Police in Athens, Ga., this week arrested a former contractor accused of stealing $20,000 in audio gear from the 40 Watt Club, a burglary that had drawn offers of more than $15,000 in rewards from members of R.E.M., Camper Van Beethoven and others.
According to a post by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department on Facebook, “The 40 Watt Club’s stolen audio equipment was recovered and a suspect was identified and arrested due to the great work of Detective Davidson and our Criminal Investigation Unit.”
Michael Wilson, 36, was arrested Tuesday afternoon after police said he tried to sell the stolen PA gear to a pawn shop — actually a Guitar Center, according to the 40 Watt’s owner — in Greenville, S.C., the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The pawn shop owner had seen photos of the equipment on social media and recognized it, so he called police, the newspaper reported.
Police from Athens showed surveillance video from the store to the 40 Watt’s owner, and he recognized the suspect as a former contractor, police told the Journal-Constitution. Police then tracked him down and arrested him on two counts of burglary.
In a post on the club’s Facebook page, 40 Watt owner Barrie Jayne Buck thanked the Guitar Center employees and police who helped recover the club’s gear, as well as R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, David Lowery of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, Jason Isbell and the Mountain Goats — all of whom offered reward money — for spreading the word on social media following the July 28 burglary.
“Clearly, this guy picked the wrong place to burglarize, and the wrong town, too.” Buck wrote. “You just don’t mess with the Athens, GA music scene.”
The 40 Watt Club — named after Pylon’s original rehearsal space above 171 College Ave. in Athens — opened in 1979 and became early home base for college-rock mainstays R.E.M., The B-52s, Love Tractor, Guadalcanal Diary and many more. It remains a national touring destination.
Sometimes things work out. So glad for the @40WattAthens, and thanks to all who helped resolve this, including the A-CCPD. https://t.co/zfskj33F9O
— Mike Mills (@m_millsey) August 3, 2017
BTW this is the second time a @guitarcenter manager has helped recover gear for the Cracker/CVB/40 Watt family. Noted!!
— davidclowery (@davidclowery) August 2, 2017
What a victory! A true community rallies, like no astroturf ever can. Thanks for the leadership, all! @BossladyVego https://t.co/8qTa1g8Gwo
— Michelle Shocked (@MicheIleShocked) August 3, 2017
The great sound in @40WattAthens is no accident and it will be great to have it up and roaring again!
— The Plimsouls (@ThePlimsouls) August 2, 2017