An undercover investigation of a wave of equipment and tractor thefts in Missouri resulted in the arrest of four men, with others expected to be charged soon, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
Investigators from the Missouri Highway Patrol began tracking the alleged thieves sometime in 2008 and said the crime ring was sophisticated in its approach to stealing and selling the equipment, the newspaper reported.
Law enforcement officers said the ring stole nearly $500,000 worth of tractors, other farm equipment and construction equipment.
Two of the individuals were charged in Polk County with receiving stolen property and tampering with a vehicle identification number. One was charged in Greene County with one count of receiving stolen property and the fourth individual was charged in Howell County with eight counts of receiving stolen property, according to the News-Leader.
Officials warned potential buyers of farm and construction equipment to be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.
Equipment manufacturers say owners should record all vehicle identification numbers and etch the numbers in two locations on every vehicle - including one location that cannot be easily found by a thief. Owners should record where they etched the numbers in a safe place.