Florida Contractor Arrested for Selling Stolen Used Equipment to Unsuspecting Buyers

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A Florida contractor has been arrested for selling stolen used equipment to unsuspecting buyers, claiming he bought the machines from insurance companies, according to the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) in Florida.

Tony Darrell Richards, 40, was charged along with three other accomplices. According to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, a Tony Darrell Richards holds a certified general contractor license for Fierce Construction in Lake City, Florida.

The Sheriff's Office says Richards was nabbed in a joint investigation into a criminal theft syndicate the SCSO conducted with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office and the Live Oak Police Department. The syndicate had been stealing compact excavators, skid steers, utility trailers and zero-turn lawnmowers across north Florida and south Georgia, says the SCSO.

Robert Sanders, Tony Darrell Richards, Matthew Robert Yopp, Joshua James ReddArrested for equipment theft were left to right, Robert Sanders, Tony Darrell Richards and Matthew Robert Yopp. Investigators were still searching for Joshua James Redd, far right, at the time of the arrest announcement.Suwannee County Sheriff's Office

SCSO says the syndicate was first identified in an unrelated investigation and arrest. It was then able to identify additional members of the organization, which it says stretched from Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia to Suwannee and Columbia counties in Florida. 

The multi-state nature of the crime led local investigators to contact the FBI. They learned that the FBI was conducting a parallel investigation into the group, and had already identified Robert Sanders, 44, of Lake City, Florida, as a high-ranking member of the organization, according to the SCSO.

Sanders, investigators says, solicited co-defendants to steal specific equipment he could then sell. 

As the investigation progressed, says SCSO, two additional suspects were identified, Matthew Robert Yopp, 27, of Mayo, Florida, and Joshua James Redd, 35, of Lake City, Florida. SCSO says the two men stole numerous trailers and pieces of equipment across both North Florida and South Georgia.

Investigators say Sanders conspired with Richards to buy the stolen equipment, which he then sold to others, claiming he had bought the equipment from insurance companies. 

Investigators say they've been able to locate and recover numerous pieces of equipment; however, other pieces have not been located.

Richards has been charged with two counts of dealing in stolen property. Sanders has been arrested by the FBI and federally indicted; Yopp has been charged with three counts of burglary and grand theft. At the time of the SCSO release, the location of Redd was unknown.

This investigation is ongoing.