By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Last year, a city employee went to check out a scenic view in a newly clear-cut area and spotted a $25,000 city wood chipper machine that had been missing from the Department of Public Works for about six years.
At the time, Ron Garvey, the DPW’s mechanics supervisor, had noticed the chipper he saw was not painted the DPW’s typical yellow color, but the clutch handle had been shortened just like the missing one he had worked on, and damage on the machine’s tongue matched that of the missing machine.
That information, paired with police work, led officers to nab a local man who has now pleaded guilty to the charges this week.
Scott Prentiss, in a plea agreement in Peabody District Court, pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving stolen property.
But the case was continued without a finding, with the judge placing Prentiss on probation for a year, said to Gloucester Police Detective Tom Quinn.
Police had originally charged Prentiss, who owns Rockport-based Coastal Firewood and was also a plowing contractor with the city’s Public Works Department between 2005 and 2007, with two counts of larceny and one of attaching plates illegally. The prosecution dropped the remaining charges, however, as part of the plea agreement.
“We had all these things, we knew this was the city’s equipment,” Quinn said.
Quinn had worked the case, tracking the history of the stolen equipment and connecting pieces of the machinery’s history.
The woodchipper had been set aside in 2006 because the machine was not running. Records Quinn obtained showed that Prentiss bought a new motor in 2007. Normally, said Quinn, when someone buys a motor, they trade in the broken motor or face a fee. Prentiss paid a $1,700 cost on top of the price of the $7,000 motor rather than turning in the old motor at that time.
Still Prentiss, represented by Gloucester attorney Ed O’Reilly, argued that he had found the wood chipper in the woods, seemingly abandoned, in 2006.
The wood chipper was returned to the Department of Public Works at the case’s closure.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.