Warrant: Investigation of store thefts led police to Wake tow company owner

Tony Leo Harris
Tony Leo Harris

An investigation that led to firearms and drug charges against Wake County tow-company owner Tony Harris started from hundreds of phone calls between him and a woman arrested last month on a larceny charge, police disclosed in a search warrant for Harris' home.

Harris, who operates Hollywood Towing, was charged Wednesday with organized retail theft that had gone on for 90 days that an arrest warrant taken out by Wake County sheriff’s investigators said ran through Feb. 10.

They also charged Harris with illegally having four guns because he is a felon, having 3.3 pounds of marijuana, having separate misdemeanor quantities of marijuana, possession of another class of drug and maintaining a building at 6400 Poole Road to keep drugs.

The search warrant information came to light on the same day that Wake deputies and state Division of Motor Vehicles investigators charged Harris with having a stolen trailer and two stolen motorcycles, defacing the vehicle identification on one of the bikes, letting it be disassembled for parts, and having two counterfeit North Carolina driver’s licenses.

According to a search warrant that Raleigh police Detective S.P. Womack used to search Harris’ 1312 Rocky Gap Circle home on March 2, Harris came to his attention after he arrested Amy Coleen Snyder, 45, of 8125 Park Side Drive on Feb. 10 on a charge of organized retail theft.

Womack’s warrant and a second one granted to sheriff’s Investigator J.G. Brame were returned to the county court clerk’s office Thursday.

Womack said he got a search warrant for Snyder’s cell phone and found contacts with “Hollywood,” which he learned was Harris.

Communications between Snyder and Harris from shortly after Christmas until Snyder’s arrest “discussed the theft, sale and receipt of stolen property from retail locations.” Text messages “often included pictures of new retail property appearing to be stolen from retail locations,” Womack wrote.

Some showed DeWalt power tools, which is what authorities accused Snyder of taking the day they arrested her, he wrote.

Womack also told the magistrate who granted the search warrant that after her arrest, Snyder had been able to communicate on her phone with someone to tell that person what to steal from a store and how to get to Harris’ home to sell it.

While Raleigh police and other investigators were searching with the warrant Womack got, they found a handgun and a rifle, rolling papers that could be used to smoke marijuana and some marijuana in containers, Brame said in seeking the second search warrant for a drug investigation.

As of Friday, authorities had not disclosed where they found the other two handguns they charged Harris with having or how they discovered the 3.3 pounds of marijuana on which they based one of their drug charges.

Womack said his search warrant application that Harris owned Carolina Auto Body Inc. in addition to Hollywood Towing. Searches of businesses on the web indicated that Carolina Auto Body has closed. Real estate websites showed that 6400 Poole Road had been the company’s location but is now vacant.

County property records show that the one-story building was sold in 2014 from one private investment company to another.

Ron Gallagher: 919-829-4572, @RPGKT