PRAIRIEVILLE — An antique Esso gas sign that was stolen from a Prairieville restaurant last November was returned to its owners on Tuesday, authorities said, and four people connected with the theft have been arrested.
The sign, valued at $1,500, was recovered Tuesday from a landfill on Joor Road in Baton Rouge, Ascension Parish Chief Deputy Tony Bacala said.
Chalin Delaune, one of the family owners of Tommy’s Fish House on Perkins Road in Prairieville, said the sign, one of several vintage signs decorating the restaurant, is in good shape.
“We’re excited to have it back,” Delaune said.
But the story of the sign isn’t finished yet.
Delaune said he and business partner, Kenny Carr, are talking about raffling the sign to raise money to make a donation to the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, in appreciation of the officers’ work in recovering it.
So the gas sign — Esso is the acronym for Standard Oil Co., founded by John D. Rockefeller and partners in 1870 — may wind up in a new home after all.
Deputies made their first arrest in the case in December after a video surveillance camera captured the image of a man taking the sign from outside Tommy’s Fish House.
The man, later identified as Chad Prejean, 35, 18648 Cale Lane, Livingston, was booked into Ascension Parish Jail on a count of felony theft, according to reports from the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Prejean told detectives he sold the sign to Michael Wilkinson, 39, 9232 Pertuis Road, St. Amant, who subsequently failed to return the sign to the Sheriff’s Office after being contacted by detectives, the Sheriff’s Office reports state.
After several failed attempts to locate Wilkinson, detectives eventually found him on Jan. 17 and he was booked into Ascension Parish Jail on charges of felony possession of stolen property, failure to appear in court and fugitive warrant from Washington Parish for non-support.
Two women also were arrested in connection with the theft of the sign.
Jennifer Bennett, 30, 15195 Cypress Pointe, French Settlement, told detectives she had the sign at some point and traveled to Livingston Parish with it, with Prejean’s fiancée , Leah Arnold, 36, 18648 Cale Lane, Livingston, driving the vehicle.
Arnold was booked into Ascension Parish Jail on Jan. 13 on a count of felony theft, and Bennett was booked into jail on Jan. 15 on a count of felony possession of stolen property.
Detectives learned through several leads that the sign had been taken to a landfill on Joor Road, where it was found this week, according to the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.
All four of those arrested in the connection with the theft have been released on bond from Ascension Parish Jail.