By JB Clark
TUPELO – A Mooreville man has been charged with the theft of more than $300,000 in heavy equipment.
James Churchill, 29, is being held in Bibb County, Alabama, but Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said they expect him to be extradited to Lee County sometime today.
The equipment, which includes lawn mowers, tractors, a back-hoe, a stump grinder and other types of lawn care and construction equipment, was allegedly taken from equipment sales and rental places and construction sites across the Southeast and then sold in Lee County under the name Churchill Equipment Company.
Johnson alleged Churchill was using some of the stolen equipment for tornado clean-up jobs in Tupelo and advertising stump-grinding services with business cards that prominently featured a photograph of a stolen stump grinder.
Johnson said most of the equipment was stolen at night and on weekends so it wasn’t noticed or reported for a number of days. He also said security systems and lighting systems around the stolen items were often disabled when the items were stolen.
The Lee County Sheriff’’s Office has recovered a large number of lawn mowers, tractors and other gear but Johnson said they believe there are still stolen items to be recovered.
Anyone who has done business with Churchill Equipment Company is asked to call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, (662) 841-9040, to help deputies in their recovery of the stolen goods.
Johnson said they will ask for restitution through the courts to return money to anyone who unknowingly purchased stolen equipment.