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updated: 7/8/2011 7:11 PM

Former homeless man gets probation in theft from benefactor

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A formerly homeless man who stole diamond rings from a Beach Park woman who gave him a place to live pleaded guilty to theft Friday in Lake County Circuit Court.

Brian Richards, 25, also pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon for possessing a shotgun without a state Firearms Owner's Identification Card.

Assistant State's Attorney Tim Niehus said the 64-year-old victim, who knew Richards through her daughter, allowed Richards to move into her house early this year.

On March 23, Niehus said, the woman noticed two of her diamond rings were missing from the house. She called Lake County sheriff's police, who canvassed local pawn shops until they found the rings.

Records kept by the pawn shops showed the rings, one worth $200 and the other worth $2,000, had been sold by Richards.

When deputies went to arrest Richards, Niehus said, they found a 12-gauge shotgun and ammunition in the room he occupied in the woman's house.

Circuit Judge James Booras accepted both guilty pleas and sentenced him to two years on probation.

Niehus said Richards could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison if convicted of both crimes after a trial.