Multiple suspects blamed for backhoe thefts
Police say the 48-year-old Waianae man caught in the alleged theft and extortion of backhoes is part of a heavy-equipment theft and extortion ring.
Police are asking for the public's help in finding other possible suspects and for construction companies that have had equipment stolen to come forward.
After police tracked down Vance Grace, a convicted felon, on Monday for the alleged theft of two backhoes and extortion, they discovered six other stolen backhoes in his back yard in Waianae.
Someone must have helped him transport the backhoes, CrimeStoppers coordinator Sgt. Kim Buffett said.
Because most of the backhoes were stolen from construction sites in the town area, police are hoping someone may have seen them being transported on the freeway to Waianae, Buffett said.
Construction companies may believe it's easier to pay an extortionist in exchange for their backhoes rather than delay their construction jobs, Buffett said.
Grace was charged yesterday with two counts of first-degree theft and one count of extortion. He was being held last night in lieu of $100,000 bail.
The two theft charges are for the two backhoes taken from construction sites in the Kapiolani Boulevard and Ward Avenue area.
Grace allegedly demanded $5,000 from the victimized construction companies for the return of the backhoes, reportedly worth $50,000 each. He returned one to a company in exchange for $5,000.
The other company worked with police to catch Grace in a sting operation, Buffett said.
The six stolen backhoes found in Grace's back yard were returned to the six different construction companies that owned them.
Grace was convicted of motor vehicle theft exactly five years prior to the date he allegedly stole the two backhoes.
Grace is a felon with 31 convictions, his most recent being auto theft in 2002. For that, he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on Feb. 26, 2002. He was also convicted for carrying a deadly weapon and seven felony theft cases.
Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 955-8300 or *CRIME on a cell phone.