A “routine patrol” for the Fayette County sheriff’s helicopter May 18 netted more than $2 million in stolen heavy equipment that had been taken from “numerous” Georgia jurisdictions and also Birmingham Alabama, officials said.
Hawk One, the helicopter, got a “hit” signal from the LoJack system of a Caterpillar D8 Bulldozer that had been taken early that morning, officials said. The signal was traced to a residence on Morgan Mill Road in the Brooks area of south Fayette County.
Patrol deputies converged on the home and arrested four men, each of whom was charged with one felony count of operating a chop shop: Nathan William Lunsford, 25, of Alvaton, Charles Allen Rippy Jr., 22, of Greenville, Ronald Jerry Martin, 31, of Brooks and Shane Douglas Spino, 19, of Brooks.
More arrests were made by investigators May 26 with the additional assistance from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Zebulon Police Department, the Yancey Caterpillar Corporation, and the Tractor and Equipment Corporation.
Those arrested were Jason Abercrombie, 32, of McDonough, and Brandon Ferguson, 20, of Fayetteville. Both were charged with operating a chop shop. Abercrombie is currently being held in the Fayette County Jail with no bond. Ferguson was taken to the Fayette County Jail where he was later released on a $22,200 property bond.
Sheriff’s investigators have determined the operation was selling some of the heavy equipment to people outside the state and some of it was sold to local scrap yards for money.
This is the largest-ever theft recovery for the LoJack system in the entire state of Georgia, according to Sheriff’s Investigator Brent Rowan.
Other agencies participating in the case include the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, the Henry County Police Department, the National Crime Insurance Bureau and LoJack Theft Systems.