Major East Texas Theft Ring Is Broken Up - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/10/07-Van Zandt County

Major East Texas Theft Ring Is Broken Up

More than $250,000 worth of stolen equipment is recovered from what authorities call a major organized theft ring in East Texas.  During a month long investigation, the Van Zandt County Sheriff's Department says it recovered items stolen from Van Zandt, Smith, Rains and Dallas Counties. The sheriff's department says the stolen equipment was being sold for drug money.  

Seven people from around Van Zandt county have been arrested and charged with organized criminal activity.  They are Erin McRoy, 23, Kenneth Kines, 35 and Erin Sams, 31 of Canton. Also, Thomas Brown, 38 of Wills Point, Donny Edwards, 27 of Edgewood, Ronnie McRoy, 21 of Van and Gregory Patterson, 39 of Dallas. The sheriff's department says several of them also face additional drug charges.   The sheriff's department says all it took was a phone call from a concerned citizen to help stop the thieves.  

Sheila Hunter and her husband of Edgewood lease land in Van Zandt County. One day Sheila says a neighbor called and told her something wasn't right.

"The barb wire fence right down the road was cut and left open, and also the gates, they had cut the gates," said Sheila Hunter who helped catch the thieves. Immediately, Sheila says she called the sheriff's department and noticed several things were missing.

"There was a tractor, piller, a window air conditioner," said Hunter. "A lot of copper wire. They went in and cut out wire from a couple of storage sheds and off of the electric pole." The sheriff's department says it was able to follow tire tracks that day to a nearby house that had several pieces of stolen equipment, items that may not have been there a day later.

"That's what people need to understand is when you see something, don't wait until tomorrow or the next day, call us right then," said Sheriff Pat Burnett, Van Zandt County. As the investigation unfolded, the sheriff's department says it recovered 4 wheelers, dirt bikes, vehicles and a $150,000 bull dozer, all of which were returned to the owners.

"We're not through I hope," said Sheriff Burnett. "We still have some more people to arrest on warrants and the investigation continues and hopefully we can get more stuff back." Sheriff Burnett also wants to remind people to mark their equipment, so items can be returned to you. If you have any information regarding the thefts please call the sheriff's department.

Molly Reuter, reporting.


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