MARYVILLE (WATE) – A Blount County man was arrested Monday in what the sheriff’s office calls an elaborate fencing and illicit drug operation involving almost $300,000 in stolen property from around East Tennessee.
Jesse Arron Teaster, known as “Ernie,” faces a long list of charges including criminal conspiracy to commit theft over $250,000, 12 counts of theft of property over $10,000, two counts of criminal attempt to commit theft over $500, criminal attempt to commit theft over $1,000, criminal attempt to commit theft over $10,000, and several drug and weapon charges.
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office says they began their investigation in June 2015 after the started seeing an increase in the theft of lawnmowers, zero turn mowers, utility trailers, ATVs and UTVs. Deputies found in August two trailers, one of which was confirmed to be stolen and the other matched the description of several other utility trailers reported stolen the following day.
As the investigation grew, they began recovering items reported as stolen in several other counties – Knox, Sevier, Blount and McMinn. Investigators also recovered property for several other law enforcement agencies including Jefferson County, Sevier County, Tusculum Police Department, Knox County, Unicoi County, Hamblen and Washington counties. They also solved business burglaries in Greene, Sullivan and Jefferson counties and helped recover a stolen ATM on the interstate in Hamblen County.
They also learned Teaster was allegedly involved in the distribution of prescription pills. The trailers were returned to their owners and a massive investigation kicked off that led to Teaster and other people. Deputies say Teaster would use a number of people called “boosters” who would steal property for him. Teaster then allegedly paid them with narcotics and money. He then would sell the stolen property either from his business on East Broadway or to other people in and around Blount County and nearby areas.
Deputies say the investigation culminated on May 19 when they searched Teaster’s business, East Auction & More. Teaster is charged in connection with 27 thefts in Blount County over the past year. Most of the victims have been identified and most of the items, totaling over $152,000, have been returned to their owners, but some of the items could not be traced back to their owners because they did not record serial numbers of any district features.
Anyone who has purchased lawnmowers, zero turn mowers, utility trailers, ATVs or UTVs from Ernie’s Auction & More is asked to call the Blount County Sheriff’s Office 24-hour crime hotline at (865) 273-5200.
They also encourage people to print copies of their Home Contents Inventory List, available at the sheriff’s office website, to keep records of your valuable items including photographs. They say to keep two copies of the form, one in a safe place at your home and one in another location.