Franklin County investigators uncover multicounty theft ring.
By Clellie Allen
YOUNGSVILLE — Franklin County Sheriff Captain E.H. Smith got a request for help from a Harnett County Sheriff’s Investigator a month or so ago. He needed help looking for two trucks that had been stolen.
Smith was familiar with the story of stolen commercial vehicles. Franklin County detectives were investigating a stolen tractor and trailer themselves.
As Smith and his Harnett County counterpart compared notes, they began to see similarities. A couple of tips and scrap yard tickets later, and everything was pointing toward Roger Dale Nipper at 813 Moores Pond Road.
The Franklin Sheriff’s Office was well acquainted with Nipper. They’d fielded a number of complaints about him in the past. His property is not well-kept. And he didn’t like law enforcement poking around.
He’s had his drivers’ license revoked before and done community service as well as probation.
Still, every time deputies went by his place of business, a type of repair shop for commercial trucks, it seemed on the up and up. All the DMV numbers came back legitimate.
But nearby Katesville Pallet Mill had a truck and trailer go missing in December.
Then, an alert scale operator let Smith know that a particular truck had been traced to a scrap yard in Hickory and Statesville. Photos of a scrapped trailer were made available by the Hickory scrap yard operator and Smith could clearly see the KPM logo. The owner confirmed it was his trailer.
Smith and his investigators had enough to obtain a search warrant for Nipper’s property, and they served it Jan. 22.
Agents from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Harnett County Sheriff’s Office and Clayton Police Department took part in the warrant service.
Within 24 hours, the joint task force had identified nine vehicles — or parts of nine vehicles — they could confirm had been stolen.
Behind the façade of legitimate work, was a veritable chop shop, where Nipper was cutting up cabs, trailers and just about anything else.
They identified property stolen from Lenoir, Halifax, Johnston, Harnett, Sampson and Craven counties, as well as the town of Clayton.
Nipper, 49, was charged with possession of stolen property and taken to the Franklin County jail, where he was placed under a $140,000 secured bond.
Sonny Marks, 44, Lenoir Boulevard, Hickory, was also arrested and charged with larceny of motor vehicle and felony larceny. He was also taken to jail where he was held on a $35,000 bond.
Franklin Sheriff Jerry Jones said that while deputies had already been able to identify quite a bit of stolen property, the investigation was just beginning.
“There’s so much that will have to be gone through. There are oil spills, gas containers ... we’re going to need to call the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency),” he said.
Nearly 20 engines, each with a scrap value of about $5,000 were discovered. Along with trailer pieces, radiators, gear boxes and more. Altogether, by Sunday, 14 stolen trucks had been identified and vehicle parts worth an estimated $1 million.
“This will be a multi-county and probably even a multi-state investigation,” Jones said. “We’re just getting started.”