Warsaw man charged in multi-county theft ring
By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 19, 2006 1:49 PM
KENANSVILLE — A Warsaw man has been charged in connection with a multi-county theft ring area law enforcement officials say took orders from “customers” and then stole high-priced equipment to fill those requests.
At a press conference Monday, sheriff’s offices in Wayne, Duplin, Sampson, Lenoir and Pender counties announced the arrest of Kevin James Smith, 28.
Smith is being held under a $155,000 bond following a joint investigation by detectives in all five counties. He will be in court Oct. 20 in Kenansville to answer charges in the case, which investigators say is continuing and could lead to more arrests.
Smith will face charges of two counts each of larceny, possession of stolen goods, first degree trespass, attempted larceny and injury to real property and one count of breaking and entering, stemming from an investigation into break-ins in June, August and September at Kenansville Equipment Co., Kenansville Tractor Supply, Duff’s Hardware near Wallace, Quality Farm Equipment in Clinton and Musgrave Auction in Goldsboro.
Investigators seized 12 riding lawnmowers, a four-wheeler, a pickup truck and a 28-foot gooseneck trailer, all valued at more than $100,000.
Wayne has had its share of lawnmowers stolen in the past several months, Sheriff Carey Winders said.
There was a storm the night the ring hit Goldsboro.
“The alarm went off at Musgrave’s and the deputy went out to check any way,” Winders said. “He found the gate cut, and he saw tracks.”
Winders said the dogs were brought in, but the investigators didn’t catch the thieves, who allegedly ran down the road to another business and stole a truck. The keys were inside, and the thieves got away.
The equipment was later recovered in Duplin.
Winders attributed the arrest to quick work on the part of the detectives who had the man under surveillance and finally made the arrest at a business in the Warsaw area.
Duplin Sheriff Blake Wallace said the sheriffs exchanged information about the rash of break-ins. The five detectives still didn’t have any concrete information in August when another break-in occurred, but they continued their efforts.
“We developed a suspect, but he hit our county again on Sept. 9 before we could develop enough probable cause to charge him,” Wallace said.
He said the break-ins were similar to others that occurred in Pender County in 2004.
Lenoir County Sheriff Billy Smith had dealings with the same man. When the Double D in Pink Hill was broken into, he said, it was the first time since three years earlier, when the same man went to prison under similar charges.
“He’s a very professional individual,” Smith said. “If anybody has purchased a mower very cheaply from this individual, we’d like you to come forward.”
Sampson Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said the sheriffs had to work together because the theft ring went from county to county breaking into businesses.
Sampson Detective Sgt. Ricky Mattocks said his investigators have also charged a man who allegedly placed an order for one of the mowers. Robert Nunnery, 63, of Roseboro, was charged with receiving stolen property. His bond was set at $5,000 pending a Sept. 22 court appearance.
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