3 charged in alleged high-end lawn mower theft ring
Surveillance video at More’s Farm Store on North Clinton Street showed a white Chrysler 300 arrive in the lot. Three men got out, spoke to staff and appeared to scope out the place.
Around midnight, the three showed up on the store’s surveillance again, this time entering and leaving the property at the same spot where the ringleader pointed to earlier. There, the men had cut a hole in a privacy fence belonging to an adjacent business, according to court documents.
The next day, Sept. 22, police were informed of a theft of “high-dollar” commercial mowers.
While police investigated the thefts, they learned from a suspect at the Allen County Jail there was a five-man large-scale theft ring and their game was high-end lawn mowers, court documents said.
Lance Holland, 36, of the 2100 block of Eby Avenue is the leader and decision maker of the group, the suspect said. Charles Zimmerman, 36, of the 2000 block of Ellen Avenue, is the “second behind (Holland),” and David W. Hunt, 49, “helps steal and move the stolen property as well as driving.”
The three were arrested this month andcharged with corrupt business influence and four counts of felony theft.
The suspect, referred to as “the witness” in court documents, couldn’t remember the names of the two other alleged thieves. The witness said he’d been asked to store the mowers and other stolen items : possibly three Polaris ATVs valued at $18,500 each from Sunbelt Rentals on Coliseum Boulevard West : and refused.
Sunbelt Rentals had reported to police the theft of three Polaris ATVs from its property Sept. 12, court documents said.
On Sept. 21, the take was two Toro Z Master mowers valued at 9,200.
On Oct. 1, the same crew showed up about 1:45 a.m. and about 5 a.m. and stole six more lawn mowers : an orange Bad Boy worth 6,500, 7,700 respectively; and a Toro GrandStand mower worth $8,500 : that belonged to a customer. This time the men wore long-sleeve digital camouflage outfits with camouflage face masks. The same opening in the privacy fence was used to back in a trailer and truck, court records said.
The witness at the jail said Zimmerman and Hunt, who walks with a distinctive limp that can be seen in the video, have access to large trucks and trailers, court documents said.
The witness recalled both men bragging about the thefts and showing off photos of the stolen property. Zimmerman also had a key ring with multiple keys for many mowers and ATVs and other vehicles, the witness said.
“There’s ain’t nothing I don’t have a key for,” Zimmerman reputedly told the witness.
One story corroborated the theft of an ATV that was found stuck in a muddy ditch. The witness said Hunt had asked him to help get it out of the ditch, court documents said.
Detectives were able to connect video surveillance of cars to homes around Holland’s address on Eby Avenue and several stolen vehicles and trailers were recovered in a five to six block radius of the Eby Avenue house, court records said. Inside Hunt’s vehicle, police recovered a long-sleeve digital camouflage shirt that one of Hunt’s relatives said belonged to him.
A Chrysler was registered to Holland, court documents said.
Holland was released from the Allen County Jail on $27,500 bond Wednesday. Zimmerman was released on his own recognizance the same day. There is a warrant for Hunt’s arrest, according to a jail spokesman.