Sara Story, Denton County Journalist
Authorities say up to 31 people may be involved in an elaborate operation to steal parts from oil and gas wells
A massive crime ring has been busted in Denton County. Authorities say up to 31 people may be involved in an elaborate operation to steal parts from oil and gas wells, then sell them on the black market out of a compound on Mary Polk Road in Justin.
"It's a massive operation on both parts. The law enforcement and the, what I call, bad guys. They are stealing it, bringing it to this location, and trading it for narcotics or cash and basically running a salvage yard out of this location," Denton County Sheriff's Office Investigator Larry Kish said.
Andrea Black, Chad Blaylock, Monroe Hughes, Jason Stephenson, and James Stephenson were arrested in connection with organized criminal activity.
"Batteries are easy to move. They took solar panels, generators, anything they can take off with quickly," Kish said.
Authorities found $25,000 worth of stolen property on the Justin compound.
"That's just the recovered property is $25,000," Kish said. "I think we are probably looking at excess of $50,000 of property that was stolen that is out there."
Kish said the five people that were arrested are just the tip of the iceberg.
"This is probably the biggest theft case I have ever worked, with the amount of people involved," Kish said. "It will take me weeks to get everyone arrested that I can link directly to this operation."
It's a crime that worries neighbors in this quiet, rural part of Denton County.
"If there are some people that haven't been arrested, that definitely makes me worried," neighbor Tommy Barber said. "They will come back and see what has been left behind, sooner or later."