BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Deputies arrested a Ladson man accused of stealing $43,000 worth of tree trimming equipment which was being used for Hurricane Matthew cleanup.
The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office arrested 39-year-old Justin Heath Chesser and charged him with two counts of grand larceny and for breaking and entering a locked yard after 6pm.
Chesser was also wanted on probation related charges.
"Mike's Tree Service in Ladson had a bad day yesterday," BCSO officials said. "The owner of the company, busy with the storm damage work, had his trailer, equipment and stump grinning mini-skid stolen from the storage yard where it is kept in Ladson."
According to the sheriff's office, the equipment was worth $43,540 - "a devastating blow to any small entrepreneur."
BCSO officials said two citizens witnessed something suspicious when they saw a man and woman in a white Ford F-150 with Texas tags drive up to the business and beat on something until they made entry.
They called the sheriff's office and deputies responded.
"Armed with the vehicle description, Berkeley County Sheriff's Deputies responded while others circulated the area," BCSO officials said."One alert deputy spotted a truck matching the vehicle description parked unoccupied on Rutt Lane, an area not terribly close to the theft location."
A report states after watching the truck for approximately 20 minutes, the occupants returned to it and drove off.
A traffic stop resulted in Chesser's arrest.
The sheriff's office says state agents took him to a state prison in lieu of him being booked into the Hill Finklea Detention Center.
According to BCSO officials, Chesser admitted to stealing the trailer and unhooking it not far from where the vehicle was spotted on Rutt Lane.
"Chesser provided the location where he had unhooked it and deputies were able to locate and recover the stolen trailer and equipment," BCSO officials said.
Authorities said the owner of Mike's Tree Service was contacted and he responded to the location to identify and claim his trailer and equipment.
"I have to commend the two witnesses who were alert and took time to call us so that we could help solve this. Working together, we can make Berkeley County a safer place for everyone. It is terrible that someone would try to steal a man's livelihood at a time like this," Sheriff D. Lewis stated.