Nov 01, 2023

Utahn allegedly involved in $2M in construction equipment thefts arrested, yet again

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SANDY — A man who has been convicted multiple times for stealing large pieces of equipment from construction sites across Utah — mainly skid-steer front loaders — and selling them at well-below market value is now facing new charges accusing him of returning to his old ways after being placed on probation.

In total, Derek Clark Johanson, 43, of Salt Lake City, "has caused close to $2 million in losses to the community with all of his charged and uncharged cases and convictions involving skid loaders and other construction equipment," according to charging documents.

Johanson was charged Tuesday in 3rd District Court with three counts of theft by receiving stolen property, two counts of theft by deception and communications fraud, second-degree felonies; failing to respond to an officer's signal to stop, a third-degree felony; reckless driving, a class B misdemeanor; and driving on a suspended license, a class C misdemeanor.

Johanson made headlines in 2021 for allegedly stealing skid-steer front loaders and selling them online. A Pleasant Grove family who bought one of those stolen skid-steers for $12,000 contacted authorities and returned the stolen machinery after seeing the story on, even though they knew they were unlikely to get their money back.

Prosecutors note in charging documents that Johanson has already been convicted in six felony cases involving stolen skid loaders and was on probation from drug court at the time of his current crimes. Following his conviction on Dec. 2, 2021, Johanson "immediately returned to the same conduct and victimized a couple from Idaho by selling them a skid loader for $20,000," the charges state.

After being booked back into jail, police recorded a phone conversation between Johanson and his wife in which he told her "he would be OK because he would just get drug court. Johanson was correct. He was given the opportunity to complete the Salt Lake County drug court program instead of going to prison. Johanson eventually was released from jail, and sure enough, he immediately returned to victimizing the community," the charging documents say. "In a few short weeks, Johanson has taken $13,000 from one victim and $19,000 from another victim."

In his latest charges, Johanson is accused of stealing a skid loader from a construction site in Sandy in November and then selling it online a couple of days later to a man in Wellsville, Cache County. But the man who purchased the skid loader also recorded the license plate number of Johanson's vehicle and gave it to police after learning that the equipment he purchased was stolen, the charges state.

That man, along with friends, later found another online ad allegedly posted by Johanson offering to sell another skid loader and arranged to buy it from him. On Saturday, the men arranged to meet Johanson at 150 E. 8920 South. The men "agreed on a sale in a rouse to delay" Johanson so they could contact police and have officers respond to their location as they loaded the machinery onto their trailer, according to the charges.

When officers arrived, Johanson and a second man got back into their vehicle and fled.

"Johanson turned off the vehicle's tail and head lights, made multiple unsafe and illegal maneuvers while also driving in oncoming traffic lanes," the charges state.

Sandy police stopped chasing the vehicle, but continued to follow it from a distance. When it finally came to a stop, Johanson got out and ran. Officers from five police agencies responded to the area and were able to locate Johanson and take him into custody.

Detectives determined that the skid loader Johanson was selling was stolen from a Christmas tree lot near 9000 S. State, the charges say.

Investigators also believe Johanson stole a skid loader from 12364 S. 970 East on Dec. 9 and sold it to a Kaysville firefighter for $19,000. Police believe Johanson was going to steal another skid loader on Dec. 16 near 151 E. 11000 South before finding out it wasn't working, according to the charges.

Court documents indicate that Johanson was wearing an ankle monitor at the time of his alleged crimes due to being on probation. After his arrest, police used the data from the monitor to verify that Johanson had been in the same area as the Draper and Sandy skid loader thefts on the days they happened, and appeared to be staking out the second skid loader in Sandy that wasn't taken for days, the charges allege.

Police say Johanson typically will find skid loaders and either take them a short distance away and sell them, or sell them to unsuspecting victims right in the lot he stole it from.