Press Release: Wakulla County Sheriff's Office
The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office arrested three men in connection with the theft of lawn and tractor equipment with victims in Wakulla and Franklin counties, according to Sheriff Charlie Creel.
Joshua Thomas Martin, 27, of Crawfordville was charged with two counts of grand theft of more than $20,000 and less than $100,000, and one count each of filing a false police report, organized scheme to defraud and false and fraudulent insurance claim.
Ralph Franklin Pigott III, 26, of Crawfordville was charged with grand theft over $20,000 and less than $100,000 and organized scheme to defraud.
Brandon Wray Atkinson, 36, of Carrabelle was charged with grand theft over $20,000 and under $100,000.
The men are accused of being involved in the grand theft of a mower attachment and tractor valued at $20,900. The property was stolen from a resident in Sopchoppy on Oct. 1.
During the investigation, WCSO detectives received information from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office that Martin and Atkinson had been arrested in Franklin for similar crimes involving tractors and lawn equipment.
On Jan. 2, 2013, Martin contacted the WCSO in reference to the theft of his truck, trailer, firearms and lawn equipment. He estimated the value of the alleged stolen property at $35,000 to $40,000. During the investigation it was determined that Martin and Pigott teamed up to take the truck to a rural sand pit where the motor was removed and sold to Pigott and the truck parts were to be sold to Atkinson.
Martin received more than $21,000 from his insurance company after filing the false claim. The stolen Sopchoppy equipment was recovered at property owned by Atkinson in Carrabelle along with the Martin truck which was hidden in a wooded area of Carrabelle by Pigott following Martin’s arrest by FCSO.
Search warrants were served at Martin’s home in Crawfordville and lawn equipment, a handgun and trailer were seized. Some of the lawn equipment was identified by the serial numbers as the same items Martin falsely reported stolen.
The stolen property from Sopchoppy and two Franklin County victims have been returned to the owners. The three men also face charges in Franklin County for similar offenses.
Martin and Pigott both turned themselves in to the WCSO on Oct. 15 and were released. Atkinson turned himself in on Oct. 11 and was released.
By: James Buechele
October 10, 2013
Carrabelle, FL - Three men are arrested in connection with stolen tractor equipment in at least four counties.
One of the suspects is a corrections officer at the Wakulla Correctional Institution.
"It was a ring," said Franklin County Sheriff Mike Mock. "It was absolutely what they were doing. They were targeting the heavy equipment."
Mock says corrections officer Joshua Martin and Brandon Atkinson have been arrested and charged with 14 felonies in Franklin County including grand theft.
Ralph Pigott was arrested and charged with tampering with evidence. Other charges for the three individuals could come during the investigation.
The individuals are tied to at least $116,000 worth of stolen tractor equipment spanning across four counties including Bay, Franklin, Gadsden and Wakulla counties.
"This has probably been going on, this operation, probably nine months, or a year."
Martin is on annual leave with pay. An official at the Wakulla Correctional Institution says his employment will be reviewed after the investigation is complete.
Mock says deputies and officers with the Carrabelle police department were able to bust the suspects red-handed.
Carrabelle Police Officer Gary Hunnings and Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Lt. Garrett Creamer discovered what appeared t o be evidence that a tractor had been stolen. While investigating, deputies discovered a large Kubota Tractor hidden in a wooded area.
"They set up surveillance on the equipment. They actually found the equipment and set up surveillance and waited and then the bad guys come in and loaded the equipment."
It's not clear how many tractors or equipment was stolen during the ring. If you think you may have been a victim you're asked to call the sheriff's office in Franklin county at 850-670-8500.