Dixiana, SC (Paul Kirby) – Three former employees of a trucking company, have been arrested after conspiring together to steal more than $20,000 worth of water heaters. The men were all employees of Estes Express Lines, a company that is located in Columbia near the USC football stadium.
According to investigators in Richland County, on July 5, they were contacted by Home Depot Organized Retail Theft investigators and deputies from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department regarding a theft investigation. They told the Richland County investigators that they believed that Cody Bessinger, then an employee of Estes, was stealing items intended for a Home Depot stores. They get their merchandise from Home Depot's distribution center in the Dixiana portion of Lexington County. Bessinger, in his capacity as an employee of Estes, was apparently shipping merchandise intended for various Home Depots stores, but those items were not arriving at the locations to be sold. He was instead transporting those to his home. As the investigation continued in Richland County, deputies discovered that this had been going on for over a year.
Investigators also found that Joe Gunter, the assistant manager for Estes Express Line, along with Chris Shumpert, a manager at Estes, were also involved in the conspiracy. Together, the three men had stolen over $23,000 in Rheem tankless water heaters. Those were located at Bessinger’s residence in Lexington County after deputies executed a search warrant at his house.
Subsequently, Cody Bessinger, 28, was charged with two counts of grand larceny over $10,000 and conspiracy. Joseph Braxton “Joe” Gunter, 36, has been charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent over $10,000 and conspiracy. Christopher Lee Shumpert, 39, is charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent over $10,000 and conspiracy. Al three men were booked into the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.