Largest theft ring to date busted in Rutherford County - - Columbia, South Carolina

Largest theft ring to date busted in Rutherford County

James Presley James Presley

Rutherford County deputies have busted the largest alleged theft ring in recent county history and recovered a half-million dollars worth of stolen items, including tractors and riding mowers.

The sheriff's office served a warrant around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at a home on Cranor Road, after the children who lived there got on the bus to go to school.

Danielle McDougal has been dating the man arrested, James Presley, 36, of Bradyville Road, for about six months and says she and her brother-in-law were on their way to the store when several carloads of officers boxed her in.

"They made us follow them back, and we weren't allowed to go to the store and get a drink and cigarettes or nothing, and we had nothing to do with it," McDougal said. "Mr. Presley wasn't even in the car."

McDougal said she thought all the equipment Presley was bringing home was from his job site, since he said he worked for an excavation company.

"I had no idea that he was into doing that, or did anything the police said he did," she said.

Rutherford County sheriff's officials have apparently been watching Presley for quite some time and believe he is involved in a theft ring that spans several counties.

Authorities said between $250,000 to $500,000 worth of items, including four-wheelers, skid loaders, tractors, air compressors and even a truck were recovered.

"He's very brazen. A lot of times these thieves are, during the day, they just ride in and take your stuff while people are at work," said Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold.

Presley is charged with two counts of theft between $1,000 to $10,000; theft over $60,000; and violation of probation.

Arnold said a lot of the stolen items were from Wilson, Williamson, Coffee and Cannon counties, and a hold has now been placed on Presley from Coffee and Cannon counties.

"Thieves know no boundaries. County lines don't mean anything to them, but us working together helps all of our citizens," Arnold said.

The sheriff said he's hoping to see a huge reduction in thefts in Rutherford County now that the theft ring has been busted.

"People who go out and prey on the community like this is a menace to society," Arnold said.

Homeowner Jessica Simpson said she allowed her sister and Presley to stay at her Cranor Road home, but said she didn't know anything about his alleged thefts.

"We didn't have anything to do with it, and I apologize. If your stuff got taken by him, it wasn't us," Simpson said.

Sheriff's officials said Presley was the only person arrested Wednesday, but they believe more people are involved and expect to make more arrests.

Some of the more expensive items were recovered in Illinois, and Arnold and his detectives are planning to go and pick those items up Thursday.

Arnold said his department wants to make sure the equipment gets back in the hands of the rightful owners.

If you believe your property was stolen and you can prove it's yours, contact your local sheriff's office or call the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office at 615-898-7770 and ask for the detective division.

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