Approximately 34 varying pieces of heavy equipment, and counting, have Indiana State Police investigators in Putnam County busy searching for answers as they uncover one of the largest apparent theft operations of its kind in recent memory.
Since Wednesday, officers have recovered everything from a John Deere tractor, to several backhoes, semi-tractor trailers, various truck parts, freight containers, a grain truck and even a pontoon boat.
The items are being housed and inventoried at Curtis Wrecker Service, located just off Interstate 70 in Morgan County.
ISP Master Trooper Doug Perry and Trooper Michael Wood met with the BannerGraphic at the wrecker service Friday, where they provided a little insight into the thefts.
Perry said all but two of the items have been determined stolen, based on a search of vehicle identification numbers. A majority of the items are believed to have been stolen from construction sites and private businesses located in Hendricks, Marion, Morgan, Monroe and Putnam counties, the trooper said.
The earliest theft dates back to December of last year, and the most recent was just a couple of months ago. Perry said the items were recovered from two properties, which he declined to identify; one in Putnam County and the other in Owen.
The search for items began Wednesday after state police served a warrant at the property of 55-year-old Thomas Skene, located at 105 E. U.S. 40, Greencastle. Perry would not say what prompted them to serve a warrant at Skene's property.
Perry would not identify Skene as a suspect but said, "there are strong leads in the case" and he anticipated an arrest, or arrests, next week.
Investigators are still trying to figure out why someone would steal the items since it doesn't appear they were being resold, however, Perry said officers did recover an unspecified amount of illegal drugs in addition to the equipment.
Meanwhile, they are working to find the rightful owners of the equipment and are making arrangements to return them. One of the semi-tractor trailers in police custody Friday had the logo "R.L. Hartman Concrete Inc." on the door. The company is located in Plainfield.
Perry himself would not identify any of the owners of the vehicles in storage.
As for the value of the stolen items, Perry said the officers haven't even begun to develop a figure yet.
Anyone with information about the thefts or who believes they own one of the stolen items is asked to call the ISP Putnamville Post at 653-4114 or 1-800-225-8576.