Lost and found: Hope Village equipment recovered among huge inventory of stolen items

Equipment stolen shortly after Christmas from Hope Village is back on campus, where it is being used to get the facilities ready for volunteers who will be arriving later this month.

Hope Village’s John Deere Gator, trailer, diesel fuel tank and other items were among thousands of dollars of items stolen from around the region and recovered by the Mountrail County Sheriff’s Office during the past month. Tribal police on the Fort Berthold Reservation took Daniel Lee Gay into custody last month for possession of stolen property. He since has been released, re-arrested in connection with additional thefts and released again, according to the sheriff’s office.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to confirm or deny that an investigation is being conducted.

Hope Village purchased the recovered Gator from its insurance company. The village had already used insurance proceeds to buy another Gator.

Steve Carbno, village director, said it is working out well to have the two pieces of equipment.

“That now gives us a little more flexibility with the work we need to do on campus,” he said.

Carbno added that the recovered Gator came back with more hours on it and appeared to have taken some abuse from the additional use. He figured a tune-up would have it running smoothly again, though.

A trailer belonging to Lutheran Disaster Response and a diesel fuel tank also were recovered and put back into use. The trailer is helping to move items in preparation for the 2013 season, Carbno said. Volunteer teams will be in Minot this weekend and the next two weekends to get the village ready for the first group of volunteers to arrive April 21.

A number of smaller items taken from Hope Village, including a television, electric blanket and power cable, have not been recovered at this time.

Mountrail County Chief Deputy Corey Bristol, Stanley, said a break in the case occurred when Gay was confronted by an oil-field worker while allegedly stealing diesel fuel. The worker obtained a vehicle description and license number that led officers to Gay’s residence on Feb. 14.

Officers took possession of numerous items from the residence that had been reported stolen. Sheriff Ken Halvorson said the department had been receiving a number of reports of break-ins at storage units at rig worksites in which clothing, air conditioning units, heaters, tools, generators, diesel and other items were taken.

According to department records, officers discovered the Lutheran Disaster Response trailer on March 4 and located the Gator the next day at a location west of New Town, where it was reportedly being stored.

The sheriff’s office continues to hold a number of recovered items for which it has been unable to locate owners. Halvorson estimated about $50,000 in property has gone back to owners and about $40,000 in property remains unclaimed. In comparing recovered items against theft reports that fill a thick binder, a considerable amount of property remains unaccounted for. The largest share of big-ticket items reported stolen belonged to oil-field companies in McKenzie County or construction companies in the Minot area, Halvorson said.

The sheriff’s department has documented a rash of thefts from July 2012 into March of this year.

The department recommends that companies secure equipment when unattended, even if it means removing a trailer wheel or hitch to discourage theft. Having pictures of equipment and keeping a record of serial numbers also is important to ensure return if stolen.

“Not only can we get the equipment back so much easier, but it’s so much easier to prosecute,” Bristol said.