A Long County mechanic has been arrested for allegedly selling two trucks that he was supposed to repair.
According to Long County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Tom Sollosi, Donald H. Harrelson, 40, was arrested March 19 and charged with theft by conversion and theft by taking. Harrelson reportedly agreed to repair a 1999 GMC truck for a Liberty County resident and a 1999 Ford Ranger for a Long County resident, Sollosi said. But instead of repairing the two vehicles, he allegedly took them to a recycling business and sold them as scrap metal. The lieutenant said the GMC truck already had been crushed, but the Ford was recovered and returned to its owner.
Sollosi also said that Harrelson allegedly kept a pre-payment for repair work that was to be completed on the Ford Ranger. Harrelson already was on felony probation when the alleged crimes took place, and additional charges are being filed against him for reportedly violating the terms of his probation. Sollosi said bond was denied for Harrelson, who currently is in the Tattnall County Jail.
Sollosi said that in the past couple of years, crimes linked to scrap-metal recycling have become much more common. He said that vehicles often are recycled, and other metals — such as copper from air-conditioning and refrigeration units — also are very common. Sollosi said copper was removed from several homes that were under construction.
Most recycling centers in the area work well with the authorities to help find scrap-metal thieves, but many times, Sollosi said, the thieves avoid detection.
Two recycling centers in the area were contacted to get an idea of how much was being paid for metals. According to both centers, an average automobile would bring in around $400, while a full-size truck would bring in around $500. The price being paid for copper ranged from around $1 a pound if it is insulated to as much as $3.30 for higher grades.
“This is a real problem and getting worse by the day,” Sollosi said. “If people see someone poking around a subdivision where new construction is going on, or even an old vacant house, and they don’t look like they’re supposed to be there or it’s late at night, call and report it. Get their tag number. They might be over there stealing copper out of an AC unit.”