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Suspected truck thieves caught
Apr 03, 2006 12:00 am
At least two individuals Lebanon police suspected of being key operators in the string of truck and trailer thefts plaguing parts of the city for more than a year were arrested last week in Georgia for similar activity.
The Pike County (Ga.) Sheriff's Office arrested four men last Tuesday after an investigation connected them to a recent theft of two truckloads of 10 John Deere tractors with values of $50,000 a piece.
The four Georgia men arrested and charged with theft by receiving stolen property were Robert H. Vaughn, Benjamin P. Harris, Jerry Vaughn and Elgin Morgan. Robert H. Vaughn, however, is facing eight counts of theft while the remaining three are facing a single count of theft.
Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen said his department's ongoing investigation linked Harris and Robert Vaughn to a number of local thefts.
"They were individuals whose names came up during our investigation. And they are considered suspects in numerous cargo thefts in our area here," Bowen said.
From November 2004 to Jan. 28 of this year – when LPD pursued a stolen trailer from the Toshiba parking lot to the Kentucky line – the crime ring had hit area businesses 23 times, resulting in the theft of $2 million worth of electronics, frozen food and numerous trucks and trailers.
Lebanon police were never able to make any arrests, even on the night of the five-hour case.
"Out of that pursuit, of course the individuals were able to escape that night, but we were able to gain some information and some evidence at the scene that led us to what we believe was the local connection here in Lebanon," Bowen said.
That local connection would scope out businesses he felt were easy targets and call a crew of eight to 10 individuals in Georgia. The crew would in turn travel to Lebanon and commit the thefts, Bowen said.
The crime ring also hit Nashville and other Middle Tennessee locations. Bowen said the Nashville Metro Police Department was investigating two cases linked to the Georgia group that resulted in more than $1 million of stolen merchandise.
"We had been working with the (Nashville) Metro Police Department and the FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force on this case," Bowen said. "And there's also, we believe, at least one case in LaVergne they're involved in. And there may be other cases in Middle Tennessee that this group is involved in, as well."
But with last weeks' arrests in Georgia, Bowen was confident the string of thefts has most definitely ended.
"We've definitely broken this ring up for sure," said Bowen, who noted Lebanon has not experienced a similar theft since Jan. 28.
The chief said the lead investigator on the case, Lebanon Police Detective Kirk Whitefield, will consult with the local District Attorney's office on indicting the four men arrested so they can be charged locally.
Lebanon police still believe only one local person is involved, but Bowen said it is possible more than one individual will be arrested here in the future.
Bowen said all the authorities are looking at the possibility of bringing federal charges against one or more of the individuals who have been arrested.
Staff Writer Jared Allen can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.