SCU tip leads to $145,000 in stolen machinery

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram Crime Reporter

Jan. 27, 2008 - Sheriff's officers and an area auto task force recovered about $150,000 worth of stolen farm and construction equipment from two Hopkins County locations.

Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Special Crimes Unit Sgt. Investigator Tony Crouse is credited with the initial discovery which resulted in the recoveries late Friday evening.

Crouse turned up information about potentially stolen farm equipment while working on an unrelated matter. He passed along the tip to Hopkins County Sheriff's Investigators Andy Chester, Jace Anglin and Lewis Tatum. The investigators began working the case Friday morning, calling in Northeast Texas Auto Task Force Investigator Jeremy Massey.

The inquiry led investigators to a muddy pasture on County Road 3528, where they found a new John Deere tractor, a Case back-hoe and a 28-foot flatbed trailer loaded down with materials to construct a shop building. A records check confirmed that the $105,500 worth of machinery had all been listed in a missing vehicle database as having been stolen out of Tulsa, Okla., over the course of the last two years. At that point, the officers, accompanied by Sheriff Butch Adams, recovered the tractor, valued at between $28,000 and $30,000; the back-hoe, valued at $70,000; and the trailer, valued at approximately $7,500 from the pasture.

The material to build a metal shop building is thought to legitimately belong to the owner of the property where the equipment was found.

Further investigation pointed to a suspect. Continued checks of the suspect's activities led the investigation to a County Road 1170 building, where a $40,000 Caterpillar skid steer loader, listed as having been stolen in Broken Arrow, Okla., in June 2006, was located. That, too, was seized by law enforcement officers just before dark Friday.

Although the suspect in the thefts has not been arrested, authorities said they are continuing to work the case and compile evidence, and plan to seek a warrant the first of next week.

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