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Business owners catch landlord in theft

web posted September 20, 2006

Below: Stephen Bayazes photographed by Mr. Taylor during the
alleged theft

BELVEDERE – North Augusta Rock and Turf, located at 522B Edgefield Road in Belvedere, had been experiencing a series of vandalisms and thefts for the past several months. Owners Steven Taylor, Tony Mercier, and Greg Kelly came up with an idea; stake out the property and see if they could catch the person responsible. On the first night of the stake out, they had their man in just 20 minutes.

Mr. Mercier said that over the past few months they have had metal storage buildings they sell vandalized or damaged, missing inventory, and reports of a man being inside their business grounds after hours at night. “We knew something was up,” Mr. Mercier said. The plan was to leave co-owner Steven Taylor and an employee to watch the property from a wooded area while all vehicles were driven away at closing.

“It wasn’t more than twenty minutes,” Mr. Taylor said, “and he drove in and started loading his truck with pine straw.” They tried to photograph the theft but the camera malfunctioned. The pair thought their efforts were wasted until suddenly the man returned on foot and began taking away more bails of straw on foot. This time the camera worked and they not only captured the suspected thief, they captured him on film.

The person they photographed, and held for Aiken County Deputies, was none other than their landlord who holds the lease on their business property and owns a business next door, which just recently got into a competitive business of also selling pine straw.

Stephen Bayazes, 52, of Crawford Avenue in Augusta Ga., was arrested at the scene after Deputies arrived.

Mr. Bayazes was charged with petit larceny since the value of property stolen was less than $100 and was issued a summons on the scene and was never booked on the theft. A court date has been set for October 6 in Magistrate court.

The business owners, however, say they are going to push for more severe charges, perhaps burglary. They say that they had repeated reports of Mr. Bayazes being on the property after hours and Mr. Mercier said he also witnessed him on the property at night.

Mr. Mercier said he believes Mr. Bayazes is trying to run them off their property to assume the advantage of their successful business location, “He sees we’ve got a growing business, and he sees it’s a success and he wants to take it over.” Mr. Mercier said that Mr. Bayazes would arrive early to speak with their delivery drivers and get their information in order to find out whom their suppliers were.

“Whatever happens,” Mr. Mercier said, “we just want people to know what is going on.” The partners have said they plan to relocate their business to a location closer to North Augusta, but fear Mr. Bayazes might change one word in the name of the business to confuse their customers.

“We have a lot of business in Edgefield County, even in Johnston,” Mr. Mercier said, “and when we move we want our customers to know where we are.”

When asked what he said when he took the pictures of Mr. Bayazes taking the bails of pine straw Mr. Taylor said, “I got you,” to which he said Mr. Bayazes said, “yup, you got me.”  Mr. Taylor said Bayazes continued to keep walking ignoring his demands to stop with the bails and that was when he drew his pistol and ordered Bayazes on the ground until Aiken County Deputies arrived on the scene.

The business owners said they are pursuing additional civil matters against Mr. Bayazes for the other incidents. On two attempts Mr. Bayazes was unavailable for comment.


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