Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee and Detective Thomas “T.J.” Hargrove discuss the solving of a major theft case that has led to three arrests and may lead to additional ones before the case is actually closed. Thus far, the investigation spearheaded by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, has led to the solving of several major theft cases in Milledgeville and Baldwin County, as well as six other counties across the state.
Billy Hobbs Sep 13, 2017
An investigation into a major theft ring involving big trucks, trailers and assorted construction equipment valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars has been solved with the recovery of items and the arrests of three men.
The case, spearheaded by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, is likely to lead to additional arrests, according to Sheriff Bill Massee.
The case has been linked to nine other counties across Georgia where similar items have been stolen in recent weeks from construction sites, said Baldwin County Sheriff’s Detective Thomas “T.J.” Hargrove.
The theft ring, which is believed to have been led by a man now jailed in Baldwin County, could lead to racketeering charges being filed against the suspects already in custody and those yet to be arrested, Massee said.
Regardless of jurisdiction, if and when federal RICO charges are actually filed against the suspects and others expected to be arrested in the case, the entire case would then be prosecuted in Baldwin County.
Already Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley is looking at the possibility of filing such charges against the trio of suspects now jailed in the Baldwin County Law Enforcement Center. Assistant District Attorneys Leonard D. Myers and Dawn Baskin also are involved in reviewing the case to determine if the suspects will be charged under the RICO Act.
“We’ve already discussed the idea of seeking RICO charges against the men we have in custody and others that will likely be arrested in this case,” said Hargrove, who is the lead detective in the case. “In a RICO case, you have to prove two elements. You have to prove conspiracy and you have to prove (criminal) enterprise.”
Several law enforcement agencies are involved in the case after Hargrove informed them of the magnitude and scope of the theft and that it involved numerous suspects.
One such agency is the Byron Police Department in Houston County.
“A cargo load of Kubota tractors, known as UTVs, were stolen to the tune of about $50,000,” Hargrove said. “They were brought to Baldwin County where they stayed for about 15 minutes. They stayed at 359 Allen Memorial Drive before the load was taken to Hancock County and unloaded and the truck and trailer discarded there.”
Authorities still have not determined where the stolen tractors ended up.
None of them have been recovered, Massee said.
“What we’re doing in the interim of waiting on the RICO idea to play out is we are having these various jurisdictions who will do it to go ahead and take charges in their jurisdictions,” Hargrove said.
Hargrove identified the three suspects as: Jamaul Kenneth Evans, of Harrisburg Road, Lot 4-A, Milledgeville; Marcus Curtis, 29, of Huff Road, Apt. 2421, Atlanta; and Garrick Lashawn Dixon, of Brisco Road, Gordon.
Massee said Dixon lives in Baldwin County but has a Gordon mailing address.
Evans, whom authorities believe was one of the masterminds of the major theft ring, was taken into custody for felony probation violation, two counts of felony cargo theft, and one count of felony theft by receiving stolen property.
Dixon was charged with two counts of felony cargo theft, and one felony count of theft by receiving stolen property.
Curtis, who formerly lived in Milledgeville before moving to Atlanta, was charged with one felony count of theft by receiving stolen property.
Additional criminal charges are expected to be filed against all three of those men, Hargrove said, noting Curtis was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant at his Atlanta residence last Thursday afternoon by the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
Hargrove said he was in process of obtaining additional warrants against the three suspects.
“What we’ve done currently is arrest them on what we can prove happened in Baldwin County,” Hargrove said.
The detective explained that those involved in the theft ring are not interested in actually keeping the semi-trucks or trailers they steal.
“They don’t have any interest in those items,” Hargrove said. “That is merely to transport the property. They want the merchandise. They are after the load. They like construction-type of equipment.”
Authorities said they have learned the individual roles played by those they believe responsible for the crimes.
Aside from the case in Byron, another theft case happened Aug. 30 in Macon-Bibb County.
“This is the most recent theft of a truck,” Hargrove said. “This is the one that was encountered on Harrisburg Road in Baldwin County.”
Local deputies already had been made aware of the thefts and were on the lookout for the possibility of stolen tractor-trailers with cargo.
Deputy Joshua Holcomb spotted what he believed to be a suspicious semi-tractor truck recently traveling along Harrisburg Road. The deputy turned around on the truck, but by the time he found the truck behind Martin’s IGA, the driver had managed to escape. A search for the suspect was conducted by deputies, a K-9 officer and tracking dog, but authorities didn’t catch the man driving the truck, which turned out to have been stolen.
The Sterling Industrial truck was stolen Aug. 28 on Baxter Avenue in Macon and recovered in Baldwin County.
The truck was valued at $50,000.
Another semi-tractor truck, a Freightliner, which had been stolen from Lamar County, was recovered in Baldwin County Aug. 16.
The truck was discovered behind the Collins P. Lee Community Center in the Harrisburg neighborhood.
“I knew that they liked two places here in the county, Martin’s IGA and the Harrisburg area,” Hargrove said. “I asked deputies when they had time to please check those two places.”
Deputy Benjamin Forbus recovered the stolen truck after its owner called the sheriff’s office to inform them that the truck’s GPS tracking system was showing that it was parked at the community center in Baldwin County.
“That truck was actually found on the same night it was stolen,” Hargrove said.
Deputy Lt. Lee Williamson recovered a stolen semi-tractor truck behind Martin’s IGA July 25, which is what led to the unfolding of the major theft investigation.
It began with the theft of two Bobcats within the city limits of Milledgeville.
“They thought kids were doing it, because they found one in a wooded area right behind from where it was taken,” Hargrove said. “What they (police officers) didn’t realize and what I didn’t realize is that these guys would take this stuff and dump it off in the woods in a desolate area and then come back later and pick it up. They wanted to make sure the GPS wasn’t enabled on it and they wanted to make sure nobody was looking for it.”
Once they discovered no one was coming for the stolen items, those believed involved in the crime spree went back and retrieved the items and then took them to Atlanta where they were sold to a person described as a “fence.”
Hargrove said when it got deeper into the case, he was advised to call for assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Major Theft Unit. GBI Special Agent Cecil Hutchins from the Conyers office rendered his assistance in the case.
The detective said he has also been assisted in the case by detectives Greg See, Chris Youngblood and Chris Burrell.
“We’re still trying to figure out what these three suspects are actually responsible for as far as thefts are concerned, as well as other people that are involved, but who have not yet been arrested,” Hargrove said.
Massee said what is unknown to authorities at this time is how many thefts happened that they haven’t or can’t document.
“We don’t know what the true volume is as far as number of theft cases is concerned,” Massee said. “The volume of stolen equipment and the dollar value that T.J. [Hargrove] has proven is a tremendous cost to property owners — these people who own these pieces of heavy equipment. What we don’t know is how many more pieces of equipment they stole that we haven’t documented yet.”
That’s why the case remains an active investigation, the sheriff pointed out.
“At this point in time, it literally covers from Milledgeville to Atlanta and to Crawford County,” Massee said.
Anyone with information about such thefts is asked to call the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 478-445-5102.
By WMCActionNews5.com Staff
By Jerry Askin
OLIVE BRANCH, MS (WMC) -Sixty-seven guns were stolen outside a sporting goods store in Olive Branch.
The guns were in a trailer parked at Academy Sports on Goodman Road. The trailer's driver arrived at around 10 p.m. He was set to deliver the contents of the trailer to the store at 6 a.m. the next day.
Police said the truck driver went to sleep behind the store Sunday night; when he woke up, the guns and ammo were gone.
"We don't want to see these guns in the hands of young people or criminals at all," Olive Branch Police Chief Don Gammage said. "I'm so afraid they're going to make it out to the black market."
The guns taken were a mixture of handguns and long guns. Olive Branch Police Department said 61 of the 67 guns were handguns. Two of the guns are AR 15s. Two other guns were shotguns. Investigators did not release the type of guns for the final two.
"It is very scary thing to think about," Olive Branch resident Laura Molner said. "For people who live here, who live in Memphis, it's terrifying."
Olive Branch residents said it is not something they are used to hearing about in their city.
"You're safe where you're at," Molner said. "You don't hear things here. It's more like cities around us. Then, all of a sudden, it's been brought into our city."
But others said crime is everywhere, including Olive Branch.
One business owner said he has experienced thieves trying to break into his store more than once.
"It's unusual to hear something like that in Olive Branch," Terry McMullin, jewelry store owner, said.
McMullin owns Master Jewelers, located across the street from Academy Sports.
"We've had our problems in Olive Branch as well," McMullin said. "So crime is everywhere."
Molner and McMullin both are concerned their city is now more dangerous, because those guns could be in the hands of criminals.
"It's something that's concerning to me," McMullin said. "It's something that leads to increased crime. Not feeling safe in the community."
"It's scary. As someone who lives in Olive Branch, it's really scary to think that it could get into the wrong hands," Molner said.
Gammage said the driver of the Knoxville-based trucking company has been questioned and is cooperating. As for the possibility of it being an inside job?
"We do not feel like this was random, I will say that," Gammage said.
Gammage said investigators have all the serial numbers and model numbers to the missing weapons. He's asking for the public's help in obtaining as much information as possible in order to find the stolen guns and the person(s) responsible.
"Firearms have always been liquid in the criminal world because they're easy to get rid of and they're not disposing of them through legal channels," Jeff Duncan, Gun Exchange of Olive Branch, said.
"If you think you saw something, please call us," Gammage said.
Academy Sports and Outdoors opened approximately two years ago in Olive Branch. A spokesperson for the company said the company is working with police.
The Knoxville-based trucking company that owned the trailer declined to comment on the situation.
Investigators are currently going through video surveillance hoping to track down the person(s) responsible. They're also working alongside the ATF and nearby law enforcement agencies.
Gammage said in March another trailer was broken into and, according to the crime tracker, that burglary happened at Academy Sports near Wolfchase.
"We don't know if they are connected at this point," Gammage said. "We are definitely working to see if they are connected."
By James Jaillet
The Transportation Security Administration has issued an internal report warning of the potential for terrorists to use trucks as weapons to conduct attacks. TSA also released a list of countermeasures, mostly involving awareness of surroundings and reporting suspicious activity, that truck owners and operators should heed to help prevent such attacks from occurring.
Though none have occurred in the U.S., high-profile truck-ramming attacks have been carried out elsewhere, including a July 2016 attack in Nice, France, that killed 87 people and injured 430, and a similar attack in December 2016 in Berlin, Germany, in which 12 people were killed and 56 were injured. The TSA report cites these and 15 other vehicle-ramming attacks, 10 of which occurred in the past 10 months. The straight truck used in the Nice attack was rented, but the truck and trailer used by terrorists in the Berlin attack was hijacked and driven to Berlin by the assailant. The trucker was murdered by the attacker during the hijacking.
Carriers and drivers should maintain “a high level of alertness,” the report says, and should report suspicious activity to authorities and, in the case of drivers, to their carrier. Other countermeasures for carriers and drivers include parking in secure locations, ensuring vehicles are locked, refusing rides for hitchhikers and other strangers and, for carriers, ensuring route compliance of drivers.
Truck used in Berlin attack was hijacked, trucking company boss saysThe Scania tractor-trailer used in the deadly terror attack in Berlin, Germany, on Monday was hijacked, according to a report from Britain's The Independent, citing ...
“Commercial vehicle owners and operators should alert their staff to possible theft or hijacking of vehicles by would-be attackers and the importance of reporting suspicious activities to appropriate authorities,” the report says.
Dubbed “Vehicle Ramming: Threat Landscape, Indicators and Countermeasures,” the memo was issued to Homeland Security staffers, law enforcement agencies and others this week. The seven-page internal memo, marked unclassified, was obtained by Overdrive Friday.
“Terrorist organizations overseas have advocated conducting vehicle ramming attacks…against crowds, buildings and other vehicles. It is likely that terrorist groups will continue to encourage aspiring attackers to employ unsophisticated attacks such as vehicle-ramming, since these types of attacks minimize the potential for premature detection and could inflict mass fatalities, if successful,” according to the report.
Trucks in particular “present an especially attractive mechanism for ramming attacks,” the report says, “because of the ease with which they can penetrate security barriers and the large-scale damage they can inflict on people and infrastructure.”
— David Hollis contributed to this report.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE - CCJ
Cargo theft is one of the most lucrative criminal activities in Canada, but it rarely makes headlines. And yet it’s costing consumers and the economy an estimated $5 billion a year.
“A decade or so ago, it was probably a more opportunistic crime,” David Bradley of the Ontario Trucking Association told W5. “But what I think has occurred is that organized crime syndicates have seen that it’s relatively low risk, high reward, and there seems to be a market for just about anything somewhere in the world.”
Stolen cargo - the stuff loaded in trailers and hooked onto trucks - can range from high priced electronics, cars and booze to everyday products like cheese, candy, toilet paper and household detergents.
Stolen cargo can range from high priced electronics, cars and booze to everyday products like cheese, candy, toilet paper and household detergents (W5).
Unsecured truck storage yards are tempting targets for thieves (W5)
David Bradley of the Ontario Trucking Association tells W5 organized crime syndicates are taking advantage of the growing transportation industry.
Once thieves get their hands on a load, selling it is easy. Organized crime groups know who is in the market for a particular product and often have buyers lined up, or the goods are sold off piecemeal to corner stores and flea markets. Some buyers have no idea they’re paying for a stolen product, while others don’t ask questions.
“There’s a lot of willful blindness,” said Detective Sergeant Paul LaSalle, the head of the Auto Cargo Theft Unit at York Regional Police, one of just two specialized teams in the country.
If selling the stolen goods is easy, stealing them in the first place is even easier.
“The transportation industry is growing really quickly,” said Mike Grabovica, the owner of Birdseye, a company that sells security systems. “So carriers are looking for additional yards to supplement their increased inflow of business and these additional yards tend to be highly unsecured.”
Those unsecured yards are tempting targets for thieves. Even facilities with security cameras are easy to penetrate. Grabovica took W5 to three truck storage yards in the Toronto area. We passed through open gates without challenge, hung around in plain view and checked to see if trailers were loaded.
Standing in the middle of one yard, Grabovica said, “We’re knocking on trucks. We’re trying to open doors. I mean, if this isn’t acting suspiciously, I don’t know what is.”
It would not have taken long to hot wire a truck and steal a load of cargo. But we were never challenged.
Small wonder the number of cargo thefts is growing. In 2014, The Insurance of Bureau of Canada handled around 200 reports. This year, the number has doubled to more than 400, primarily in Southern Ontario. That’s more than one a day.
Right now, Peel and York Regional Police are the only two forces in Canada with specialized cargo theft units. That’s partly because the Greater Toronto Area is a transportation hub and there are more trucks and cargo to steal. At one recent raid, York Regional Police recovered a truckload of stolen candy worth more than $200,000. Two suspects were arrested, but if they’re convicted, the chances of a stiff sentence are small.
“The people that are involved in various crimes get suspended sentences or they get off because they haven’t been caught before,” said David Bradley. “I think most people would feel that the penalties aren’t sufficient to really act as a deterrent.”
But it’s about to become more difficult for thieves. Working with trucking associations and law enforcement, the Insurance Bureau of Canada has developed the National Cargo Theft Reporting Program to keep track of cargo theft across the country. It’s just beginning to operate, but already it’s making a difference.
“We’re seeing the recovery numbers change drastically because we are getting hits on the database,” said Garry Robertson of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “The police are finding the property now and we are able to get it back and get it to the insurer, trucking company or whoever is the owner.”
The data base will make it easier to track down thieves and bring them to justice, but despite improved detection techniques cargo theft isn’t about to disappear. Standing beside a board with a list of 25 current investigations, Detective Sergeant Paul LaSalle laughed when asked if there was any chance he’d ever go out of business. “No,” he answered. “It’s just too profitable for the thieves.”
VIDEO LINK- www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=759076
FreightWatch International recorded a total of 193 cargo thefts in 2016’s third quarter, according to its quarterly theft report issued last week. The cargo theft monitoring firm pegged the average loss value of cargo theft instances in the quarter at $120,536 each in the third quarter of the year.
Compared to the 2016’s second quarter, theft occurrences rose 14 percent, but average loss value fell 26 percent. Compared to 2015’s third quarter, cargo theft incidents were up 7 percent, while values rose 38 percent.
During the third quarter, FreightWatch recorded 77 cargo thefts in July, 66 in August and 50 in September.
Electronics and home and garden were the most-stolen items in the quarter, each accounting for 18 percent of cargo thefts during the period, according to FWI. Food and drinks accounted for 17 percent of stolen items. In electronics, televisions and displays accounted for 31 percent of the thefts. In home and garden loads, appliances were most stolen. Meats and produce each accounted for 18 percent on the food and drinks items stolen.
Home and garden items saw the most dramatic increase in thefts when compared year-over-year with a 94 percent increase from 2015’s third quarter. Electronics thefts rose by 46 percent year-over-year.
California ranked as the top state in FWI’s numbers with 38 percent of total thefts in the quarter, followed by Texas with 16 percent of the total. Of the 193 thefts in the quarter, 75 percent of them occurred in unsecured parking locations, FreightWatch says. Secured parking locations accounted for 13 percent of thefts, and warehouse and distribution centers represented 11 percent of the thefts.
Additionally, FWI says theft of full truckload was most prevalent with 78 percent of third quarter thefts.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In 2015, the CargoNet® Command Center received and logged more than 1,500 incidents of cargo theft, heavy commercial vehicle theft, and identity theft of trucking companies in the United States and Canada. 881 incidents involved theft of cargo. CargoNet received a loss value on 53% of reported cargo thefts. $98 million in cargo was stolen in those 470 thefts. The average cargo theft loss value per incident was $187,490. If combined with the known loss value, we can estimate the value of stolen cargo in all 881 incidents to be $175,303,399. CargoNet recorded 10 cargo thefts worth more than $1 million this year.
California reported the most cargo thefts of any state or province. CargoNet recorded 158 theft incidents with a total loss value of $18.7 million. Texas was close behind with 130 recorded theft incidents and $12.2 million in cargo stolen. Texas was followed by Florida (98 thefts), Georgia (97 thefts), and New Jersey (80 thefts).
It’s important to note that some states had noticeable increases or decreases in cargo theft from quarter to quarter. New Jersey is a good example of this. CargoNet had recorded 34 thefts in first-quarter 2015 for New Jersey, but by fourth-quarter 2015 the number had dropped to just 12 thefts. In contrast, thefts have increased in Tennessee each quarter.
In 2015 49% of reported cargo theft incidents occurred between Friday and Sunday. Friday was the most common day for cargo theft: 21% of all cargo theft occured on Friday. Cargo theft also spiked briefly on Monday (16% of all cargo theft incidents). We took a closer look at our data, and it seems cargo theft groups prefer to steal Monday evening into Tuesday morning more than Sunday night into Monday morning. Wednesday was the least common day. Only 9% of cargo thefts occurred on a Wednesday.
Food and beverage items were again the most stolen commodity. Of the cargo theft incidents that CargoNet received, 28% involved theft of food and beverage cargo. This was significantly more than the next highest categories, electronics and household, each of which accounted for 13% of stolen items.
CargoNet is a division of Verisk Crime Analytics, a Verisk Analytics (Nasdaq:VRSK) business.
Today's Trucking Staff
TORONTO, ON — In security circles, the Greater Toronto Area has come to be known as the “shopping triangle” for cargo thieves who continue to wreak havoc on the Canadian trucking industry to the tune of $5 billion per year, snapping up everything from electronics to metals, by any means necessary.
Canada’s cargo theft crisis continues to escalate, with reports to the Insurance Bureau of Canada doubling to 400 over 2015 alone, primarily in southern Ontario. As Canada’s most targeted area, the shopping triangle is a geographical region that’s not only on organized crime’s radar, but the radar of security experts like Ron Hartman, too, who’s working to empower trucking companies through a long list of modern prevention measures.
“We all know it’s a lot easier to prevent a crime than solve it,” says Hartman, speaking at a Wednesday seminar hosted by the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada. “You must think like a criminal.”
Hartman is director of security solutions for AFIMAC Global, which specializes in cargo theft prevention. While the old school criminal methods of hijacking cargo are alive and well, Hartman says technology has allowed for more criminals to operate from behind the safety of a desk, utilizing online information and applications to find new ways to infiltrate the system, and of course, precious cargo.
One of the more recent cargo theft phenomenon is dubbed fraudulent pickups. Essentially, criminals setup an entirely fictitious trucking company online, and then use it to prey on shippers who don’t do their homework, failing to screen and verify data. The criminals troll load boards and make a deal.
“Then that load gets picked up and never delivered,” says Hartman.
Hartman describes the cargo theft business as “low risk, low penalty, high reward.” In fact, theft is so pervasive that he estimates as much as 60 per cent of these crimes go unreported, mostly out of fear over rising insurance premiums, or corporate image. Of course, nobody likes to admit they’re a victim.
Once criminals have secured their stolen goods, Hartman says they tend to break down the shipment into smaller quantities, repackage, then export it.
“For those with an untrained eye, it looks like the normal course of business,” adds Hartman.
When it comes to what exactly thieves are stealing, the answer is anything and everything. Recent Canadian heists involved T-Shirts and a shipment of silver, but electronics continue to lead the way, Hartman says, representing about 18 per cent of cargo thefts. Items like beverages and auto parts both represent 10 per cent of thefts.
In 2014, in an attempt to put a stop to cargo theft crime nationwide, theInsurance Bureau of Canada andCanadian Trucking Alliance teamed up and expanded their joint IBC-CTA reporting form into a national reporting program.