Police chase in Polk County results in bust of farm equipment theft ring

Published 3:23 pm Friday, October 2, 2009

The suspect was driving a stolen truck and hauling this farm equipment on a trailer when he was arrested Tuesday morning, officials say. (photo by Leah Justice)The man was caught with a stolen truck from Lincoln County, N.C., pulling a trailer with a Club Cadet piece of farm equipment.

The suspect&squo;s name is not yet being released, but he is from Spartanburg County. He is suspected of being one of the top ring leaders of thefts of farm equipment, in Polk County and elsewhere, according to Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill and Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright. Officials estimate the value of the stolen equipment at approximately $400,000.

Hill and Wright held a joint press conference yesterday morning about the arrest.

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The chase began with Spartanburg County officers following the suspect into Polk County yesterday morning. Polk officers joined in the chase once it entered Polk County. The suspect got onto U.S. 74 in Columbus and then began going up I-26. He took the Saluda exit, turned right, then took a dead end road. He then got out and ran on foot, after which officers quickly apprehended him.

Sheriff Hill said expensive farm equipment has been stolen from Polk, Spartanburg, Rutherford, Greenville and possibly Cherokee counties in South Carolina. He said a joint operation with other counties has been ongoing for about a month. The working relationship between the counties made possible the undercover operation that resulted in the arrest.

&dquo;Everybody came together and worked very hard,&dquo; said Sheriff Wright. &dquo;Some of these farmers who have $60,000 worth of equipment, that is their livelihood.&dquo;

&dquo;There&squo;s been lots of over-time in every department and we&squo;re proud of these guys,&dquo; Wright said.

Wright said there&squo;s no way to tell at this point how many items have been stolen. He also said he doesn&squo;t believe in probation for these types of crimes and hopes a judge is listening. He said he believes the chain gang needs to be used in the United States.

Wright described the theft ring as &dquo;spot and steal,&dquo; as orders were taken for certain equipment. Wright also urged the public to call authorities if they see someone who has a piece of farm equipment too expensive for them to afford or if they know of someone who got a piece of equipment for cheap. Some of the equipment, which was being sold in Georgia, was recovered by the Polk Sheriff&squo;s Office recently.

More suspects are expected to be arrested as the investigation continues, the sheriffs said. The current suspect will face charges such as fleeing to elude arrest and possession of stolen goods.