Evans businessman pleads guilty to theft

A part-owner of a Columbia County heavy-equipment business pleaded guilty to a theft charge Friday and returned $80,000 to his former business partner.

Richard Rogers, 60, abused his position as a co-owner of Construction Equipment Outlet to funnel profits into his own pockets instead of the business accounts, cheating his partner, Paul Swanson.

In 2005, Swanson, who had put up most of the money to start the company, which sold used construction equipment, became suspicious about the inventory and took the company books to an accountant. The case was turned over to the Columbia County Sheriff Office.

Although Rogers was accused initially of taking $115,000 and indicted on charges of racketeering and theft, defense attorney Michael Garrett and District Attorney Ashley Wright worked out a negotiated acceptable to Rogers and Swanson.

Judge Michael N. Annis also accepted the plea agreement Friday. He sentenced Rogers to two years' probation under the First Offender Act.

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