THP stolen lawnmower investigation leads to Memphis chop shop bust

(Left to right) Steven Weatherby, Brian Williams, Christopher Smith
(Left to right) Steven Weatherby, Brian Williams, Christopher Smith(Shelby County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 4:47 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - An investigation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s (THP) Investigation Division has led to the arrest of three men who are accused of stealing multiple lawnmowers across West Tennessee and operating a chop shop out of a South Memphis warehouse.

On March 15, THP initiated a theft investigation after commercial-grade John Deere and other brand lawnmowers were reported stolen from several commercial dealers throughout multiple counties in West Tennessee.

On April 1, THP initiated a Bait Operation by placing GPS trackers on targeted commercial mowers.

Two days later, at approximately 12:30 a.m., THP received an alert indicating that a GPS affixed to a John Deere mower at a store in Paris, Tennessee, was moving.

The movement was tracked until THP investigators closed in on the mower’s location on I-40, where investigators say they saw a white Chevrolet Tahoe pulling an open-air trailer hauling three John Deere lawnmowers.

Investigators also spotted a blue pickup truck matching the description of one seen on camera in other lawnmower thefts. They say the truck was pulling a trailer hauling two John Deere mowers.

The truck was followed to a warehouse off of West McLemore Avenue in Memphis, where investigators say they witnessed the truck and trailer being stashed inside.

Investigators continued to follow the white Tahoe, which also stopped at the warehouse. Upon arrival, investigators initiated a traffic stop and takedown.

Five people were detained on theft charges before investigators executed a search warrant on the property.

There, investigators discovered an active chop shop operation and recovered the two stolen John Deere lawnmowers that were stashed inside.

Investigators also found several stolen, parted-out vehicles and stolen parts.

Steven Weathersby, 55, Christopher Smith, 38, and Brian Williams, 34, were all arrested and charged with four counts of theft, violation of chop shop law, and two counts of altering a motor vehicle’s serial number.

Williams is being held on a $15,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

At this time, there is no bond or court information for Weathersby or Smith.

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