Van police bust lumber thieves who were building in Smith County - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Van police bust lumber thieves who were building in Smith County

One by one, Van Police are arresting a group of thieves they say stole thousands of dollars worth of hardware supplies to build a house. The hardware store's owner says the thieves have been stealing from right under her nose for nearly a year. But as KLTV 7's Courtney Lane shows us, the only house they'll see for awhile now is the jailhouse.

This afternoon, Van Police arrested the ringleader of a group of thieves they say stole $40,000 worth of supplies from this hardware store.

"I knew I was losing a lot of lumber. I knew it," said Sharon Hilliard, the store owner.

"They are doing it in broad daylight that's what is ironic in this case. They've gotten to where they are so brave," said Chief Kelly Smith of the Van Police Department.

Here's the kicker - Police they were using the supplies to build an add-on to one of the suspect's home in Smith County.

"They did a good job on the building of the structure. When we got out there and saw the plans they had in place, it was evident they were still in the process of going to steal more," said Chief Smith.

"I knew it was going somewhere I just couldn't put my finger on where," said Hilliard.

Hilliard says she found out two of her own employees were involved. An inside job, pocketing cash for loading up truck-loads of lumber.

"I was stunned, I'm shocked, we know I really haven't got the jist of it yet. I haven't broke down yet," said Hilliard.

Several suspects are already behind bars tonight and police say the rest will soon join them.

"The Van Police Department worked really hard and I want them to get all the credit."

Hilliard says business is running as usual. She just has to cut her losses and move forward.

"I'm hoping that the DAs in Van Zandt County and Smith County will both see fit to put these guys away because they are chronic thieves," said Hilliard.

Van Police say the suspects will be charged with engaging in criminal activity, a second degree felony, as well as theft of $20,000 to $100,000 dollars.

Courtney Lane, reporting.

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