Sheriff Gentry gives update on theft ring bust

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Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry holds a press conference Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) on Monday, Oct. 26 busted what it says was a major theft ring, recovering thousands of dollars in stolen property, one of the biggest recoveries in the last 20 years. Friday morning, Sheriff Matt Gentry gave an update on the investigation.

“We had been having several burglaries throughout Cullman County. Our investigators worked extremely hard. With the use of social media, we had some pictures and things that we were putting out, so we were able to gather information to develop a search warrant for a residence in Holly Pond that belonged to Ronald Eric Bevington,” he said, recounting the events leading up to Monday’s arrests.

“Members of the Special Response Team and our investigators executed that search warrant Monday. During the execution of that search warrant, Mr. Bevington fled. I was proud of K-9 Copper. It was about a 3-mile, or a little bit over a 3-mile track with K-9 Copper and Deputy (Nicholas) Buchanan with other members of the Special Response Team where they took Bevington into custody.”

Continued Gentry, “There (were) multiple people at the residence, and so that kind of started the second tier of the investigation. Once we were there, we started discovering not only did Mr. Bevington have currency and a large amount of methamphetamine in his possession, there was also heroin and some acid, but we had large amounts of stolen property. We were able to recover that property; I think we had about three and a half trailer loads of property that we knew was stolen throughout not only our county but multiple jurisdictions.”

The sheriff said this was a “huge win” for the theft victims, as well as the sheriff’s office. He said property has been returned to victims in other counties as well. The agencies the CCSO has worked with to return property include the Cullman Police Department, Arab Police Department, Oneonta Police Department, Cleveland Police Department and the Blount County Sheriff’s Office.

“Most of the time you have a burglary, the victim is the one that is out everything,” he said. “They lose their property; they had their home invaded; they lose their privacy. So, for us to be able to return a little piece of their property, this is a huge win for us at the sheriff’s office.”

So far, the CCSO has returned the following property to owners:

  • 8 guns (handguns and rifles)
  • 2 utility trailers (one brand new)
  • 1 compound bow with arrows
  • Numerous power tools
  • 5 new flat screen TVs
  • 2 guitars
  • 1 pressure washer

 

“We still have a lot of property and a lot of victims that are coming here onsite,” said Gentry, “coordinating with investigators to go and try to identify more of the property that we have in our possession.”

The sheriff said Bevington is a known criminal and convicted felon. He said there is a possibility for federal charges.

“Mr. Bevington is a multi, multi-convicted felon. I will tell you this. I’ve been dealing with Mr. Bevington for over 21 years,” he said. “Because he is multi-convicted felon, and he was in possession of a large amount of methamphetamine, we are coordinating with the Drug Enforcement Administration out of Birmingham for the possibility of federal prosecution on this case.”

Monday’s search warrant was executed at a residence along County Road 1728 in the Holly Pond community, where 40 grams of methamphetamine, $5,300 in cash, stolen guns, trailers, guitars, tools, TVs, tablets and other items were recovered.

Bevington, 52, of Holly Pond is charged with trafficking in illegal drugs, first-degree receiving stolen property and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. He also had numerous warrants and may be facing other charges.

Three others at the residence were also arrested.

Merlin Eugene Thomas, 38, of Holly Pond is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. He also had a failure to appear warrant.

Janissa Carolyn Dover, 27, of Cullman is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

Shaina Michelle Rajput, 36, of Hanceville is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. She also had numerous failure to appear warrants.

Bevington is being held in the Cullman County Detention Center.

“This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, property recoveries we have had here at the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office during my 20 years here. No one dislikes thieves more than we do, and it’s our goal to locate the owners and return as much of this stolen property as we can,” Gentry said that day. “I am also glad our deputies were able to arrest these four individuals and also seize these drugs and recover this property in a safe manner.”

Residents who believe any of the stolen items belong to them are asked to the call the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office Investigation Division at 256-734-0342.

More photos of recovered property can be viewed on the Cullman Sheriff’s Facebook page.

“We’re just so proud at the hard work our investigators and the sheriff’s office have been conducting throughout this investigation,” said Gentry.

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Ronald Eric Bevington (Cullman County Sheriff’s Office)
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Wendy Sack

wendy@cullmantribune.com