Charges mount for Monroe man accused of stealing ATVs

The popular Web site Craigslist led to the arrest of a Monroe County man who, among other allegations, is said to have stolen more than a dozen all-terrain vehicles.

William Lewis Merrian, 37, is accused of stealing 13 four wheelers, one EZ-Go Golf Cart, four riding lawn mowers, yard tools and a utility type trailer from areas in Georgia and Alabama. He was first arrested June 19 by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

He was released on bond and arrested again Saturday on new charges. Both times Merrian was charged with receiving stolen property and theft by deception, said Beverly Aldridge, an investigator for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Twiggs County investigators charged Merrian on Tuesday while he was in Monroe County jail in connection with an incident that allegedly took place in Twiggs.

Twiggs County investigators got on Merrian’s trail when Sheriff Josh Hilton of Calhoun County saw an ad for a stolen vehicle from Calhoun listed on Craigslist, a Web site that is often used for buying and selling goods, posted by a man who had purchased an item from Merrian.

Investigators interviewed the Twiggs County man who posted the ad for the four-wheeler. That man, who authorities are calling a victim in the case, led officer’s to Merrian, who is the only suspect in the case.

Merrian told potential buyers that he purchased his merchandise at a police auction in Florida, said Billy Boney, Twiggs County chief deputy.

Merrian was “very convincing” in his story about the auction when he talked to customers, Boney said at a news conference Tuesday.

Merrian had a legitimate dealers license for selling cars, said Lt. Chip Stokes, an investigator for the Twiggs County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities recovered property from several counties in Georgia and from Alabama. Some of the property has already been returned to victims, Boney said.

Though Boney said his office has not “sat down and added it up yet,” he estimated that the total value of the stolen merchandise would be “several thousand dollars.”

“We got an EZ-Go lawn mower that’s probably $6,000,” he said, citing one of many items that have been recovered.

“I’m just glad we could get somebody’s property back,” Stokes said.

Merrian told authorities that he purchased the property from someone else, Alridge said.

The investigation is ongoing, Alridge added. Authorities are still looking for information about any thefts and ask that people with information contact the Twiggs County Sheriff’s Office at (478) 945-3357 or their local sheriff’s office or police department.

To contact writer Eric Newcomer, call 744-4494.