A Carnival float that belongs to the Mystic Krewe of Covington was apparently headed to Mississippi after it was stolen on Sunday.
But thanks to a relative of the alleged thief, the float was recovered in time to roll on Mardi Gras as planned, carrying the krewe's officers.
The float, which club president Bob Lynch valued at between $6,000 and $10,000, was found in Slidell, where deputies were able to recover it undamaged Monday night, according to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.
The only change was that the sign identifying it as belonging to the Krewe of Covington had been removed, Lynch said. "I guess they didn't want anyone to know," he said.
Now, the Sheriff's Office has an arrest warrant for 29-year-old Orlando K. Lyons of Biloxi, who is wanted for felony theft over $5,000.
Investigators have talked on the phone to Lyons, who they said claims to have rented or bought the float but who hasn't met with detectives or provided any evidence to support that claim.
Lynch said the krewe does not lease out its four floats, which members built themselves. They are stored in a building that the krewe rents from the Covington Lions Club.
The Sheriff's Office first reported that the float belonged to the Lions Club, which has two floats stored at the location. The Krewe of Covington is a separate organization that dates back to 1951, when it was part of the Knights of Columbus.
Lynch arrived at the building about 12:30 p.m. Monday to pull the floats out so riders could begin loading them with throws. He immediately saw that the officers' float was gone and called the Sheriff's Office.
Surveillance video from the American Legion Hall next door showed two people driving up, looking around and then hooking up the float to a truck and driving away, Lynch said.
The video was helpful in cracking the case, but social media proved even more so. Lynch said his son posted on Facebook that a float had been stolen and got 2,500 hits, many from people who had seen it.
One poster said that the float was parked across the street from them, Lynch said.
The Sheriff's Office also got a call — from the person who had the float.
Lyons had been hauling the float to Biloxi when the truck towing it broke down, according to the Sheriff's Office, and Lyons sought help from a family member in Slidell who hauled it to their home on Walnut Street.
The family member contacted the Sheriff's Office after learning, via social media, that the float was stolen. That's where deputies found it.
Lynch said the club, which had been scrambling to rearrange float assignments so all members could ride, recovered the float and had it back in Covington by 9 p.m. Monday.
Now, the club is planning to increase security precautions, he said. They've bought locks to put on the tongues of the trailers and will install cameras.
The Sheriff's Office asked anyone with information on Lyons' whereabouts to contact Detective Patrick Penton at (985) 276-1351 or (985) 898-2338.