Oct 19, 2023

Contractor tracks down stolen skid steer, finds theft ring

When Chicago area contractor Ben Kasper saw his rental Bobcat skid steer had been stolen, he didn't just get angry.

He got even.

Thanks to him, Chicago police are investigating a warehouse full of stolen construction equipment that Kasper unexpectedly led them to in his quest to recover the stolen skid steer.

Kasper last saw the new Bobcat T66 he was renting on his jobsite December 29. When he returned December 31 to install plumbing at one of the community centers he is building in Harvey, it was gone.

At first he wasn't too worried, because it had a GPS tracker on it. He had also bought insurance for it when he rented it. But he soon found out that the insurance only covered damage, not theft.

He also learned that the GPS tracker might not be working. Anger set in, along with fear that he was going to have to pay for the stolen Bobcat.

Then on January 3, he got a call in the morning that the GPS tracker had gone off. They let him know the general vicinity of it, in the Englewood area of Southside Chicago.

"I'm down there in a heartbeat," he says. "I'm cruising around looking for it."

Then he spots it.

"I see a garage door open, and it's sitting right there," he says. "So I run my truck up in there, so that way they can't close the garage door. The guy is looking at me, and I start screaming at him, and he runs off."

Kasper began looking around the inside of the warehouse.

He noticed that the thieves had removed a decoy GPS tracker he had placed on the Bobcat's window. But they hadn't removed the real tracker. Then he noticed a lot of other equipment, including trailers and a Wacker Neuson concrete dumper. He called manufacturers to find out the owners and then called the contractors that had been ripped off. Turns out, Kasper also has his private investigator's license, which he obtained for running backgorund checks on contractors that hire him to make sure they’ll pay and for employee background checks.

Kasper called three contractors in the area about the equipment by the time the police arrived. One of the contractors he called that day was Jesse Young, a concrete company owner, who two years ago had his equipment stolen and was able to get it back at the warehouse.

When the police arrived, as luck would have it, the suspected thief Kasper had confronted returned, too.

"He just stole my Bobcat, and I just took it out of his garage!" Kasper says he told police.

"Wait, who called the cops?" they asked.

"He did because he's scared of me," Kasper responds.

"And they start laughing," Kasper says of the police. "They go back and they handcuff him."

The man claimed the Bobcat was his. But Kasper noted that it still had its rental stickers.

He also noticed that the decoy GPS had been removed.

Throughout the day and night, police notifed potential owners of the equipment to get it back, after the contractors could prove ownership. According to news reports, police are still investigating the incident, and the recovered equipment could be worth around $500,000.

Meanwhile, Kasper is glad to get the skid steer back so he can return to work, but also not be out an estimated $95,000 for the cost of the skid steer, his fork attachment that was on it, as well as taxes, lost rental payments and lost work.

He's sure if he hadn't placed a dummy GPS tracker on the skid steer window the thieves would have removed the real one.

"They pulled the trackers on the other machines," he says. "So literally, that fake one was the one that saved my ass."

{Related Content: To see how you can protect your equipment from thieves, check out this story: A Detective's Perspective on Preventing Equipment Theft}