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Flatbed tow trucks stolen in Putnam County

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – Speculation is running wild about why big flatbed tow trucks are being stolen from Putnam County.

The crime is devastating local business owners who are desperate to get their trucks back. They believe an organized theft ring is to blame.

"They didn't just steal my tow truck, they stole my business," said Bruce Birkett, owner of R&J Towing. "Without it, I'm shut down at the moment."

It's been that way for the last three weeks.

Investigators have very little to go on, but they do know that one of the trucks stolen from the shop was video recorded heading south on U.S. Highway 17.

But just north on 17 last Sunday night, thieves struck again, this time at East Palatka Towing. Again, a big flatbed known as a rollback was the target.

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"You know, we're just a mom-and-pop organization," said Carl Greene. "Me and my family own this business and we depend on that rollback quite a bit for the business."

Greene's technician showed their surveillance video, and right under the time and date stamp, it's clear what's going on.

"You can see the car coming around the corner," he said.

But it provides no real clues as to who the thieves are, only that they are quick and seem to know exactly what they're doing.

"It backs up and then slowly follows the car out of the parking lot," the technician said.

Investigators in Putnam and surrounding counties aren't confirming there's a tow truck theft ring, but the victims say they're learning from other owners that these trucks are being stolen all over Florida and the Southeast. And they are pretty angry about it.

"It's just a ring of people going around, deadbeats, taking advantage of working people," Greene said.

Those working people have a message for the thieves.

"All I can say is I hope they catch up with you guys, and whether I get my truck back or not, I'd like to see you guys rot," Birkett said.

The trucks can cost $50,000 to $80,000 or more.

Greene only had insurance to cover the cars he was towing, and Birkett said it's 30 days before he can get a check, but the equipment on his truck will be a big loss.

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office isn't saying much about the investigation, but it is possible that the thieves could be using those tow trucks to steal cars. Another theory is that they are being shipped overseas.

The hope is that someone will come forward with information.


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