A Monett man and a McDowell man are in the Barry County Jail following their arrests. Additional arrests in other counties are expected.
News of the arrests was announced at the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop D headquarters in Springfield on Monday morning. According to Captain Juan Villanueva, commanding officer for Troop D, approximately $350,000 in stolen farm equipment has been recovered.
Arrested were Howard L. Perryman, 60, of Monett, and Richard D. Hert, 46, of McDowell. Perryman has been charged with four counts of receiving stolen property worth $500 or more and one count of first degree tampering. He is being held on a $200,000 cash bond as a persistent offender. Hert has been charged with four counts of receiving stolen property and is being held on a $100,000 cash bond.
Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly was joined by officers from the Patrol and representatives from sheriff's departments in Lawrence, Barton, Dade, Greene, Jasper and Newton counties at the news conference.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," said Capt. Villanueva. "We're working with the Rural Crime Task Force and the sheriff's departments. If you're out there stealing equipment from our farmers, we're going to find you."
The arrests stemmed from an investigation that began in April 2010 when undercover officers became aware of individuals seeking to sell farm equipment. A 2007 John Deere tractor valued at $50,000 was offered for sale at a minimal price. Later in April, another John Deere tractor valued at $25,000 was purchased by undercover officers for less than $3,000.
In May, a Case skid steer valued at $10,000 and a Case tractor valued at $26,000 were also purchased.
A search warrant was executed on Hert's remote property in McDowell on May 13. Epperly said tractors, gooseneck trailers, a brush hog and haybine were recovered.
At the same time, officers served a search warrant in Newton County where additional equipment was seized. Another suspect is being held in the Newton County Jail.
A trailer loaded with steel fence posts and 38 rolls of barbed wire believed to be stolen from Barry County were recovered during the search. Automatic waterers stolen in Hickory County were also discovered during the search.
Epperly said the investigation has extended into nine counties. Some of the property owners have been identified.
Among the stolen items found in McDowell was a tractor stolen from the Herndon Orchard in Marionville on May 9. The theft was subsequently tied to the theft of a tractor from the Williams Saw Mill in Aurora as well as a trailer. These items were recovered after another theft attempt occurred at a site between Aurora and Marionville. In that incident, the thieves got stuck in a field. A stolen truck used in that theft attempt was abandoned and burned.
A week later another truck was stolen in Dade County. That truck was recovered in McDowell.
Detective Mike Madewell with the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department said no titles are required to sell tractors, making it difficult to trace the sale of stolen farm equipment. No effort had been made to alter to the serial numbers on the vehicles recovered in McDowell.
A connection between thefts from Fritz Implement in Monett and Larson Farm Equipment in Freistatt is part of the investigation, Madewell said.
Barry County Prosecuting Johnnie Cos, who was in attendance at Monday's press conference, said charges against Hert and Perryman were filed on Friday.
"These are no isolated incidents," said Sgt. Dan Bracker, public information officer with the Patrol. "We want to make sure the public can contact law enforcement when they see different vehicles. Tips are important to cases like this."