'That's just what you do': Family spends $12K but returns equipment after learning it was stolen

Cody and Julia Jolley had saved up a lot of money to purchase a used skid-steer front loader to help with their major backyard remodeling project.

They soon used it to move large landscaping rocks and to level out a section of their yard where a new patio will be installed for their Pleasant Grove home.

Then, on May 14 while working in their backyard, Cody Jolley received a message on his phone from a friend. The friend had forwarded him an article about two people who were arrested and accused of stealing skid-steers from construction sites across the Wasatch Front and selling them online for below-market value.

"He just kept looking at his phone and kind of making these sounds, and I was like, ‘Who are you talking to? Who are you texting?’” Julia Jolley recalled. “And he said, ‘So-and-so just sent me this article’ and kind of like a joke, (the friend said), ‘Oh, I bet your skid-steer is stolen.’ And he showed me the article and pointed to a name and said, ‘This is the guy that I bought it from.’”

Cody Jolley said as soon as he saw the name of one of the men arrested, he knew he wouldn't be owning that front loader much longer.

“It was the same name, the same guy. So I figured it had to be stolen,” he said.

The Jolleys sat down for a minute in silence to process the news they had just received. They realized the skid-steer they had purchased was likely stolen. They also knew if they called police, they would be out both the piece of equipment and the $12,000 they paid for it. But if they didn't call police, there was a good chance they would have been able to keep the skid-steer.

“It's true. We probably could have. And we joked with this friend, ‘Thanks a lot for sending us that article,’” Julia Jolley said with a laugh.

But after getting over the initial shock, Jolley said there was nothing to debate. Her husband immediately called police.

“No, there was no hesitation. We just thought, ‘This belongs to somebody else and they probably want it back,’” she said.

“Well, that's just what you do,” Cody Jolley said about his reason for calling police. “The company that it was stolen from was out a piece of equipment. And they may have been taken care of later on down the line, but they couldn't do their work. It sucks there are people out there who do this.

Cody Jolley, who purchased a skid steer and later found it had been stolen, holds son CJ at their home in Pleasant Grove.
Cody Jolley, who purchased a skid-steer and later found it had been stolen, holds his youngest son, CJ, at their home in Pleasant Grove on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“I would hope anyone would (call the police),” he added. “I think any normal person who has a conscience would do it.”

Police went to the Jolleys' home and verified that the equipment had been stolen from a construction site in Midvale.

“The company that came to pick it up said, ‘Well, we're coming on Monday, so use it as much as you can over the weekend. Get as much as you can done,’” Jolley said.

The Jolleys and their children got busy planting trees in their yard before the skid-steer was picked up by the owner last week.

Glen Michael Verrone, 47, and Derek Clark Johanson, 42, were both charged in 3rd District Court with theft, a second-degree felony, and receiving a stolen vehicle after undercover officers from Salt Lake and Unified police bought a stolen skid-steer from them, according to charging documents.

Police say Verrone “has been actively involved in thefts of these construction vehicles,” and as of Tuesday, detectives were still collecting evidence to determine how extensive the operation was.

Cody Jolley said the skid-steer he purchased was advertised online about a month ago. The person who sold it to him told Jolley that he had several skid-steers that he used for snow removal, but that his business had taken a financial hit this past winter due to a lack of snow and that he needed to liquidate.

“Everything seemed pretty legit. We had a bill of sale, all that stuff,” he said. “Everything that he said during the whole process made complete sense and matched up. It seemed completely legitimate.”

Julia Jolley talks about the integrity of her husband, Cody Jolley, as she stands in the backyard of their home in Pleasant Grove on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Jolley said it's possible at some point he could take legal action and try to win restitution to make up for his financial loss. But he knows any court ruling wouldn't come anytime in the near future.

His message now to others interested in purchasing a skid-steer is to have the VIN number checked by police or a dealership to make sure the purchaser isn't getting a stolen piece of equipment. In his case, Jolley said it wouldn't have helped because the machinery hadn't been reported as stolen yet.

Even though some have jokingly told Jolley, who is a battalion chief for the Draper Fire Department, that he probably could have held onto the skid-steer longer if he didn't call police, those who know him aren't surprised by his honesty and quickness to return it.

“It really is just who is he as a person. I wasn't surprised at all. He just immediately was like, ‘We need to do the right thing.’ I probably sulked about it longer than he did,” Julia Jolley said. “I mean, his integrity is so inspiring. That's just who he is. Those who know him aren't even surprised. It's like, 'Of course. Of course he did the right thing.’”

The Jolleys' neighbors have also been inspired by his honesty, to the point they have organized a GoFundMe page to help them recoup some of their losses — something the Jolleys say they're extremely humbled by.

“I'm floored. I truly have been so humbled by the people that have rallied around our family and have just offered kind words of support and encouragement and just gratitude. I really feel just very carried through this,” Julia Jolley said. “The financial loss is massive. But I've been so touched by the people who have reached out. It's meant everything.”

“It sucks to lose that much money. And it's really nice that they're doing that. I think it's awesome,” Cody Jolley added. "But I think we can survive. We'll find a way to (buy another skid-steer), but a legitimate one and make it work. Might be a little while.”