VGTV morning newscast - July 14, 2014

JAMES CITY — The owner of a James City landscaping business is accused of stealing more than $11,000 worth of mulch from a Toano supplier and using it to supplement his own inventory, according to police.

Lawrence Ray Waltrip III, 58, was arrested Thursday and charged with 18 felonies, court records indicate. James City Police Deputy Chief Stephen Rubino said the charges include nine counts of grand larceny with intent to sell, and nine counts of conspiracy to commit larceny. Waltrip is the owner of Signature Mulch, based out of his home in St. George's Hundred subdivision.

The thefts were part of a scheme involving Waltrip and an employee of Peninsula Hardwood Mulch, and occurred over a five-year period between August 2008 and July 2013, Rubino said. According to a criminal complaint against Waltrip, the thefts came to light after the employee confessed to the owner of Peninsula Hardwood Mulch that he and Waltrip had an arrangement.

The document states the employee was paid to "look the other way" so Waltrip could take mulch from the business. It notes Waltrip paid the employee in checks and paid less than the actual price of the mulch.

Waltrip was confronted by the owner of Peninsula Hardwood Mulch about the employee's claims, according to the complaint. It states Waltrip told the business owner, "it was too good of an opportunity to pass up" and noted he had to "slow down when the cameras were put in."

Police executed a search warrant on the bank accounts of Waltrip and Signature Mulch. The complaint indicates no checks were from Waltrip's personal account, but nine checks ranging $300-$4,000 coincided with the business owner's bank statements.

After his employee divulged the details of the scheme, the business owner reviewed security footage, according to the document. It states that on numerous occasions at night and in the early morning hours a large truck entered the mulch yard and loaded mulch. The person in the truck is believed to be Waltrip, according to the complaint.

Rubino said it is estimated that more product than has been accounted for was taken over the years. The case remains under investigation.

Robertson can be reached at 757-345-2342.