A man has confessed to his involvement with a suspected burglary gang responsible for a series of costly raids on Geelong businesses.

Stephen Zorkau was described on Monday as a lesser player in a scheme that is believed to have netted the group half a million dollars’ worth of stolen property.

The 29-year-old pleaded guilty in Geelong Magistrates’ Court to charges of burglary, theft, attempted burglary and theft of a motor vehicle.

Prosecutor Matthew Senia said Zorkau was one of four alleged members of the group that committed a series of planned and organised commercial burglaries between October and December 2019.

“The group was acting together as a criminal enterprise,” Mr Senia said.

The court heard that while the alleged gang was active for 2½ months, Zorkau’s offending was confined to one week in December.

The most serious incident involved a break-in at an Ocean Grove service station where $20,000 worth of cigarettes were stolen.

Mr Senia said Zorkau and two others used crowbars and various tools during the burglary that took place about 2.10am on December 13.

The break-in came five days after Zorkau attended the service station to plan his crime.

A series of telephone messages intercepted by police revealed Zorkau telling one of his alleged accomplices that the service station would be an “easy” target.

“It was only a small smoke cabinet, but it would’ve been easy I reckon,” he said in one message before the raid.

The court heard the intercepts also caught Zorkau discussing where to store an SUV that was stolen from a Corio home.

The stolen vehicle was used to drive the offenders to the Ocean Grove burglary, before it was found burnt out in Fyansford later that day.

Zorkau has been in custody since his arrest during a dawn raid on his home on December 19.

Defence lawyer Stephanie Mawby said her client’s crimes were discernible from the three other men who had been charged. But magistrate Peter Mellas said Zorkau was “more than just a fringe player”.

He said Zorkau had showed a preparedness to “offer up his services” to the group by providing a stolen car and nominating burglary targets.

“There’s a high level of criminality involved,” Mr Mellas said.

Mr Mellas refused Zorkau’s application to have the case finalised in the Magistrates’ Court. The matter was instead uplifted to the County Court, where a plea hearing is scheduled for next month.

Rhys Humm, 30, Daniel Vautier, 35, and Dimitri Tsatsaronis, 29, have also been charged over the burglaries and are due to face court again in November.

Extracted in full from: https://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts/north-geelong-man-stephen-zorkau-admits-role-in-local-burglary-and-thefts/news-story/6147a73ff28f47ddb9bc37d664c0535c