In April of 2008, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division — with significant resources from sheriff's offices in Georgetown County, Marion County and Dillon County, plus the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) — completed an equipment investigation that recovered 31 stolen machines worth a record $4 million.
Units included four vo320 excavators, two Cat D6 dozers, two Cat 930G loaders, two Cat 730 off-road trucks, three Cat 420D backhoes, a Cat motor grader, Volvo L-70 loader, John Deere 310SG backhoe, Kubota KT37 and Komatsu PC27MR mini excavators, Ingersoll Rand roller, Kubota farm tractor, Monaco motor home, a Mack truck and numerous smaller machines and trailers. Most of the equipment was stolen in the Carolinas.
The case initiated because two suspects were in possession of stolen backhoes. To launder the units, each of them decided to swap his machines for the other's, not realizing that the other backhoe was also stolen. One suspect sold his backhoe to an unsuspecting buyer. The innocent purchaser went to the local Caterpillar dealership to buy a fuel cap for his new backhoe and supplied them with the equipment's product identification number (PIN). Using the PIN, the Cat dealer discovered that the backhoe had been reported stolen, and contacted the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division requesting an investigation.
“In most cases, the PINs were altered to some extent, and we had to use various means to determine the correct PINs,” says SCLED Senior Special Agents Pete Chrisley. “Another challenge came as most of the equipment was not currently listed in the National Crime Information Center's database as active thefts, while some machines had been listed with inaccurate PINs. Several different methods were used to identify the equipment and its legitimate ownership, including NICB and NER databases, as well as manufacturers' and dealers' records.”