Burglary ring suspected in thefts
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

May 6, 2005 - Hopkins County Sheriff's officers are coordinating their investigation into two business burglaries early Wednesday morning with auto theft task force officers after the discovery of a stolen vehicle in south Dallas, according to chief investigator Andy Chester.

Deputies were first called to APAC, formerly Buster Paving, on Interstate 30 west of Sulphur Springs when employees found a lock had been cut and a pickup and trailer missing.

"They discovered a four-door Ford one-ton pickup and a 30-foot trailer - a car hauler - missing," Chester said. "The thieves had attempted to steal another pickup. The ignition had been popped and it was left running at the gate."

A quantity of tools were also taken after another trailer was broken into.

While officers were completing the investigation they were notified of another burglary next door at Ag Pro.

"They had some four-wheelers missing," Chester said. "We found the chain-link fence that separates Ag Pro and APAC had been cut, and it looked like a highway from the four-wheeler tracks."

Investigators said it appeared an attempt was made to steal another truck at the second burglary, but the thieves were unable to get the truck started.

"They took nine four-wheelers," he said. "It looked like they used what we call a 'Mule' to drag the four-wheelers up a two-foot retaining wall in an enclosed area inside the building. It looks like they used a chain to pull them up the aisle, between the seats in the auction area, then just drug them with a chain through the fence and loaded them into the stolen trailer."

A short time after the thefts were reported and information about the thefts was sent to area law enforcement agencies, Dallas police found the stolen truck and trailer in south Dallas.

"It was in a 30-foot ravine the truck and trailer had been driven off of or pushed off," Chester said. "No one was around, and all the four-wheelers were missing, but the vehicle was still running and the radio was still on."

The two Wednesday morning burglaries were similar to and possibly related to a number of burglaries in the area employing the same general method of operation. Last week, a burglary was reported in the Greenville area where a truck and trailer was stolen from one business and four-wheelers were stolen from a nearby business.

Hopkins County investigators are working with the East Texas Motor Vehicle Task Force as well as other counties in trying to crack the apparent burglary ring.

The burglary operation, according to the investigators, seems to be well organized, very thorough and work very fast.

Chester said the task force was able to provide the names of some possible suspects

"They came over yesterday afternoon with names and some photographs," Chester said Thursday. "They look like good suspects - at least they have done [similar burglaries] in the past. And, we've got some more local suspects we are just looking into."

The investigator asked that anyone who may have seen any activity around APAC or Ag Pro between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning to contact the sheriff's office by calling 903-438-4040.

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