RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — Three men are in jail after law enforcement uncovered the theft of more than $20,000 worth of stolen merchandise by freight company employees.

On July 5, Richland County deputies were contacted by Home Depot Organized Retail Theft investigators and Lexington County deputies about an ongoing theft investigation. 

Authorities from Home Depot told investigators that merchandise was being transported from their distribution center in West Columbia by Estes Express Line to various retail stores. However, vendors had noticed that items listed as being billed for transport were not showing up as inventory to be sold.

The investigation led Richland and Lexington deputies to execute a search warrant at the home of Cody Bessinger, who was an employee of Estes Express Line at the time. During the search, deputies discovered more than $23,000 worth of stolen Rheem tankless water heaters. 

A subsequent investigation found that the theft had been going on for over a year and that Joe Gunter, the assistant manager for Estes Express Line, and Chris Shumpert, a manager with Estes Express Line, were also involved in the scheme.

Cody Bessinger, 28, is charged with two counts of grand larceny over $10,000 and conspiracy.

Cody Bessinger
Cody Bessinger
Richland County Detention Center

Joseph Braxton Gunter, 36, is charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent over $10,000 and conspiracy.

Joseph Braxton Gunter
Joseph Braxton Gunter
Richland County Detention Center

Christopher Lee Shumpert, 39, is charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent over $10,000 and conspiracy.

Christopher Lee Shumpert
Christopher Lee Shumpert
Richland County Detention Center

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says the arrests are a result of coordinated efforts between Home Depot, Estes Express Line, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.