Widespread Lawn Equipment Theft Uncovered In Gadsden County

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Hundreds of thousands of dollars of stolen high end lawn equipment has been recovered in Gadsen County.

Two Quincy men are both facing multiple felony charges.

The Gadsden County Sheriff's Office is storing the recovered stolen equipment at a Quincy warehouse.

Former Quincy city employee Charles Hayes is facing multiple felonies including dealing in stolen property, obstructing justice and destroying evidence.

As Eyewitness News reported in September, Hayes quit one week after the Labor Day Fantasia concert.

Hayes negotiated the deal for the city.

It's now the subject of a lawsuit.

Court records say before Hayes quit, he bought two professional lawnmowers through 49 year old Homer Garner for $4000.

Investigators estimate the equipment is worth five times that amount.

Court records also say Garner gave Hayes another stolen lawnmower for free.

In exchange Garner wanted a grant through the city of Quincy to fix his building.

Court records also say when investigators asked Hayes about the equipment, he had two of his employees with his lawn service hide two of the mowers.

Records show those mowers belong to Jefferson County government.

Garner is charged with dealing in stolen property.

He's the brother of Gadsen County Judge Kathy Garner who was sworn in in 2009 as the first African-American and female judge in the county's history.

It all started nearly three years ago in March, 2011 when Wes Foley's tractor was stolen from Suburban Propane on Woodville Highway in Tallahassee.

"It was discovered on a Saturday morning," said Jim Briggs of Suburban Propane. "The fence was cut out in the yard," he said. "Someone broke in and stole a tractor," Briggs said.

The tractor was recovered in December nearly three years later.

Investigators say the thieves then starting giving each other up, leading to the recovery of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

"You could've knocked me over with a feather when they called me up and said they found it because I never expected to see it again," said Foley. "You know I figured it was down in South America digging holes," he said.

On Friday, an investigator with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office identified three pieces of stolen equipment from the Quincy warehouse.

Two of them belong to Jefferson County government and the other one to a private citizen.

The Leon County Sheriff's Office has also recovered a piece of stolen equipment.

Investigators also say Madison County authorities are involved.

Additional arrests are expected in the next few days.

Investigators are looking at a current Quincy city employee who they say sold a stolen lawnmower to a Florida Highway Patrol state trooper.

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