Rutherford Co. mayor among many victims in extensive theft ring - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Rutherford Co. mayor among many victims in extensive theft ring

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James Presley James Presley

As the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate what it believes is the county's largest theft ring in recent memory, the county mayor just hopes to get his stolen lawn mower back.

Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess is one of the lucky victims whose stolen property has been recovered by authorities.

Burgess said he last used his lawn mower Oct. 13, but the next day, it wasn't where he had parked it. He assumed his son or grandson had borrowed his lawn mower, but later found out they had not.

"I didn't know where it could be," Burgess said.

His $11,000 John Deer zero-turn ZTRAX mower, with a 5-foot cutting width, was nowhere to be found.

"They were brazen and professional in that they were retrieving these items from places one would not even think they would come," Burgess said.

The thieves had to come down a long driveway at his farm on Franklin Road in rural Rutherford County and went around to the back of his home to steal it.

"They were not even concerned about the deterrent about somebody coming in on them while they were there," Burgess said.

Burgess said he is thankful his wife wasn't home at the time.

"We are all concerned about that anytime our safety is compromised," he said.

In all, authorities said between $250,000 to $500,000 worth of items, including four-wheelers, skid loaders, tractors, air compressors and even a truck have been recovered. Some, including Burgess' mower, were found at a salvage yard in Illinois.

"We found the mayor's tag where he had just gotten the mower repaired still attached," Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold said. "With the VIN number and that tag, we were able to positively identify it was the mayor's mower."

Deputies arrested James Presley, 36, of Bradyville Road, on Wednesday, charging him with two counts of theft between $1,000 to $10,000; theft over $60,000; and violation of probation.

Presley is believed to have been involved in a theft ring that spanned several Middle Tennessee counties.

"This was a large enterprise of taking advantage of people and reselling this equipment," Burgess said.

Arnold said detectives have identified all the stolen items and now know to whom they each belong. In the next few days, all the equipment will be returned to the rightful owners.

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