Authorities say a major farm theft operation has been going on for two years or more in and around Dodge County.
Farmer Jim Sanderson’s hay mower was stolen from a field near Highway 151 outside Columbus last August. He spent much of the winter driving around looking for it in fields, then just weeks ago, he discovered it about 30 miles from his home at a man’s farm.
“When I had time off, I would drive slowly around the county and my circle got bigger and bigger and that’s how we happened to run across it,” said Sanderson.
He called the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department who served a search warrant on the property and found Sanderson’s equipment as well as a number of other stolen items, and the investigation has spiraled from there.
“In doing additional investigation, particularly through auction houses, we’re finding and recovering additional stolen property not just from our county but other counties,” said Lt. JoAnne Swyers with the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department.
The investigation that started in Columbus now spans five Wisconsin counties, with thousands of dollars in equipment recovered.
“We get a random one here and there, a lot of time people get golf carts or ATVs stolen, but this is one of the major ones that we’ve had and its a large string of equipment,” said Swyers.
“Every day I think about it and when I tell people the story they say ‘man, you’re lucky’ and I realize I’m lucky,” said Sanderson.
Sanderson isn’t only happy to have helped others get their property back, but passes on a lesson of his own.
“You just have to be more vigilant about taking care of your own personal property,” said Sanderson.
Sanderson is hoping to seek restitution against the suspect, as he had to pay someone to cut hay for him last year and this year, costing him about $2,000.
Sheriffs departments in all the counties involved are still working on finding additional stolen property.
The suspect in the case has not been arrested, which is why WISC-TV is not naming the suspect in these thefts. But the sheriff’s department says the suspect is cooperating and charges are expected.