Templeton man charged with theft from home he was sent to winterize

SSA surveillance footage showed Mr. Wilson's truck with the missing appliances in the truck bed. Photo courtesy Oak Bluffs Police Department.

After a six-week investigation by the Oak Bluffs Police Department (OBPD) that included assistance from the Steamship Authority (SSA) and Templeton police, and which began with Chase Bank incorrectly foreclosing on a house, James Wilson of Templeton turned himself in on Wednesday, Jan. 27, for the alleged theft of a washer, dryer, and art collection valued at $1,150 from an Oak Bluffs home.

Mr. Wilson was arraigned in Dukes County Superior Court on Friday, Jan. 29, charged with larceny over $250, and larceny from a building. He was released on his own recognizance, and given a date for a future court appearance.

An unusual chain of events led to Mr. Wilson’s arrest, according to the police report.

The homeowner, whose name was redacted from the report, told police that while he was off-Island in November, Chase Bank incorrectly began foreclosure proceedings. The bank had contracted Mortgage Contractors Services LLC, a subcontractor, to winterize the property, which in turn hired Mr. Wilson’s company, Clean Cut Landscaping, based at his home address in Templeton.

The homeowner discovered the theft of a washer and dryer, and artwork that included framed prints and a wood surfboard sculpture with “Boat Drinks” painted on it, on Dec. 9 on a visit to check on the house. He contacted police, and Detective Jeffrey LaBell began an investigation.

SSA officials provided police with surveillance video footage of the truck registered to Mr. Wilson leaving the Island on Nov. 6, with a washer and dryer matching the description in the truck bed.

Mr. Wilson did not return calls from Det. LaBell. Det. LaBell then contacted Templeton Police, who were “familiar” with Mr. Wilson, according to the police report. Templeton Police took pictures of the truck parked at Mr. Wilson’s address, which exactly matched the truck on the SSA surveillance video.

Det. LaBell then received an email from Mr. Wilson saying he was aware the OBPD had called, but he had been very busy. He said when he went to the Oak Bluffs house, “the door was cracked open and the door knob broken off.” He also noted graffiti in the bathroom walls, “which was unusual because the rest of the house was pristine.”

Det. LaBell replied that he still needed to speak with Mr. Wilson at his earliest convenience.

After Mr. Wilson failed to respond to several more calls and emails, OBPB Detective James Morse obtained a search warrant and traveled off-Island on Jan. 26 to execute the warrant at Mr. Wilson’s home with Templeton Police.

When police arrived, Mr. Wilson did not answer the door, and when Det. LaBell called his cell phone, Mr. Wilson hung up on him. Several minutes later, police saw Mr. Wilson drive by the scene. Templeton Police pursued, but were unable to apprehend him.

Police then executed the warrant at Mr. Wilson’s home and found the wood surfboard sculpture with “Boat Drinks” painted on it. An SSA ferry ticket from the day he was seen with the washer and dryer on surveillance footage was also found on the floor, as well as “a grow room for marijuana plants” and his Massachusetts Department of Public Health Medical Marijuana Card. Police left the search warrant on Mr. Wilson’s refrigerator.

The next day, Mr. Wilson sent an email to Oak Bluffs Police, asking why his personal belongings had been removed from his house. Later that day, Mr. Wilson turned himself in to Edgartown District Court.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Mr. Wilson turned himself in to Templeton police. It also stated that police found “numerous” pieces of art when they only found the one wooden sculpture at his residence.