On April 10, 2012 Detective Roger Bell arrested Robert Carter, Christopher Chapin, James Perry and Darren Reese on multiple felony charges.
The investigation began in February 2012 when Levy County farmers began reporting theft of copper wire from irrigation pivots. The thieves during the cover of darkness would steal the copper wire from the pivots in very remote areas in Williston and Chiefland.
From February through April the subjects stole copper wire from over seven different farms. The subjects sometimes hit farms multiple times and even struck two pivots that was brand new that never have been used. The copper wire was valued at over $50,000 dollars not to mention the aggravation of the farmers not being able to water their crops and the damage to the pivots.
Major Evan Sullivan organized a Task Force, "Street Crimes Unit", within the Sheriff`s Office to combat this crime wave of farm thefts. Collectively this unit devised a plan and through good old fashion police work was able to develop leads in the pivot thefts.
On April 10, 2012 the drag net tightened and Detective Roger Bell, Deputy Scott Stancil and Sgt. Mike Narayan located Chapin, Reese and Carter at 14431 NE 50th Place in Williston. While Detectives and Deputies conducted interviews with witnesses and suspects they located evidence that the suspects were burning the wire behind the house. The suspects would burn the plastic coating to bare copper wire and scrapped the copper to local salvage yards in Williston. While conducting the investigation at the Williston home Detectives noticed marijuana plants behind the house. Robert Carter admitted to growing marijuana and he was charged with cultivation of marijuana, which is a felony charge. Carter was a suspect in a burglary case that was unrelated to the pivot thefts. Carter was arrested for burglary, grand theft auto and dealing in stolen property by Corporal Mike Bell. The suspects were transported to the Sheriff`s Office for further questioning based on witness testimony. Detective Roger Bell obtained confessions from Carter, Chapin and Reese stating they were responsible for stealing wire from seven irrigation pivots in the Williston and Chiefland areas. The suspects also advised that James Allen Perry from Bronson was involved in the thefts. Sgt. Mike Narayan and Major Evan Sullivan located Perry at a Bronson home and he was brought in for questioning. Perry admitted to stealing and assisting by being a look out and driving the car to the farmer`s field.
The investigation revealed that in addition to the suspects confessing to all the pivot thefts in the Williston & Chiefland areas they had also planned to do six more pivot thefts last night in Chiefland.
Since the inception of the full time Ag/Marine Unit Lt. Hunt has been extremely busy. Sullivan would like to remind all farmers that we have an Ag Watch Program. The Ag Watch Program was developed in 2008 as a means to identify ownership of agriculture properties in Levy County. The program consists of no Trespassing Signs and has a code on the Ag Watch signs listing the property/business owner`s name and a code number, which provides deputies on patrol instant access to owner information and agent/lease agreements. The Ag Watch Program is open to qualified agriculture persons whose interest is in, and limited to, agriculture related activities. The Ag Watch Program is free and if anyone is interested in participating in the program, please contact Lt. Sean Mullins.
As a reminder to Levy County residents please be vigilant by watching and reporting any suspicious activity to the Levy County Sheriff`s Office. With your eyes and ears together we can prevent and solve crime.