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Mableton man sentenced for cargo theft conspiracy | Crime

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Mableton man sentenced for cargo theft conspiracy
Mableton man sentenced for cargo theft conspiracy

MABLETON, Ga. -- A Mableton man has been sentenced to four years and two months in prison and three years of supervised release for buying and selling stolen goods.

John Raymond "Johnny Ray" Smith, 51, was charged with conspiracy; buying, receiving and possessing stolen goods; and money laundering.

"A merchant who knows or deliberately ignores the criminal source of stolen goods can be a key part of a fraud ring," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "Some of the goods in this case were in brand new, original packaging from the manufacturers, shrink-wrapped and sold in untraceable cash transactions at below-market prices and without official paperwork."

According to the investigation, Smith operated Smith Sales Company out of warehouses in Mableton and Hiram between May 2005 and July 2009.

He conspired with Robin L. Cheatwood, who operated A-Z Discount in Cedartown, and others to buy and receive goods stolen from nearly two dozen interstate tractor trailer and container shipments in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The stolen merchandise was valued at just under $2 million. It was usually taken from tractor trailers parked at truck stops, motels and container storage facilities.

Many of the shipments were bound for major retailers, including Best Buy, Lowe's, OfficeMax, Office Depot, Sam's Club, Target and Walmart.

Cheatwood cooperated with investigators and pleaded guilty to charges related to stolen goods recovered by law enforcement in 2005. On Sept. 11, 2009, he was sentenced to 10 months in prison in a federal court in Rome.

"This specific kind of fraud is hard to spot and hard to stop, but those who deal in such stolen goods still roll the dice and certainly face time in federal prison," said Yates.

The investigation is ongoing. Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents ask anyone who sees semi-trailer trucks being unloaded at rest stops or in industrial areas, particularly at nights and on weekends, to call the Major Theft Unit at 404-244-2600.