Second arrest made in suspected crime ring

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By Staff

SA second man believed to be involved in a recently uncovered heavy equipment theft ring has been arrested.

Jerry Lee Mays, 53, 850 Sulpher Springs, Lebanon, was arrested Thursday and taken to the Nelson County Jail. A bond has been set at $50,000.

Mays’ arrest follows that of Larry Overton, 63, Springfield, who was arrested Wednesday. Both have been indicted by a Nelson County grand jury on charges of engaging in organized crime. Due to the theft ring involving more than five people, it qualifies under the organized crime statute.

Mays, Overton and two other men — Dave and Harold — who had no last names, were indicted last month. A fifth man, Joseph R. Hite, was indicted last year in the alleged theft ring.

The crime ring case dates back as far as 2003 and it took officials in several Kentucky counties, Texas and Mexico 18 months to unravel the case and find those allegedly responsible.

The case centers around the theft of heavy equipment. Nelson County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ed Mattingly said dozens of backhoes and other earth-moving equipment could have been stolen and moved out of the area by the group. Some of the stolen pieces were recovered but others have not been found and may have made their way into Mexico.

The first signs a theft ring might have existed came in March 2006 when heavy equipment began to be reported stolen from various places in and around Nelson County, Mattingly said.

Mattingly said the first major break in the case came Sept. 18, 2006 when, acting on a tip, Marion County Sheriff’s Department detectives located a backhoe reported stolen from Bullitt County on Mays’ property in Lebanon. A search warrant was obtained for his property, but Mays agreed to allow officers to enter his home and grounds. Mays turned over copies of cancelled checks related to the sale of the stolen pieces, Mattingly said.

A business run on Mays’ property, Kentucky Scrap Metal, was owned and operated by Mays, Overton and Hite. Through investigation of the business’ records, it was determined the men had allegedly sold the stolen equipment to Jorge Arambula’s Power Construction, El Paso, Texas. The items are believed to have been transported from Kentucky to Texas by Omar Galache, owner of Galache’s Truck Enterprises, a Texas-based business, Mattingly said.

In all, Mattingly said more than $1 million in stolen equipment was traced to the alleged theft ring. Four pieces were found in Kentucky and two on Arambula’s lot in Texas. At least six are likely gone for good, he said. In addition to the recovered equipment, more than $280,000 was seized from Hite.

Mattingly said some of the thefts came from Hardin County as far back as 2003. Records from those involved and claims by Hite show 25 – 30 pieces might have been taken.

Brian Walker contributed to this story.