RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — On the day after President Barack Obama won re-election, a Virginia man accused of stealing a truck containing the president’s audio equipment for public appearances was sent to jail to await trial.
Federal prosecutors said Eric Brown, 48, of Richmond faces up to 10 years if convicted of theft of government property. A federal magistrate on Wednesday ordered Brown detained.
A 2005 Ford van containing equipment used by the president during public appearances was stolen from a Henrico County hotel parking lot on Oct. 16, 2011. The empty van, owned by the Defense Information Systems Agency, was recovered on the other side of town the next day.
The theft occurred just ahead of Obama’s visit to a suburban Richmond fire station as part of a three-day bus tour of Virginia and North Carolina to promote his jobs plan. The incident prompted speculation about whether the presidential equipment was specifically targeted, but an FBI agent’s affidavit seemed to suggest it was part of a series of thefts.
According to the affidavit, video surveillance from several Richmond area hotels showed occupants of a small black sedan and a dark, two-toned GMC Yukon stealing commercial vehicles. Investigators later determined that two such vehicles were registered to Brown’s wife. Video captured a dark sport utility vehicle on the parking lot just before and after the truck containing the White House equipment was driven away.
The affidavit also says a source told investigators that Brown had sold a Department of Defense laptop to another person, and that he saw in Brown’s possession several storage tubs containing audio visual equipment, some of it bearing the presidential seal. When the source confronted Brown about the theft, Brown said: “Man, I got that truck. I don’t do no playing.”
The laptop was recovered from the purchaser, who identified Brown as the seller. The affidavit did not say what other equipment was recovered, and U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Peter Carr said he could not comment. Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request shortly after the theft showed that the missing items included three podiums, two presidential seals and the electronic equipment, all valued at more than $150,000.
Investigators also obtained cell phone records showing Brown was near the truck at the time it was stolen, the FBI agent wrote.
Brown’s attorney, David R. Lett, declined to comment. Brown’s next court appearance has not been set.
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