SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Four people have been arrested and one is still at-large in connection with a multi-county crime spree that caused more than a million dollars in damage. Two juveniles also involved in the case have not been arrested.
The arrests were the result of a collaborative investigation involving multiple departments in different counties.
The damage caused reaches well over the million dollar mark, according to officials. Representatives from multiple counties attended a press conference Tuesday to discuss the arrests.
"It's well over a million dollars in damage ... probably closer to $2 million," said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith. "We've been able to get quite a bit of physical evidence in this case."
During the spree, more than 30 service-related vehicles were stolen from each of the various counties and cities including Smith, Rusk, Gregg and Harrison counties and Kilgore and New London police departments.
The vehicles included service vans, one-ton service trucks, and truck tractors. All of the vehicles have been recovered, most of which were totally destroyed or damaged. One particular piece of heavy equipment, estimated at more than $500,000, was driven into a lake.
Two convenience stores were also robbed during the spree. Stolen vehicles were driven into those stores and ATMs were stolen from the location. Smith said that the suspects were able to open the ATMs and take an undisclosed amount of cash. One of the ATM thefts occurred on Highway 64 East in Smith County and the other occurred off of State Highway 322 in Rusk County on the Gregg/Rusk County line.
On Dec. 29, representatives from Smith, Harrison, Gregg and Rusk county sheriff's offices, Rusk County District Attorney's Office and New London and Henderson police departments met at the RSCO to discuss evidence and possible connections involving the crimes described above.
"I have been in law enforcement a very long time and most of that involved in criminal investigations. It is very pleasant to witness the agency to agency cooperation and information sharing that has been exhibited in this investigation," said Sheriff Smith.
Officials were able to determine that the crimes were linked and that the suspects all knew each other. Cellphone records, video surveillance and clothing worn during the incidents was used to connect the suspects to the crimes.
"We feel very confident we'll be able to prove a case," Smith said.
On Dec. 31, detectives received information involving a possible witness who could identify the persons involved in these thefts and burglaries. As a result of that interview, four people were arrested:
- Dalton L Oakes - 18 years of age is in custody of the Smith County Sheriff's Office.
- Joseph Bates – 18 years of age is in custody of the Smith County Sheriff's Office.
- Richard Landaverde – 18 years of age is in custody of the Smith County Sheriff's Office.
- Chase Crawford – 18 years of age is in custody of the Gregg County Sheriff's Office.
- Jorge Santos Landaverde – 21 years of age remains at large. There is an outstanding felony warrant for his arrest at this time.
- Additionally, two juveniles who were involved in this criminal episode are facing criminal charges.
Law enforcement officials said the opportunity to collaborate with officers in neighboring counties has facilitated greater communication between the departments.
Smith said there's a lesson to be learned from the bust.
"It's real fun while you're doing it ... but you're always going to face the consequences," he said.