John Counts


Margaret Leary poses for a photo inside her Ann Arbor home on Friday morning. Leary was asleep in her bed when her home was broken into over the summer.

Melanie Maxwell |

The crew targeted houses where no one was home. Many of the houses were for sale. They would ring the doorbell 15 to 20 times before breaking in. One member had a police scanner application on his smartphone to make sure they could make a getaway if authorities showed up.

These methods of the Dexter-based crew accused of breaking into 10 homes during the summer were revealed during court testimony from one of its members who took a plea deal in exchange for his testimony.

Steven Colwell, 25, of Lima Township, took the stand Thursday in the continuation of a preliminary examination at the 14A-1 District Court against Jeffrey Arthur Schuh, 54; his son Jeffrey Aron Schuh, 20, both of Dexter; and Quang Nguyen, 19, of Ypsilani Township.

A judge found there was probable cause the men committed the crimes and bound their cases — with various home invasion charges — over to circuit court. They were given a pretrial hearing date of Jan. 16 in Judge Archie Brown’s courtroom.

How the crew operated

Colwell talked about how he first got recruited and went into detail about several of the home invasions themselves, including the one on Quail Ridge Drive in Dexter Township that led to Colwell’s arrest.

Colwell said he has known Jeffrey Aron Schuh for between five and 10 years. The two attended Dexter High School together.

“(He) had mentioned he had a two-man crew for breaking into houses,” Colwell said. “He said he wanted to make it a three-man crew. I took the work. I had a heroin addiction I was feeding.”

The second man in the crew was Ngyuen, who was in charge of scouting the houses and had the idea to break into homes that were for sale, Colwell testified. Ngyuen also had a scanner app on his phone. The crew would monitor police radio traffic to see if there were any calls for tripped alarms.

Colwell testified the three men went on a spree of home invasions starting in early July and ending with Colwell’s arrest in early August. Jeffrey Arthur Schuh, who is charged in three of the nine cases, operated as lookout on some of the jobs, Colwell said.

The crew communicated via text message and regularly would meet at 11 p.m. to case houses. Jeffrey Aron Schuh’s Buick served as transportation. The first house they hit was in the 1700 block of Ives Lane in Ann Arbor. Colwell recalled entering the house through a sidedoor, taking a television and loading it into Jeffrey Aron Schuh’s car.

Colwell went on to testify that he participated in eight additional break-ins with the crew in Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Township, Scio Township, Webster Township and Dexter Township. Police say the crew made off with foreign coins, two-dollar bills, equestrian trophies, jewelry, silver goblets, electronics, cash, a guitar and custom-made brass bullets.

“We’d pawn it, sell it, try to make money off of it,” Colwell said when asked what the crew did with some of the valuables.

Colwell said he did most of the pawning, but that in one instance, Ngyuen came into Lewis Jewelers with him.

“He wanted to see how much money I got and to make sure I didn’t skim any money off the top,” he said.

Thumbnail image for colwellschuhsngyuen.jpg

Jeffrey Arthur Schuh, Jeffrey Aron Schuh, Quang Nguyen and Steven Colwell.

Steaks, lobsters and Red Bulls

Colwell’s testimony described how the crew ransacked the houses looking for valuables. He also talked about how the crew stabbed a wall with a sword, didn’t flush toilets after using them and used a stolen credit card to buy top-shelf food at Meijer’s and had a feast at the Shuh’s Dexter residence after a break-in.

The crew also didn’t limit their victims to strangers.

The house the crew broke into in the 35000 block of Richmond Drive in Ann Arbor was where Ngyuen’s ex-girlfriend lived, Colwell testified, and that Ngyuen knew the family was out of town on vacation. Colwell said Jeffrey Arthur Schuh broke out a window then served as a lookout as the three other men entered the house. Colwell took a Fender guitar and jewelry, which are items police recovered and linked Colwell to the crimes.

At a home in the 3100 block of East Delhi Road in Scio Township, the crew committed more vandalism than larceny.

“We broke into a window in the back,” Colwell said. “There wasn’t a lot in this house. We did some damage. I broke a chandelier. (Ngyuen) stabbed a wall with a sword (from a suit of armor). Jeff Junior said he took a crap and didn’t flush it.”

The crew always tried to only break into houses where the people were not home and did so every time except once, Colwell said.

At a home in the 1000 block of Newport Road in Ann Arbor, Colwell recounted coming across a person sleeping in a bed before the ransacking could begin.

“I flashed a flashlight on the bed and that someone was sleeping,” he said.

That person was Margaret Leary, who said she never woke up throughout the break-in. At the first installment of the preliminary examinations for the Schuhs and Ngyuen first session on Nov. 8, Leary testified she woke up around 5:30 a.m. and discovered her kitchen had been rummaged through and the front door was wide open.

As soon as Colwell saw the sleeping Leary, the crew fled, but not before Colwell could steal a wallet. Colwell said he kept the cash and gave the credit cards to Ngyuen. Colwell was then dropped off somewhere while Jeffery Aron Schuh and Ngyuen used the card to buy gas and food.

“They told me they went to Meijer’s to purchase items,” Colwell said.

The two men bought lobsters, shish kabobs, steaks and Red Bulls. Colwell said he later came over to the Schuh’s residence in Dexter’s Walkabout Court apartment complex to feast with the rest of the crew.

During his testimony, Colwell also identified two surveillance pictures from Meijer of Jeffery Aron Schuh and Ngyuen making the purchases with the stolen credit card.

Getting caught

The crew wouldn’t be eating lobster for long, however.

Colwell said Ngyuen had “scouted” a Dexter Township residence and had been in it earlier that day and taken two class rings. That home, however, was on Fischers Way. The house Colwell, Jeffery Aron Schuh and Ngyuen later broke into was on nearby Quail Ridge Drive around 4 p.m. on Aug. 9.

When Colwell saw they had to break out the back sliding glass doorwall, he said he knew it wasn’t the house Ngyuen already had been broken in to.

“We broke the door open with a flat crow bar,” Colwell said. “I went into the bathroom and proceeded to look for any pharmaceuticals.”

The three men then found a safe in a closet and tried, unsuccessfully, to pry it open.

“We just gave up on it,” Colwell said.

While Colwell was in the master bedroom putting items like jewelry in a pillowcase, he testified he heard Jeff Aron Schuh say there was someone in the driveway. The three ran out of the house, got into Schuh’s Buick and fled the scene in front of the woman, who remained in her car.

The woman, Christine Davis, earlier testified she pulled up into the driveway and saw suspects unloading items from her home into a beige Buick. Police were able to link the vehicle description to the crew. Colwell was arrested the next day. A search warrant of his house revealed numerous stolen items, police have testified.

Colwell said he didn’t want to be the only one charged in the case, which motivated him to take the stand against the Schuhs and Ngyuen, who were charged in October for the crimes.

Colwell already has pleaded guilty to five counts of second-degree home invasion and the court has agreed to a reduced sentencing of two to 15 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against his former crew.

Attorneys for the three defendants argued the testimony from Colwell, who told the court he had a $50-a-day heroin habit at the time and was using drugs “every day” during the period the break-ins occurred, was unreliable.

“The only thing we’ve heard is testimony from a self-interested, biased, drug-addled witness,” said Steve Tramontin, Jeffrey Arthur Schuh’s attorney.

Bond motions for the defendants were denied by Judge Chris Easthope. Nguyen and Jeffrey Aron Schuh are being held on a $10,000 bond on each case, totaling $90,000. Jeffrey Arthur Schuh’s bond totals $30,000. They are all being held at the Washtenaw County Jail.

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Regan White

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

The messed up part is I hung out with Jeff and Aiden like 2 days before they were arrested. They were my bros. We were close. I knew they were trouble in a way but I never knew they were FELONS!! It's messed up having friends who you have no idea the other side to them then one day you get a text saying they are in jail for 20 years. Shakes my head. /:


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

I would like to comment as one in the neighborhood of one of these crimes, and having talked to one of the victims - first of all- nothing is funny about this. What the article leaves out- actually what the testimony of the gang perp who took the plea deal left out- is they literally RANSACKED the homes, searching for money, personal effects, etc in any possible nook and cranny. They took everything they could get their hands on. Those of us who knew about this crime more than sympathized for the victim, but we also wondered if we were next. This certainly resulted in feelings of fear, paranoia, and outrage among the neighbors and the friends and family of the victims. Some of us are armed now. And no- it surely was not limited to houses up for sale- it could be anyone's house, and surely not limited to Dexter. I wonder how lawyers who "defend" these creeps can sleep at night- is it a big surprise that burglars are often "drug addled"? Is there actually a judge who will take that statement as some kind of excuse or "defense" for these crimes? Why not add "and they were incredibly stupid"- maybe it will make a nice defense, too. The sad thing is, these small time thugs probably won't be given a) a harsh enough sentence or b) any possible rehabilitation, which it is clear a couple of the younger ones may possibly benefit from. It's clear the 54 year old ringleader is beyond hope (with his "apps" to detect police presence, no less).


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 5:48 a.m.

"Ngyuen also had a scanner app on his phone. The crew would monitor police radio traffic to see if there were any calls for tripped alarms. " The 54 year old wasn't the ringleader, it was the other 3 since they have more counts on them, 54 only has 3 compared to the 9 that the other 3 face. It was most likely Quang, Aron and Steven. Steven most likely got busted on one trip, and then he ratted out the others.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

I would be interested to know how much of these goods were handled by Lewis Jewelers and for how long. Did they knowingly accept stolen goods? Come on This is the real story here.

Kitty O'Brien

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

Exactly! I wasn't aware that Lewis Jewelers operated as a pawn shop. There is something very wrong here.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 6:43 a.m.

The headline and the accompanying photo on the main page of headlines are very confusing. But it certainly got me to read the article, wondering if the very genteel-appearing Ms. Leary is part of this boating group who had been invading people's homes.

Kitty O'Brien

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 3:24 a.m.

Don't tell me that the owner of that jewelry store didn't suspect something amiss when heroin addicts are coming in to pawn jewelry. He didn't think to contact the police. So disappointing. He saw this as an opportunity to sell more jewelry and cash in on stolen goods.

Derek Seeburger

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

I actually know one of these guys and you wouldn't know he was a thief or anything. Very normal looking guy and up until this I thought a very normal acting guy. I was shocked to see all this... he was always nice when I was around him at parties and such. Certainly wouldn't blame the jewelry store owner... I definitely never thought anything bad about him.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

Correction, only one was a heroin addict. get your facts straight before you say something. you dont even know these people and you already judging

music to my ear

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 11:54 p.m.

but even in the past, I would say that these pawn shops know the stuff is stolen and wonder why they do not contact police, but remember they are in the pawn business not police business.

Robert Granville

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Heroin addicts don't wear signs on their forehead indicating that they're hooked. You likely interact with a heroin addicted person every day without knowing it if you shop around Ann Arbor. If not a heroin addict, then a pain pill or coke addict. There are more then you think and most fit right in.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.

RE:"The only thing we've heard is testimony from a self-interested, biased, drug-addled witness," said Steve Tramotin, Jeffrey Arthur Schuh's attorney." –– Actually, we'd better hope that the prosecutor has more than just Mr.Colwell's testimony to connect the other three mrn with these crimes. It doesn't matter what we believe about it, the defense has what the court may think is a reasonable point. I'd hate it if, at the time of verdict, the jury foreman stood and said: "We find the defendants not guilty. Shuh-Shuh Baby." ;-)

Silly Sally

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

How about the ownership of the car seen at the scene? I tbelonged to a different burglar. I doublt that the others kept nothing in their homes. I found the tales quite believable.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

@ Pamela Bethune, re: "Perhaps a bit more clarity is required. Home invasion is different from burglary." You are 100% right about the clarity issue, and in the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, you would be 100% right about the specific language. But this is Michigan, and unfortunately, back in the 90s, some Michigan politicians thought that they could get some "Tough On Crime" creds for re-naming burglary, and breaking and entering, calling those crimes "Home Invasion" instead. Just as with other politician-generated language –– "Death Tax," for instance –– we end up with a lot of confusion and misunderstanding when we simply accept these incorrect terminologies unquestioningly. I have suggested several times that say something like, "They were charged with the crime of "Home Invasion," commonly known as burglary." The last time I did so, emailed me personally to thank me for my suggestion, and say that it would be a "good idea... for future coverage." Then they informed me that they had deleted my comment. Go figure. Ironically, this time the perps actually DID commit what everybody else calls Home Invasion! But they did it accidentally, and left in a hurry as soon as they realized that they had done so.

Silly Sally

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 1:12 a.m.

I agreee completely. Thanks for the history lesson about why this law has such a misleading name. A couple of years ago I read about a black UM football player who was charged with "Home Invasion" and I thought, how awful, throw the book at him. I imagined a gang of men storming into a home, tying up the occupants and doing whatever. This was not the case. All he did was take something out of a dorm room that had the door left open. Once I read that, I was mad. We should call crimes for what they are. These guys did not invade her home. They were burglars who did not want to be in the home when the owner was home. This is safer for all. Once they realized that they miscalculated, they fled asap. would be doing us all a favor if they were to adopt your suggestion.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

SMH....Jared Marks, (recently fled ypsilanti after shooting another man at a party but was later arrested leaving a Lansing hotel) Michael Glenn, (wanted for beating, stabbing, and driving over a young woman several times before fleeing the scene with her car) and Quang Nguyen (B and E, and vandalism.) Three well known individuals of Ypsilanti Twp......21 and under.....smh

Richard Carter

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 5:51 a.m.

B&E = Breaking and Entering. I read it as the defendant, Quang Nguyen, has in the past been charged with that and vandalism.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

what do you mean by "Quang Nguyen (B and E, and vandalism)"


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

Any investigation into the places were stolen items were disposed of? What if any was the involvement of Lewis Jewelry?


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

I agree with some of the other comments. At a quick glance, It looks like the article implies poor Mrs. Leary is the ring leader.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

Burglaries, home invasions, and larcenies to pay for drug use are all rightfully frowned upon. But not flushing the toilet? You have to draw a line in the sand somewhere, like George H.W. Bush or Pizarro before him. Throw away the key.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

I suspect it took some long hours and just a little bit of knowledge to put a case like this together. Any insight on the investigation side of it?

Margaret Leary

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:52 a.m.

I know a fair amount about the investigation and it was awesome. Perhaps someone should interview Lt. Laura Burke who worked with me. Others worked with her, and they were in court. It took hours and hours to gather the knowledge and facts that were needed. Police in van Buren Township were also part of it. The officers spent time interviewing the suspects, the victins, and getting information (or not getting it) from the businesses (not all cooperate; not all who take film keep it; not all who take film take usable pix, etc) where the credit cards were used and other stolen stuff was sold. It is not trivial--it is hard and sometimes dangerous. And then there are the endless hours in court, wiaiing for the case to be heard, explaining to the victims what they need to do. And hours of paperwork. I am positive the Good Guys/Gals put in about 100 times the effort as the suspects. Margaret Leary (not one of the crew!)


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

Not to denigrate the police efforts, but the article says the gang got caught because of bad luck: one homeowner arrived in her driveway during the burglary of her home, and gave the police a "description" (tag number?) of their car.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

"And the Father of the Year Award goes to Jeffrey Arthur Schuh!", said no one ever.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Hey, he involved himself in his son's activities!

Silly Sally

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

It is too bad that our prosecutors did not also require that jr. inform on his drug supplier. Clearly it is not a victimless habit, sense it led him to become a burglar. I do hope that he spends years cleaning toilets, specified in his sentence. When on probation, he should be required to do so at bus terminals and librarys. The courthouse, too. While eating breakfast, I would have preferred some editing of the quote about what was was in the toilet and not flushed. Sometimes, too much detail is not needed. Months back, I doubted that it was just discolored water.

Robert Granville

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

He chose to invade homes and steal. Drugs didn't make him do it. His drug supplier certainly had nothing to do with it. What if his vice was liquor. Would you like the cashier at Kroger to be charged for selling it to him? Your logic board needs a tune-up.

music to my ear

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

miss silly, it could have been a gorie story about blood and grosser stuff .a little poo dont hurt girl.

Momma G

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 12:49 a.m.

He probably has several drug suppliers


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

I agree justcurious. That was also my first thought when I saw the article -- how could this nice-looking lady be part of a crime-spree "crew"!! It's a very misleading combination for the article. But I'm glad Ms. Leary is ok.

Robert Granville

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

I hope you're not under the impressions that criminals look a certain way. The best ones go out of their way to look just like the next upstanding citizen.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

What a horrible thing to wake up to for Mrs. Leary. To know your home was invaded like that while you slept makes it worse than if you had not been there. But when I first saw the headline and her picture I thought, for an instant, that she was one of the "crew". Sorry.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

"Jeff Junior said he took a crap and didn't flush it." So how come the police didn't use DNA matching to nab the perps like they do on TeeVee?

music to my ear

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 11:51 p.m.

and the police man said , diving in the swisher is not on my job descriptive.

Matt Tuck

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

Not sure if you can get DNA from crap but anyways it would have taken the crime lab 6 months to well over a year to get a match. TV is TV and their guns never go empty either

Jane Cooper

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

When did the benign word "crew" come to be used for groups like this? Didn't we call them "gangs" in the past? Not every "gang" is the Crips and the Bloods, after all.

music to my ear

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:28 a.m.

I think that is what they, the robbers called themselves "the crew".


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Hopefully one ugly toad and 3 little tadpoles will get to swim with the sharks @ jackson...hopefully for a long time....

Pamela Bethune

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

Perhaps a bit more clarity is required. Home invasion is different from burglary.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

Maybe 3,500 block Richmond Ct. Ann Arbor or 35,000 block Richmond Dr Ypsilanti? Certainly reveals the "professional" mindset that is required to penetrate the magic security shield raised around bubbletown by our bubblestick art. With the occasional assistance of our barely-funded police and fire departments of course. Good thing they didn't discover the street value of bubble art, they could have really cleaned out this town.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 10:56 a.m.

Just my kooki sarcasm. City Council spent $100k on ugly City Hall art instead of police. Expecting the art to protect and serve instead perhaps. The thieves are not so bright but were able to invade many homes. The art "shield" obviously did not work but if the thieves were as art-informed as our politicians they could have taken the art too and pawned it for the big league bucks!


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

What? Huh?!


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

After reading the headline, I was under the impression that some nefarious rowers were up to no good.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

I thought the same thing!


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

I had the same thought.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

On some remote level I understand but certainly do not condone stealing to feel an addiction. But the unnecessary destruction shows a level of viciousness and lack of conscience that should be taken into account when sentencing. I'm just thankful that they left Ms. Leary alone. Is this also the group that targeted houses NEXT TO houses that were for sale, too? There were a rash of such break-ups in the areas that were discussed above.

Cendra Lynn

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 5:39 a.m.

Level of viciousness and lack of conscience kind of goes with being high. It's not something's part of.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

This is a good writeup. Now we also know it was Scumbag, Jr. was who was defecating and not flushing in the toilets. Hope he likes unflushed toilets....IN JAIL!


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

$50 a day of heroin? Wat? That was a problem? That's nothing.....I know tons of people who smoke that much weed a day...... Bro........junkies need HUNDREDS of dollars worth of that garbage a day.....but it looks like that might have been where he was headed.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

I think any amount of heroin, if you're doing it every day, is a problem. I would also say that people who smoke 50$ of weed a day have a problem. Ask either of those people to quit for just one day and they won't be happy about it.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

Reminds me of Fagan and his boys


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

"you've got to pick a pocket or two, boys...."


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 11:24 a.m.

Something seems to be horribly wrong out Dexter way lately

music to my ear

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

do you mean the break ins,or the heroin use which is in deed out of control in washtenaw area.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Your comment makes absolutely no sense.