WARRENTON, Ga. - An ongoing criminal investigation by agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and deputies with the Warren County Sheriff's Department has led this week to the recovery of more than $500,000 worth of stolen heavy construction equipment.
Although no one has been charged in connection with the theft case, which involves Warren and Glascock counties in Georgia and at least three counties in South Carolina, a local man and his business have become targets of the probe, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.
Search warrants were executed Tuesday afternoon at the home of Michael Henry "Mickey" English, off the Gibson Highway, just outside of Warrenton. Authorities also searched his place of business, known as English Maintenance and Mechanical, Inc., located off the Macon Highway near Warrenton.
Mr. English was not arrested and no criminal charges filed against him, according to authorities. His name surfaced in an affidavit and application for a search warrant that was viewed by the newspaper in Warren County Magistrate Court.
Gary Nicholson, special agent in-charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 7 Office in Thomson, said he could not identify any suspects in the case, but noted that there had been no arrests made in the case. Warren County Sheriff Joe Peebles confirmed, too, that no one had been taken into custody.
"All I can say at this point is that we have an ongoing criminal investigation in Warren County and that we have recovered approximately a half a million dollars in stolen heavy construction equipment," Agent Nicholson said.
The stolen equipment was found in various areas of Warren County, Sheriff Peebles said. At least five pieces of the equipment, including a Mack E7450 truck and large trailer, fitted with a McDuffie County license plate, have been taken as evidence to the Warren County Public Works Department.
At least one stolen bulldozer has been recovered in neighboring Glascock County, where the case actually unfolded, Sheriff Peebles said. Toombs Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney William Doupe' viewed some of the seized evidence on Tuesday afternoon with Sheriff Peebles.
Mr. Doupe' prosecutes many of the criminal cases in Warren County.
Officer Michael May of the Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Compliance Division stopped a tractor-trailer truck that was hauling a John Deere Model 450 bulldozer in Glascock County on Wednesday, March 5. During that time, Officer May "noticed that, in addition to numerous violations on the truck and trailer, that the product identification number had been removed from the bulldozer," court records show.
As the investigation progressed, it was learned that the bulldozer had been reported stolen from Lexington County, S.C., on or about March 15, 2002.
In a conversation with Mr. English at the traffic stop, he reportedly told Agent Leonard that he had purchased the bulldozer from "an unknown person" through a sales publication and that he could offer documentation about the transaction at his business. A bill of sale was shown to the agent, dated Dec. 8, 2001. However, the bill of sale "does not match the actual number on the bulldozer," court records show.
Authorities say the majority of the equipment reportedly was stolen from the South Carolina counties of Richland, Lexington and Anderson. Georgia lawmen are working closely with lawmen in those jurisdictions.
GBI Special Agent David Leonard is the case agent, according to Patrick Morgan, assistant special agent in-charge of the GBI office in Thomson.