$50K in tobacco stolen from area farmer - WSMV Channel 4

$50K in tobacco stolen from area farmer

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Terry Stewart & Michael Gupton Terry Stewart & Michael Gupton
CHAPMANSBORO, TN (WSMV) -

A Cheatham County farmer is calling himself fortunate after deputies found most of his stolen tobacco crop worth $50,000. 

"The first thing that went through my mind was, 'I'll never get it back,'" said farmer Greg Balthrop of Chapmansboro. "The next thing was, 'that's going to make it hard to pay my bills.'"

Sheriff's officials said Tuesday morning, two men came onto Balthrop's Thomasville Road farm and hooked their truck to a trailer carrying 65 boxes of tobacco. Without securing the boxes, they took off. Eight boxes fell off the trailer into the grass. A neighbor spotted the boxes and quickly contacted Balthrop.  

"I thought I might get the trailer back, but I won't get the tobacco back," said Balthrop. "It's hard to ID tobacco."

Sheriff's officials said the truck, still with the tobacco, stopped in a church parking lot as a driver stepped out to cover a license plate. Surveillance video outside the church caught the moment, with area residents identifying the truck. Suspects Terry Stewart and local farmer Michael Gupton were picked up at a Hinton Road property with the boxes of tobacco.  

"One of them denied having anything to do with tobacco," said Sgt. Travis Walker of the Cheatham County Sheriff's Department. "The other gentleman decided to come clean and told us what happened. He advised they'd stolen the tobacco to sell it and gain money."

Wednesday, Balthrop had most of his tobacco crop back in his barn and ready to sell, though $10,000 worth was still missing.  

"I'm feeling very fortunate that I recovered what I did," said Balthrop. "You can't leave anything sitting anywhere now without keeping an eye on it 24 hours a day."

Sheriff's officials said one of the accused, Gupton, claimed to have grown the tobacco himself.

Between the cost of the trailer and the crop, the two men are charged with theft of more than $60,000.

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