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Greencastle man arrested for thefts

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Greencastle man was recently arrested for two counts of auto theft and one count of fraud.

Indiana State Police (ISP) took James Neal, 40, Greencastle, into custody following a sting operation on May 12.

According to the probable cause affidavit, ISP Trooper Chris Harcourt received a call from the ISP Bloomington Post for an auto theft at Discount Tire in Cloverdale.

Upon arriving, the owner of Discount Tire, Jeff Everman, approached Harcourt and said two vehicles were missing from his lot.

The cars were a blue 1986 Chevrolet Blazer and a Red 1994 Dodge Caravan. At that time, Everman believed the vehicles were towed from his lot and sold for salvage.

Later in the day, Everman called Harcourt back to the business. Tom Greene, owner of Greene Salvage in Spencer, had arrived at Discount Tire and asked to speak with Harcourt.

Greene said he received a call from a male identifying himself as John Trout, and that the man said he worked for Discount Tire.

"Trout" further advised Greene that there were two cars he would like picked up.

When Greene arrived he phoned Trout, but nobody answered.

When "Trout" did call back, he came up with a few excuses as to why he could not meet Greene and asked if he could just put the money in his mailbox for "Trout" to pick up after 10 p.m. Greene began to feel uneasy about this transaction, believing someone was trying to scam him and Discount Tire, said the probable cause affidavit.

Greene drove to Cloverdale to speak with Everman, who told Greene that he had already contacted ISP and reported those vehicles stolen.

The affidavit said it was then that the sting operation was first implemented in coordination with the Putnam County Prosecutor's Office and Detective Chris Fears from the ISP District 33 Post. The idea was to plant an envelope in Greene's mailbox for "Trout" to pick up, whereupon he would be immediately pulled over and apprehended.

The first attempt yielded no results. "Trout" did not answer his phone or call back, according to the affidavit.

On May 13, the sting was unsuccessfully attempted again.

The next morning Greene called Harcourt and told him that a red Oldsmobile they assumed to be "Trout" showed up around 5:45 a.m. Greene later received a call from "Trout" wondering why the money wasn't in the mailbox. Greene told him the paper man comes and Greene was worried he would take it, so for "Trout" to come back that night before midnight.

The trap was set.

At 10 p.m. on May 14, Harcourt met with Fears and three other Bloomington State Troopers at McCormick's Creek State Park. The troopers were put into position while Harcourt and Fears stuffed the envelope labeled "John" with newspaper clippings with "Bait" written on them, according to the affidavit.

"Trout" pulled up, collected the envelope and drove off. He was immediately stopped and apprehended.

Following the arrest, he was taken to the Owen County Jail and interviewed where he gave his real name, James Neal.

Neal's initial court date was May 19, when he pleaded not guilty. At this time no trial date is set.

However, Deputy Prosecutor Justin Long said the pre-trial would be around the first week of July.

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