By Beth Lawrence


The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office busted a group of alleged thieves they believe are responsible for larcenies in a four-county radius, including Jackson County.

BCSO began making arrests in the theft ring in mid-September in an investigation that gave rise to “one of the largest recoveries of stolen property in at least a decade for the sheriff’s office,” with thefts that could possibly be traced to Jackson, Transylvania and Haywood counties, according to a BCSO press release.

Both Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and Sylva Police Department are reviewing open theft cases.

“The case that we have is just one case that’s involved,” said SPD Assistant Chief John Thomas. “(It) is still being investigated; there’s been no charge yet in our case. (The stolen property) may or may not be related to this case in Buncombe.”

Thomas does not have a person of interest in Jackson County. The investigation only relates to the stolen property.

Thomas did not giver further details citing the ongoing investigation.

In the first leg of BCSO’s probe, investigators arrested Jessica Dawn English, 36, of Marshall, for possession of a stolen motor vehicle. She is believed to be an accomplice in the robbery network and has been charged with 25 crimes.

Deputies also arrested Luke Adam Stafford, 38, no address given, for felony breaking and entering. Stafford was given a $20,000 bond which he posted. He was later arrested again and faces an additional 15 charges.

James William Yates III, 33, no address given, was arrested for larceny after breaking and entering, breaking and entering, break or enter a motor vehicle, identity theft, larceny of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, obtaining property by false pretense, larceny, larceny from a construction site and felony conspiracy.

Yates is likely facing additional charges in connection to the theft ring.

Yates is being held in Buncombe County Detention Center under a $627,000 secured bond.

The BCSO has “recovered hundreds of items of stolen construction, landscaping and surveying equipment/materials from rented storage units in Candler,” the release said. “A number of tools used to cut out catalytic converters were also recovered. These thefts were primarily from construction and road construction companies.”