4 jailed for ‘theft ring’
Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 21, 2013
Thousands of dollars worth of stolen property will be making its way back to Covington County businesses soon after local law enforcement teamed up with Escambia County officials Friday to nab four people believed to be behind a months-long “theft ring.”
SunSouth, John Deere, Ireland Trailer Sales, J.M. Jackson Chevrolet-Buick, Andalusia Tire Co., and J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop are among the local victims that have been hit the hardest by the thefts.
Escambia County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Mike Lambert described the bust, which led to the recovery of “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property,” as a big win for both Escambia and Covington county agencies.
“This is the result of several months of investigation between us and all law enforcement agencies in Covington County,” Lambert said.
Arrested for multiple counts of burglary, theft of property and receiving stolen property were 39-year-old Pete Jimenez and 30-year-old Joni Blair Diamond, both of 100 Elrod Street in East Brewton, 19-year-old Paul Daw, of Casey Street in Brewton, and 47-year-old Bobby Thompson Jr., also known as Peter Ray Thompson, of 5610 Highway 41 in Brewton.
Lambert said the months of work finally paid off Thursday night in Brewton.
“Last night, we watched (Jimenez), and he went into Timberline Homes here in Brewton and made about three trips in and out burglarizing the place and stealing furniture,” Lambert said Friday. “We made a traffic stop, and we got (Jimenez and Daw).”
Lambert said, following the arrest, the two men gave deputies information leading to the arrests of Thompson and Diamond, as well as the recovery of much of the stolen property.
“After we got them, they started telling us about all of the other items,” Lambert said.
Those other items Lambert said included property reported stolen from Escambia County, Ala., Escambia County, Fla., Okaloosa County, Fla., Santa Rosa County, Fla., as well as Covington, Baldwin, Mobile and Monroe counties.
Lambert said the stolen property was typically sold to unsuspecting buyers at a price well below its actual retail value.
“They would steal, let’s say a trailer worth $1,000, then give someone a sob story about needing to sell it to pay a bill or buy Christmas presents,” Lambert said. “They’d sell it for like $300, which is a deal. People were sucking it up.”
Lambert said deputies spent the better part of Friday collecting the stolen property from the duped owners.
“We’ve got everything from furniture to pool tables, to go carts and four wheelers, and trailers and lawn mowers,” he said.
Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said Friday that deputies were still sorting through the stolen property; however, some of the items had already been returned to the owners.
All four suspects were transported to the Escambia County Detention Center in Brewton, and are awaiting bond hearings.
Lambert said Jimenez and Daw were each charged with two counts of theft of property II; one count of receiving stolen property II; three counts of theft of property I; and two counts of burglary III. Diamond was charged with three counts of receiving stolen property II, and one count of hindering prosecution I. Thompson was charged with four counts of receiving stolen property II.
Lambert said more charges could come, including charges from other counties, as the investigation is ongoing.
“We’re looking into thefts in Shelby County too,” he said. “But, we are still investigating that.”
Lambert also said he expects additional arrests in the case in the near future.
Lambert said anyone who has bought items from the suspects should make contact with their local law enforcement agency.