This excavator, stolen from Surrey last week, was located in the Cowichan Valley. (Submitted)

This excavator, stolen from Surrey last week, was located in the Cowichan Valley. (Submitted)

Stolen excavator from B.C. Mainland tracked to Cowichan Valley

Machine rented from business in Maple Ridge

A man in the Cowichan Valley is out $25,000 after a mini-excavator he bought on the Lower Mainland turned out to be stolen from an equipment rental business.

Simon Miller, with Rent ’N’ Rave Equipment in Maple Ridge, said a man rented a John Deere 35D mini excavator from the business earlier this month.

Miller said the man had all the required government IDs and credit information to rent the excavator.

He said the excavator was delivered to an address in Surrey on Aug. 10, where it sat idle for more than a week.

Miller said a video surveillance camera caught the man who rented the excavator apparently negotiating a deal for the machine on Aug. 18 before it was loaded onto a white Dodge pickup, and the truck then caught a ferry to Vancouver Island.

He said the GPS tracker the company had installed in the excavator as a precautionary measure stopped transmitting in the area of Riverbottom and Barnjum roads just outside of Duncan soon after.

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Miller said the rental customer couldn’t be reached by phone.

Miller said he’s a regular user of social media and immediately sent out messages asking people to watch for the pickup and the excavator and to contact the business if either of them were spotted.

He said that at about 3 p.m. on Aug. 21, the man who owned the pickup contacted him to say that he bought the excavator for $25,000 and had no idea it was stolen.

“The guy said he had what he thought was a legitimate bill of sale and had been trying unsuccessfully to contact (the renter) since he learned the excavator was stolen,” Miller said.

Miller said, unlike car sales, there are no transfer forms when construction equipment like excavators change hands, so it’s “buyer beware” in most cases.

“The name of the company was all over the excavator so the guy should have called us before completing the purchase,” he said. “Now it looks like he may be out of $25,000.”

Miller said the rental company is glad to have the excavator returned, but the business is stuck with the trucking and transportation costs of getting it back to the shop.

“The guy who bought the excavator may also have to launch a civil suit to recover his money,” he said.

“My research indicates that this renter may have been responsible for a number of similar thefts in B.C. and Alberta in recent weeks. It’s important that this culprit be caught and charged.”

Cpl. Elenore Sturko, from the Surrey RCMP detachment, acknowledged that the detachment is currently working on a file concerning a stolen excavator in Surrey.