Three shipping employees were part of a year-long conspiracy to steal more than $23,000 in merchandise they were transporting from a Home Depot distribution center to Columbia-area stores, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department announced Sunday.
Cody Bessinger, 28, was charged with two counts of grand larceny over $10,000 and conspiracy, the sheriff’s department said. Joe Gunter, 36, and Chris Shumpert, 39, were each charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent over $10,000 and conspiracy.
Theft investigators with Home Depot contacted the sheriff’s department July 5 and said merchandise was being transported from their distribution center in West Columbia by Estes Express Line to various stores, according to the sheriff’s department. But vendors had noticed that items they were billed for weren’t showing up on inventory to be sold.
The investigation led deputies from Richland and Lexington counties to search Bessinger’s home, where they found more than $23,000 worth of Rheem tankless water heaters, deputies said. Bessinger was an employee of Estes Express Line at the time.
A subsequent investigation indicated that the theft had been happening for more than a year, and that Gunter and Shumpert — an assistant manager and manager for Estes Express Line, respectively — were involved in the theft, the sheriff’s department said. Their exact roles in the conspiracy were unclear Sunday.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Richland and Lexington county sheriff’s departments, the State Law Enforcement Division, Home Depot and Estes Express Line, according to the release.
All three men were placed in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.