Have a seat! Suspect arrested in theft of bleachers

ST. HELENA ISLAND -- The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office arrested a St. Helena Island man who investigators believe is responsible for stealing, hacking up and selling a $13,000 set of county-owned aluminum bleachers to a scrap metal dealer.

Harry Lee Singleton, 28, was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his Saxonville Road home and charged with receiving stolen goods and obtaining goods under false pretenses. Authorities believe he stole a set of aluminum bleachers from a St. Helena ball field last week.

Authorities believe Singleton dismantled and cut the bleachers into smaller pieces to make them easier to transport to a scrap metal dealer, said Cpl. Robin McIntosh, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

Chatter between scrap metal dealers played a significant role in Singleton's arrest, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Tuesday, when authorities had identified the man as a suspect but hadn't made an arrest.

"Someone who was a friend of a precious metal dealer ... read the story in the paper, called his friend and said, 'Hey, if anyone shows up at your salvage yard with what looks like bleacher material, that stuff was stolen out of Beaufort County,' and the guy goes, 'I just bought that stuff,' " Tanner said.

Tanner said the scrap dealer contacted the sheriff's office.

The bleachers, which had an estimated value of $13,000, were sold as scrap for $624, the sheriff said.

"We've got some folks from the county that say that they can weld the seats back together and the footrests, but in reality it's an absolute loss, $13,000 reduced to 600 bucks," he said. "What we'll do is we'll get restitution out of the defendant. It may be like getting blood out of a turnip, but we're going to get restitution."

Singleton was being held Thursday afternoon at the Beaufort County Detention Center on a $20,000 bond.

There is no information that links the bleacher theft to the theft of 40 soccer goals from the Bluffton Recreation Center that same week, McIntosh said.