Stolen tractor recovered in Polk County

OKEECHOBEE — A 27-year-old Okeechobee man was arrested Friday evening for his alleged involvement in the burglary of a storage container.

A tractor was reported stolen and found to be later sold to a man in a different county.

James Thomas Gainer Jr., Northwest 110th Street, was arrested April 20 on felony charges of burglary of unoccupied structure unarmed and grand theft (more than $10,000 but less than $20,000). He was also arrested by Officer Cesar Romero on an Okeechobee County warrant charging him with trespass on property other than structure or conveyance. His bond was set at $13,250, according to an arrest report by Detective Jose Garduno, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO).

James Thomas Gainer Jr., 27

On April 8, OCSO Deputy Cody Hurst responded to a complaint that a storage container on a Northwest 308th Street property had been burglarized. A green John Deere 3038e tractor with bucket and box blade attached had been stolen. The owner stated the tractor was outfitted with two global positioning systems (GPS).

The complainant apparently resides in Fort Lauderdale but owns the property for his future retirement. He was notified his tractor was moving by the GPS track application.

The complainant then reportedly drove from Fort Lauderdale to Okeechobee to find his tractor was in fact gone from the property.

The gate at the entrance of the property reportedly had the lock removed. The four storage containers on the property had the locks cut on them and also a grabber attachment for the trailer was missing from one of the containers.

The estimated value of the stolen tractor and attachments were reportedly worth $23,200.

Deputy Hurst reportedly saw the GPS track application the man had on his phone with the last known location to be in the vicinity of Masterpiece Road in Lake Wales.

The man was able to provide a vehicle identification number (VIN) for the tractor when he returned to his home in Fort Lauderdale. Deputy Hurst then requested dispatch to enter the VIN into the Florida Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center (FCIC/NCIC) databases as reported stolen. Lake Wales Police Department (LWPD) was reportedly made aware of the stolen vehicle and agreed to assist the man in finding his stolen tractor.

On April 10, Detective Garduno made contact with the complainant who recounted the events reported by Deputy Hurst. The man said that on the date of the incident he contacted law enforcement from Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) when the GPS application showed the tractor to be in Lake Wales.

PCSO personnel reportedly made contact with an individual in possession of the tractor and its attachments. The tractor was recovered on April 8 and the owner said it was delivered to Everglades Farm Equipment Company, Inc. to be inspected. The complainant informed Det. Garduno that since the incident he has replaced all the locks and secured his property.

PCSO Deputy Gary Meredith Carter was able to make contact with the tractor owner who provided him the log-in information to access the GPS and found the equipment located on the property of 2424 Burns Ave. in Lake Wales.

Deputy Joseph Hicks made contact with the property owner who came to the location of Deputy Carter to provide law enforcement access to the tractor. The tractor on the property had the same VIN that was reported stolen by the owner and provided by OCSO.

The man reportedly told Deputy Carter over the phone, “It’s there, the tractor is there, I bought it today and I have a receipt.”

The man arrived a short time later and unlocked the gate for law enforcement.

While Deputy Carter was inspecting the equipment, the man began to explain how he found and purchased the tractor.

The man reportedly stated that he found the tractor listed on Facebook Marketplace and was posted by a Facebook page belonging to a “John Humm.” He stated that he found the posting on the morning of April 7. The man said that he and “Humm” had traded numerous messages and calls concerning the tractor with arrangements being made to purchase the goods around noon on April 8.

The report continued that the man was led to a storage container by “Humm” who unlocked the container and backed the tractor out. The man then showed Deputy Carter an envelope that was used by “Humm” to write the bill of sale, which was collected and placed into evidence. He then stated that “Humm” drove a small white four-door vehicle and appeared to have a young child with him.

The man then reportedly claimed to pay “Humm” $10,000 in cash for the tractor, box blade, front bucket and grappler where he then brought equipment back to his property utilizing his personal trailer. The man offered to transport the tractor and attachments back to the original owner, saying it was the least he could do to assist the owner.

On April 16, Det. Garduno met with the man who purchased the trailer from “Humm.”

The man described “Humm” as 5’8” – 6’, white male, approximately 200 pounds, in his late twenties to early thirties, with a crew cut hairstyle, facial hair and tattoos on his arms. The man said that “Humm” had his son present with him during the exchange and knew it to be so due to an introduction prior to the sale. He then stated to Detective Garduno that if he were to see “Humm” again that he could positively identify him and that he would cooperate with law enforcements efforts in the investigation.

Based on his investigation, the detective suspected James Thomas Gainer Jr. as the man engaging in the sale of the tractor as “Humm.” An OCSO photo array packet was then prepared for the man who purchased the tractor in an attempt to identify the individual known as “Humm.”

He identified suspect number five in the photo array packet as the man who sold him the tractor. Suspect number five was James Thomas Gainer Jr.

James Thomas Gainer Jr. was arrested, transported and booked into the Okeechobee County Jail. The complainant reportedly had never met Gainer in the past nor had he known of him.

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