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Stolen equipment returned after business owner investigates

Facebook tips help East Coast Motor Sports owner in his own investigation

ST. MARYS, Ga. – Thousands of dollars worth of stolen equipment was returned to a St. Marys small business owner after he said he confronted a man believed to be involved the theft.

The St. Marys Police Department said it's investigating the theft that occurred at East Coast Motor Sports Sunday night. But Charles Cochran, the owner of the business, said he did not want to wait a minute to go after the person who stole more than $6,000 worth of equipment from his store.

"To have somebody come in here and feel like they can just take what I've earned, you know. It's unnerving and it makes you nauseous and sick. It makes you sad. It's hard to think that someone would come here and do this," Cochran said. 

Cochran said he saw a man on his security system from home about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. 

"He pulls back into the parking lot. All my stuff is already loaded up, so he moved my trailer out," Cochran said. 

After he called police, Cochran decided to begin his own investigation. 

It wasn't just the security cameras that helped identify one of the people behind the scheme, but the power of social media also assisted in tracking him down.

"As soon as I put it on Facebook, the community just came in an uproar about it and everybody started. Once we had the vehicle identified, everybody started throwing in ideas of who it might be," Cochran said. 

About 24 hours later, Cochran had enough information to confront a man who he believes was involved. 

"I walked in with my video footage and I said, 'Listen. I have you on camera. I want my stuff back.' He said he would do what he could to get it back, but this was bigger than him and he would get me back what he could," Cochrain said. 

The next day, some of the stolen equipment showed up at his second business location in Yulee.

"I was able to recover some of my equipment, which is actually in disarray. But at least I have my working 16-foot trailer. This is what I make my living with," Cochran said.

Even with some of his equipment returned, Cochran said, he's still out about $4,000. But he said he hopes he stopped the thieves from targeting others in his community.

"We can't rely on our police to do everything. They are undermanned and there's nothing they can do. So we have to join forces and help them and give them evidence," Cochran said.

No arrests have been made in the case, police told News4Jax Thursday. But investigators said they do have multiple suspects identified.