A joint effort between the Smyth, Wythe and Grayson county sheriff’s offices is believed to have effectively shut down a tri-county theft ring last week.

Smyth County Sheriff Chip Shuler said a Sugar Grove man has been charged in the thefts and at least three others who are being held on other charges will likely face similar charges.

The Smyth agency began investigating a string of larcenies in the Camp area of Sugar Grove more than two months ago, Shuler said. The Grayson County Sheriff’s Office had been investigating similar thefts in the Elk Creek area.

ATVs, lawnmowers, power tools and other high-dollar pieces of equipment were reported stolen in the two counties.

The investigation led police to a home on Dry Road in Speedwell, where, according to a search warrant, police recovered a collection of stolen items, including lawn equipment, power tools, a generator, an air compressor and a microwave, among other items. The Wythe County Tactical Team executed the warrant.

 A search warrant executed in Grayson County recovered similar items, including ATVs, a motorcycle, lawn care items and other equipment.

The combined value of the recovered items is estimated at $50,000.

Wythe County Sheriff’s Maj. Anthony Cline said Wythe County didn’t appear to have any thefts related to the ring, but he believes the items were brought to the area for distribution. 

Shuler said about half of the homes robbed in the Camp area were seasonal dwellings like hunting cabins. He expects to have even more larceny reports as autumn progresses.

“Until hunting season kicks in, we probably won’t even know what all is missing until these people start finding their places have been broken into,” he said.

Last Monday, 31-year-old Shade Fraline Ray, of Sugar Grove, was the first to be charged in the theft ring. Ray, so far, has been charged with a single count of grand larceny. He was released on his own recognizance and is scheduled for arraignment on Thursday.

Shuler said additional charges are pending against Ray, as well as the three other individuals. The investigation is ongoing.

“I want to commend deputies from all three counties for their hard work and shared perseverance to bring these thieves to justice,” Shuler said. “We have an outstanding working relationship with our surrounding jurisdictions; unlike law enforcement, outlaws do not have to follow jurisdictional boundaries.”

Grayson County Sheriff Richard Vaughn had similar thoughts. According to a post on the agency’s Facebook page, Vaughn said the case was a great example of law enforcement agencies working together to get the job done.

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