Wake Forest, N.C. — A Wake Forest boat business was up the creek without a paddle when equipment was stolen from the facility in October.
The company used the Internet to get back the more than $1,000 in equipment, which included six canoes, a kayak and a trailer.
“More times than not, these things don’t get solved,” manager Bob Doty said of the Oct. 15 theft.
Doty’s boss, Chuck Arkell, decided that if the thieves planned to sell the boats, he could find them by shopping around the Internet. He turned to Craigslist.
“He called back and said, ‘I see one of our boats on Craigslist,’” Doty said.
Just hours after it was stolen, it appeared the company’s kayak was up for sale.
Doty contacted the police, and they put together a plan to get the thieves to bring the boat back to them by offering to buy it.
Arkell arranged for Doty to meet the sellers in the parking lot of a Sheetz gas station located at 564 U.S. 1 Highway in Youngsville. Police gave him marked bills to make the transaction.
Police told Doty that if he recognized the boat, he should make the buy. That would be the officers clue to swarm in.
“I knew right away it was ours. It still had the Paddle Creek sticker on it,” Doty said.
A dozen hidden officers moved in with guns drawn. They surrounded the two men, who showed up to sell the boat.
The men, identified in search warrants as Garrett Michael Whitt, 22, and Zachary David Harris, 21, were taken into custody. Investigators said Harris told them about other stolen property being held in a rented storage facility and other items sold through Craigslist.
“They rolled in and took them down,” Doty said. “They were pretty surprised. I do not think they expected it.”
Paddle Creek got their boats back.
Whitt faces charges including larceny, breaking and entering, conspiracy, possession of stolen goods and receiving stolen goods. He has previous convictions for selling drugs, a felony weapons charge and larceny after breaking-and-entering and was on probation at the time of his arrest, according to state Department of Correction records.
Harris faces two charges of larceny.
Both men were transported to Franklin County to face charges unrelated to the Paddle Boat theft, authorities said.
Police obtained a warrant to search an e-mail account used by the suspects. Investigators believe that could turn up more stolen property.