Griffin Police Investigator Chip Johns set up a fake buy on Craigslist to take down a man suspected of trying to sell a stolen lawn mower.
On June 5, members of the Spalding and Monroe County Sheriff's Office arrested David Lee. Police said Lee was trying to sell a riding lawn mower on eBay and Craigslist belonging to Robert "Smokey" Page.
Last month, Page had an entire trailer full of lawn equipment stolen from his nonprofit, Mowing with a Meaning.
The thieves made off with $30,000 worth of equipment that included two riding lawn mowers, blowers, edgers, weed-eaters, shovels and more. Page does yard work for people in the Griffin and Atlanta metro area who are either battling or are survivors of cancer.
After the mowers were stolen, the group couldn't cut cancer patients' grass for an entire weekend.
"That hurt a lot, having to tell them we couldn't make it," Page said.
Page took charge and found that one of his mowers was being advertised on eBay and Craigslist. He contacted police, who worked with Page to set up the fake buy.
"David Lee shows up to sell the item and we take him down," Johns said.
But after talking to Lee, investigators realized the crime led to a major break in the case.
"The suspect was actually scared to talk to us because what would happen to him because of the person he was working for," Johns said. "I believe this is actually a ring. We have had several lawn items stolen, and I believe it is a ring working out of the Atlanta area."
Johns said they were also working with Monroe County and Decatur police.
"We just had a mower out in Spalding County taken yesterday from the Spalding County Recreation Center. The same type of mower was stolen and the truck was found in Fulton County," Johns said.
Johns said businesses or people with riding lawn mowers or expensive lawn equipment should take extra precautions to protect them from theft.
The thieves, Johns said, are "stealing the trailers, unloading them at another location and putting the goods online for quick sale."
"I hope through the knowledge the police have gathered, not only in this case but all the cases, they can bring these guys down. That's what I want," Page said.
Page still has another mower and equipment worth nearly $15,000 out there. He was shocked it ended up on Craigslist.
"It's kind of like your neighbor stealing something and selling it in a yard sale next Saturday or something," Page said. "I don't know what they were thinking. Hopefully, they will be that stupid and put something else on Craigslist. Maybe next week we can get it all back."
Since the story aired, Page said he has received a number of donations, many anonymous, to help replace some of his stolen equipment.
"I would just like to thank everyone who has chipped in to help out," Page said. "I only ask you don't send any donations or equipment to me. If you want to help out, spend 15 minutes with a cancer patient. Or help cut your neighbor's grass if they need it. That would mean the most to us."
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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