Recreation employee arrested for stealing lawnmower, other expensive equipment

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AUGUSTA, Ga.---A Recreation and Parks employee has been arrested for stealing city property, and officers say more arrests could be on the way.

Officials tell us it's typical for city workers to take things home like office supplies and things like wrenches and hammers, even though they are not supposed to.

The theft of $800 lawnmowers and weed eaters, on the other hand, is very rare. But now one employee is facing felony charges accused of doing just that.

Several thousand dollars worth of city-owned equipment is back under lock and key, and Andreas Spencer is also locked up, charged with stealing the stuff.

Spencer claims he was only borrowing the equipment.

"Borrowing it?" Maj. Ken Autry smiled. That smile may show how much investigators believe that.

Since early last month, authorities say they had no idea how lawnmowers, chainsaws, and other equipment was disappearing until they got a tip from Jewell, Georgia. Spencer's wife alerted officers her husband had been taking the property and keeping at their home.

Maj. Autry says they drove out to the home yesterday.

"We found some lawnmowers, gas can, weed eaters and such," he said.

While Spencer claims he planned to return the equipment soon, City Administrator Fred Russell says there is no policy allowing employees to borrow city property.

"We do not tolerate theft," he said. "We do not tolerate that kind of behavior from our employees."

And because it is city property, Spencer is facing felony charges and will lose his job if found guilty.

Russell says the investigation is not over, though, because more equipment is missing, and there's reason to believe others employees are responsible.

"We're never going to create a perfect system, where people can't steal from us, but let me guarantee you, when we catch someone doing that, we are going to prosecute them to fullest extent of the law," he said.

News 12 spoke with Spencer's immediate boss. She says he is a great employee and says he may have just been borrowing the equipment. Authorities and city officials do not believe that.

Spencer does have a criminal past. He was released from prison in 2005 after serving four years for aggravated assault.

We're told Spencer's wife was very uneasy about having the equipment at the home and thought she could get in trouble if it was found, and that's why she told authorities.

This is one of several recent problems for Augusta's recreation department.

Last month, former golf course manager Guy Reid pleaded guilty to taking more than $3000 in course money.

Last week, recreation department head Tom Beck was suspended for two weeks and placed on probation for violating several city policies.

And some recreation employees are now being investigated for allegedly providing cell phones and drugs to prisoners at Richmond County's Correctional Institution.

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