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March 05, 2009   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
March 05, 2009

From left Alabama Agriculture and Industries Chief of Investigator Bob Holley, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks and Alabama Farmers Federation Beef, Equine and Hay & Forage Divisions Director Perry Mobley examine equipment recovered during the investigation.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- More than a half million dollars in equipment and livestock have been recovered through an investigation led by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Commissioner Ron Sparks announced at a March 3 press conference.

According to Sparks, 15 counties in Alabama and one in Florida were part of the dragnet that included state and local law enforcement officers. The total value of items recovered as of March 3 was $546,400, and included cattle, tractors, backhoes, ATVs, power tools, utility and stock trailers. The investigation also led to the discovery of other illegal items, such as drugs, moonshine and untaxed liquor, Sparks said.

"The last six months have been exceptional for our investigations team," said Sparks. "Not only are they solving crimes, (but) they are recovering property that has been missing for years."

The recovery of 18 head of cattle at the Montgomery Stockyard was especially significant because it marked the first investigation in Alabama where DNA testing was used to identify stolen cattle. State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier collected samples from the cattle, and sent them to the State Diagnostic Lab in Auburn.

From there, the samples were forwarded to a national laboratory to be compared with the DNA from samples collected from the suspected farm of origin. Five of the 18 were positively identified by this DNA comparison. In the past year, 167 head of cattle have been stolen, and 97 have been recovered.

Nine arrests were made as a result of the undercover operations in Macon, Montgomery, Lowndes, Russell and Butler counties, and Sparks said he believes the thefts are connected. Sparks said property is being returned to the rightful owners as items are identified. He would not identify those arrested, saying he expects as many as six more arrests forthcoming.

Sparks praised Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Director Perry Mobley who assisted his department in tracking some of the stolen cattle.

"Farmers, just like everyone else, are watching every penny these days and to have equipment and livestock stolen is especially bad during these hard economic times," Mobley said. "Our farmers appreciate the work of Commissioner Sparks and their local law enforcement in tracking down these thieves."

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