RICHMOND, Va. -- A Richmond man was arrested Tuesday -- Election Day -- and charged with the 2011 theft of a truck that contained the U.S. president's audiovisual equipment.
Eric Brown, 48, appeared before a U.S. magistrate judge Wednesday and was ordered detained, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of theft of government property.
An affidavit filed by an FBI agent in connection with the investigation says area law enforcement concluded that numerous vehicle thefts were likely being committed by an individual or group in the second half of last year.
The thief or thieves were believed to be using a small black sedan and a two-toned GMC Yukon while stealing commercial trucks parked in hotel parking lots.
The truck containing audiovisual equipment for use by President Barack Obama during public appearances was stolen at a hotel in Henrico County on Oct. 16, 2011, a few days before a local speaking engagement.
Video surveillance from the hotel showed a dark-colored SUV driving into the parking lot. Soon after, the truck containing the equipment was driven off of the lot, followed by the SUV.
Among other things, the truck contained a laptop computer that belonged to the Department of Defense and audiovisual equipment bearing the presidential seal.
A criminal complaint filed against Brown alleges he boasted of his role in the theft, sold the laptop and kept equipment that still contained the presidential seal.
"During the course of the investigation, law enforcement developed a cooperating source familiar with the theft of the aforementioned (president's) truck," stated Nicholas Bultinck, an FBI special agent who signed the affidavit.
The source said Brown had implicated himself in the theft and was seen in possession of audiovisual equipment bearing the presidential seal.
Investigators also obtained cellphone data that allegedly showed Brown was in the vicinity of the truck at the time it was stolen.
The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI's Richmond field office and the Henrico County Police Department. Roderick C. Young, an assistant U.S. attorney, is prosecuting the case.
Copyright 2012 - Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service