The second of four men federally indicted in connection with an elaborate theft ring targeting heavy construction equipment pleaded guilty on Thursday afternoon. Jordan Wedel, 31, was indicted in April 2015 on one count of possessing stolen motor vehicles. Citing Wedel’s genuine remorse and continued cooperation with federal authorities, the federal judge sentenced Wedel, who has no major criminal history, to three years probation.
Wedel was also ordered to perform 120 hours of community service in addition to paying more than $63,000 in restitution.
Standing before Chief Judge Richard Young, Wedel expressed regret for getting involved in the equipment theft ring, saying he never wanted to be a part of it and never wanted to hurt anybody. As part of his plea agreement, Wedel had to admit to his wrongdoing.
During his allocution, Wedel told Judge Young that he was working for his father-in-law Thomas Elpers’ landscaping business when he learned of the stolen equipment. Wedel stated that Thomas Elpers and his son Andrew Elpers would steal the heavy equipment, which included compact track loaders and mini-excavators, and then use it for their landscaping business.
Wedel stated that he had questioned Thomas Elpers about the equipment, he feared that his father-in-law would have fired him, leaving Wedel unable to support his family.
“I shouldn’t have done it,” Wedel said in his allocution. “I wish I hadn’t.”
Wedel also stated that he put some of the stolen equipment on his property in addition to using it for the Elpers’ landscaping business. At one point, Wedel had five pieces of stolen equipment on his property he said. The approximate value of the equipment was $166,000, federal prosecutors said. Wedel also admitted to assisting in the altering and changing of the serial numbers that were stamped on the machines.
As the theft ring began to unravel, Wedel admitted to his actions and provided detectives with additional information that implicated Thomas Elpers, Andrew Elpers and Jason Habermel, a family friend. All four men would be federally indicted.
Habermel allegedly brokered the sale of stolen equipment to the Union County, Kentucky Fiscal Court. Agents from the FBI field office in Owensboro are still investigating the county’s purchase of the stolen equipment.
Andrew Elpers pleaded guilty earlier this year and is serving out his sentence at a minimum security facility in Alabama.
Wedel also told federal authorities about other pieces of stolen equipment that detectives had not yet uncovered.
Because of his continued cooperation and genuine remorse, federal prosecutors recommended that Wedel be sentenced on the ‘lower end’ of the 10-year sentence range. Wedel also received credit for quickly pleading guilty and agreeing to testify in any future trials associated with the case.
Wedel also told the judge that he has used the case as a ‘teaching moment’ for his young children as a way to show them how important it is to take responsibility for a mistake.
Judge Young said he could tell Wedel was remorseful but issued a stern warning.
“You knew what you were doing was wrong but you should have stepped up and gotten out of this,” Judge Young told Wedel. “I don’t want to see you again. If I see you on the street and you tell me you’re doing great, I’ll give you a pat on the back. If you’re back in this courtroom, you’re going to jail.”
Thomas Elpers and Jason Habermel’s cases have yet to be settled.