The owner of an Augusta produce company pleaded guilty Thursday to six misdemeanor counts of theft by receiving stolen property.
Leo P. Charette, 48, was initially indicted on felony charges related to the discovery of six stolen items in his 15th Street warehouse in December 2010. However, Assistant District Attorney Adam Land recommended the reduction in charges because there was no evidence Charette was involved in the theft of the items, the value of the items had been overestimated and Charette had no criminal history.
The Jenkins County Sheriff’s Department alerted local investigators that items stolen in their county were being taken to the Leo’s Produce warehouse. Officers staked out the business and saw two men deliver a stolen golf cart, Land said.
The warehouse contained thousands of items that Charette had bought at flea markets and from individuals. The stolen items identified were the golf cart, a GMC Sierra truck, a Polaris trailer, Jet Ski, ATV and a John Deere mower, according to the indictment.
Defense attorney Peter Johnson said Charette got into trouble because he expected other people to be as honest as he is in business. Johnson described Charette as an entrepreneur who buys and trades items.
Friends spoke on Charette’s behalf, describing him as a man of good character. Leo’s Produce had been a preferred vendor for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office until his arrest. He continues to be a vendor for the Richmond County Board of Education. In 2011, the school system paid Leo’s Produce $495,206, according to state records.
Richmond County Superior Court Judge J. Wade Padgett accepted the plea negotiation and sentenced Charette to three years probation under the First Offender Act, and imposed a $6,000 fine.
He cautioned Charette that reputations are generally earned and although he had a good reputation in the community, people who steal learn who has a reputation for buying stolen property, too.
Three other men were named in the same indictment as Charette. Larry Germany, 48, was sentenced June 13 to 10 years probation under the First Offender Act. Charges against Bradley C. Rollins, 51, and Derrick A. Williams, 37, are pending. Williams was transferred from a state prison last week to the Richmond County jail. He served time for a September 2012 theft in Jenkins County.