PLANT CITY — John Moseley is used to old mattresses and busted TVs turning up on his 200-acre cattle ranch, but even he was surprised last week to find more than 1,000 tires dumped on his property along a desolate stretch of Henry George Road.
The worst part: Moseley might get stuck with the $7,500 cleanup bill.
His dumping nightmare started last Wednesday morning. Moseley, 45, was driving on Henry George Road south of State Road 60 when he noticed the barbed-wire fence along the road had been cut.
As he inspected the damage he noticed the tires. They were tossed down an embankment near a pond. Four big piles. Between 1,000 and 2,000 tires covered a 500-foot stretch, he said.
Moseley mended the fence and called the Sheriff's Office. A detective offered him seemingly good news: Three men had been arrested.
A canine officer driving by the night before had spotted a U-Haul truck at the side of the road.
As the officer approached, one man was still holding a tire, getting ready to heave it down the embankment.
Two others took off into the woods but were arrested a couple of hours later, said Detective David Stofflet of the Sheriff's Environmental Enforcement Unit.
All three were charged with felony littering, a third-degree felony that carries a possible five-year prison sentence.
Arrested were: Rarzell J. White, 51, of Lakeland, and Leon E. Shaw, 56, and Nikevee L. Curry, 24, both of Plant City.
White and Shaw were released after posting $2,000 bail each. Curry was being held in lieu of $500 bail.
Moseley's problem didn't end there, though.
Trying to figure out what to do next, he called environmental officials and was told the state eliminated its tire-removal budget three years ago to save money.
Then he called the county's roadside cleanup and sanitation divisions and was told that because the tires were dumped on private property, not a public right-of-way, they wouldn't pick them up.
Figuring he might get stuck with the bill, Moseley got an estimate to haul away the tires: $7,500 for 1,000 tires.
"It would be one thing if it just happened, but these guys were caught in the act and I'm the guy getting (stuck) with the cleanup bill," he said.
Stofflet said Moseley might have one recourse, though. He could talk to the prosecutor and judge and hope that upon conviction the men are ordered to pay restitution. The prosecutor might have to show the men are responsible for dumping all of the tires, though.
Detectives, meanwhile, are still trying to determine where the tires came from.
So far, Stofflet says, the men aren't talking.
Rich Shopes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2454