Case Moves Forward Against One of Two Men Accused of Theft of Over $30k in Equipment in Western PA

| June 13, 2019

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – The case against one of two men accused of the theft of over $30,000.00 of equipment from retailers throughout western Pennsylvania moved forward in court this week.

Court documents indicate the following criminal charges against 25-year-old Tyler James Butts of Taylor, MI, were held for court on Wednesday, June 12:

  • Corrupt Organizations – Employee, Felony 1
  • Conspire To Violate 911b1, 911b2, 911b3, Felony 1
  • Criminal Conspiracy Engaging – Theft By Decep-False Impression, Felony 3
  • Theft By Deception-False Impression, Felony 3 (three counts)
  • Conspiracy – Theft By Deception-False Impression, Felony 3 (one count)
  • Access Device Used To Obtain Or Attempt to Obtain Property/Service, Felony 3 (five counts)
  • Criminal Use Of Communication Facility, Felony 3 (five counts)

The charges have been transferred to the Venango County Court of Common Pleas.

Five third-degree misdemeanor counts of Possession Access Device Knowing Counterfeit, Altered, originally filed against Butts were withdrawn.

Butts remains lodged in the Venango County Jail with bail denied, and the bail action reason listed in the court documents as “flight risk, fugitive from justice.”

The charges stem from a grand jury investigation into multiple thefts of lawn maintenance equipment throughout western Pennsylvania that occurred in 2017.

According to court documents, the grand jury of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas began hearing evidence in June of 2018 in connection with an investigation by the Millcreek Township Police Department and the Pennsylvania State Police into the theft of high-end lawn maintenance equipment from five retailers located in Venango, Clearfield, Crawford, and Erie Counties.

The investigation revealed that between July 3, 2017, and July 6, 2017, Tyler James Butts and 29-year-old Stephawn Terel-Edwards Peguese of Ecorse, MI, stole in excess of $30,000,00 worth of equipment by calling the retailers and purchasing the equipment through the use of stolen and/or fraudulent credit card information.

Peguese and Butts would then arrive at the retailer, take possession of the equipment and leave in a U-Haul truck. Because of the nature of the credit card transactions, the unauthorized use of the credit card information did not become apparent until long after the thefts had been committed, according to court documents.

Detective Sergeant Hauber, of the Millcreek Township Police Department, appeared before the grand jury and testified that he was assigned to investigate a theft of a Gravely Pro-Turn 160 lawnmower that occurred on July 6, 2017, at an Erie County business. The company informed police that a call was received from a known telephone number in which the caller identified himself as “Raymond Peguese” and placed an order for an $8,692.00 Gravely Pro-Tum 160 lawnmower. To pay for the equipment, the caller provided a credit card number. This information was manually processed by an employee at the Erie County business. Later that same day, two black males arrived at the business in a U-Haul truck bearing an Arizona registration. The males took possession of the mower and hauled it away from the facility in the U-Haul truck. Approximately 30 days later, the business became aware that the charge was not authorized, court documents indicate.

Detective Sergeant Hauber testified that during the course of his investigation, he
determined that Butts had rented the U-Haul truck in Taylor, Michigan, on July 2, 2017. Butts provided his identification to rent the truck and the grand jury observed still photographs of Butts in the U-Haul facility. Detective Sergeant Hauber testified that although the truck was scheduled to be returned on July 5, 2017, Butts never returned it. Instead, the truck was eventually found abandoned without the key on July 18, 2017, in Taylor, Michigan. The odometer reading revealed that the U-Haul had been driven 2,581.7 miles during the time period when it was rented to Butts, according to court documents.

The grand jury also heard evidence that during the course of his investigation, Detective Sergeant Hauber reviewed records for the known telephone number. Detective Sergeant Hauber testified that, based upon the records, he was able to track the geolateral locations of the telephone between July 3, 2017, and July 7, 2017. The telephone was tracked making multiple trips between northwestern Pennsylvania and the Detroit, Michigan area. Detective Sergeant Hauber testified that the location of the telephone handset was consistent with Butts’ presence at the retail establishments where the thefts occurred, according to court documents.

Detective Sergeant Hauber reviewed the telephone numbers that were dialed from the known phone number and discovered that the telephone was used to call multiple lawn equipment retailers in northwestern Pennsylvania. Based upon the records, Detective Sergeant Hauber was able to identify four additional thefts with a similar modus operandi.

The grand jury heard testimony from Allegheny County District Attorney Detective

Detective Minett became involved in the investigation through his assignment to the Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Task Force. Detective Minett testified that on July 3, 2017, there was a theft of a Kubota Z241 zero-turn mower valued at $7,418.94 from farm equipment business in Crawford County. That day, an employee of the business received a telephone call from an individual who identified himself as “Raymond Peguese” of Franklin, Pa. The caller stated that he was purchasing the mower for his father and provided a credit card number. The transaction was manually entered by the employee and was approved. The grand jury learned that later the same day, two black males arrived in a U-Haul truck bearing an Arizona registration. When the clerk asked for identification before releasing the mower, the clerk was provided with a driver’s license for Peguese. The grand jury heard testimony that the clerk checked the identification and believed it to be the same person who had arrived to pick up the mower. The two black males then loaded the mower into the U-Haul and left the facility. On July 18, 2017, the farm equipment business was advised that the transaction was declined as fraudulent, court documents state.

The grand jury heard additional testimony of three thefts that occurred on July 5, 2017.

Specifically, an employee of an Erie rental company reported that a man called from the known telephone number and identified himself as “James Peguese” of Cambridge Springs, Pa. The individual purchased a Hotsy pressure washer, valued at $4,970.00, utilizing a credit card. The man indicated that a relative would arrive to pick up the pressure washer. A short time later, two black males arrived in a U-Haul truck, The individual who signed the receipt identified himself as “Stephan Peguese” but was not asked to produce any identification, The transaction was subsequently determined to be fraudulent, according to court documents.

Next, an equipment company located in DuBois, Clearfield County, received a telephone call on July 5, 2017, from an individual who identified himself as “Raymond Peguese” of Pittsburgh, Pa. The caller stated that he wished to purchase a tractor for his father. The caller then ordered a Cub Cadet Pro Z 160s zero-turn mower, valued at $7,400.00, utilizing a credit card. Later that day, two black males arrived in a U-Haul truck and retrieved the mower, The transaction was later declined as fraudulent, court documents indicate.

According to court documents, another theft occurred on July 5, 2017, from an electrical supply company located in Venango County. An employee of the company reported that an individual who identified himself as “Ray” called to order a generator, which was not in stock, along with LED lighting. When the credit card number provided by “Ray” could not be processed, “Ray” provided another credit card number to pay for the cost of the lighting which was $2,313.43. Detective Minett testified that it was not unusual for customers to have multiple credit card numbers due to the nature of the contracting business. Although the transaction was completed with the second credit card, it was ultimately determined that the transaction was fraudulent.

Detective Minett testified that because of the way in which the purchases wore processed (without further verification and without the employee seeing the physical credit card), the individual card owners were not financially responsible for the purchases as the owners never authorized the use of their cards. The grand jury heard testimony that the retail establishments that sold the equipment were the entities who suffered the financial losses in this case, according to court documents.

Based on the evidence obtained, the members of the grand jury recommended that the Attorney General institute criminal proceedings against Stephawn Terel-Edwards Peguese and Tyler James Butts.

Based on the grand jury recommendation, charges were filed against both men on Thursday, October 4, in Magisterial District Judge Patrick E. Lowrey’s office.

Warrants for Peguese and Butts were issued on Thursday, October 4.

Butts was arraigned in front of Magisterial District Judge Patrick E. Lowrey on Thursday, May 30.

Peguese remains at large.

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