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Silver theft suspects caught
Viracon employee, wife face felony charges
Cheryl Hilton
    Bulloch County Sheriff's investigators arrested a man and his wife Wednesday for the theft of more than $100,000 worth of silver from a local glass fabricator.
    Ronnie Hilton, 53, and his wife Cheryl Lynn Hilton 32, of a Pike Road address, were each taken into custody Wednesday — he after he ended his shift at 7 a.m. at Viracon, a glass plant located off Highway 301 South in the Gateway Industrial Park, south of Statesboro.   
    Cheryl Hilton was arrested a short time later, said Bulloch County Sheriff's Chief Inv. Capt. Todd Hutchens.
    Viracon officials reported the theft of several silver bars in June.  The silver is used, along with other metals, to create a coating on some glass products, according to Viracon Vice President of Operations Patrick McDermott.
    Energy is applied to the metals in a process that causes the metals to vaporize and bond with the glass surface, creating a coating that is attractive to the eye, and helps keep heat out of a building, he said.
    Incident reports listed the bars as pure silver, about 14 inches long, 10 inches wide and about 2 1/2 inches thick. They were kept in a "secure lock box" when not in use, reports stated.  
    But the bars were not the only silver stolen, Hutchens said Wednesday. According to evidence discovered during investigations, Hilton, who has worked for Viracon since its opening 10 years ago, is suspected of taking silver "condensate" — flakes of silver left over from the process — since 2008, he said.
    While the bars were valued at around $24,000, the total of the silver stolen is estimated at $100,000, he said.
    Hutchens traveled to North Carolina earlier this week and worked with authorities there to locate a precious metals dealer who was purchasing the silver from Hilton, he said. The Hiltons located the dealer through the Internet.
    Ronnie Hilton was charged with felony theft by taking and is being held without bond in the Bulloch County Jail. Cheryl Hilton, who was previously employed at Viracon for a period of about three years, is charged with party to the crime of felony theft by taking, Hutchens said.
    Cheryl Hilton was released Wednesday on a $10,000 bond, according to jail records.    
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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