What Sanders unwittingly stole though, was what detectives estimated as a million-dollar trove of English antiques, some dating back to the 15th century: burl walnut furniture; tortoise shell tea boxes; ivory and mother-of-pearl business card holders — the stuff of Rockefellers filched for cocaine rock.
"Judge, this is not the Thomas Crown affair ... for all he knew it had yard equipment in it," argued Sanders' defense attorney, Evelyn Ziegler, at Sanders' sentencing today.
Sanders asked he be sentenced to five years in prison following his guilty plea to grand theft over $100,000.
A prosecutor asked that Sanders, a 12-time convicted felon, be sentenced to the maximum: 30 years in prison.
She argued that for months Sanders did not come forward admitting the theft, meanwhile, pieces like a burl walnut dresser valued at $57,000 floated in a canal where Sanders had dumped them.
"I didn't even know what this stuff was," Sanders told Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes. "I had no clue the value that it had."
Kastrenakes asked Sanders how much cash for crack did he get in the end?
"$600 or $700, he answered.
The theft of the trailer from the Hampton Inn set Palm Beach County Sheriff's detectives Jim Brown and Walt Robinson in motion. The FBI had to be called in on the five-month investigation, because things like the tortoise shell items were specially licensed and monitored by federal endangered species laws.
Initially, the detectives said they thought it may well be a Thomas Crown-like affair, a targeted, high-end robbery.
Rather, they ended up tracking down ivory and mother-of-pearl and tortoise shell-inlaid items at a flea market, a barbershop and canals way in western Palm Beach County.
"Although they have to have a certain value, some of them are priceless," Det. Brown told the judge Monday. "It's a shame to find them floating in canal water for months with no chance of salvage."
Antiques dealers Andrew and Kelly Vogel had brought the merchandise to sell at an area show. The Vogels parked their unmarked trailer in front of the Hampton Inn's security cameras for extra protection — and awoke to find it gone.
Detectives Brown and Robinson would help the Vogels recover a good number of the items — $388,000 worth, says Brown.
But not without help from Sanders himself.
Months later, after the detectives tracked him down, Sanders confessed and took them on a tour of the places he had dumped the antiques. Sanders was remorseful and cooperative, argued his defense attorney Ziegler, and for that he deserved a break.
But would the judge agree?
The likelihood of the Vogels recovering money from Sanders was "minuscule" the judge said, and Sanders did deserve the max.
But remorse and confessing guilt and helping recoup some of Vogel's losses must be worth something.
So, 15 years in prison for Sanders, the judge ruled.
Vogel was not present at today's sentencing. He was in Kentucky, on his way to another antiques show.
Contacted by phone, he said all told he is left stunned why Sanders — a convicted felon, imprisoned at least six times before — was out, allowed to commit another crime. Sanders' criminal history includes a capital sexual battery upon a child.
"How many is too many? At one point does someone like this be taken off the street for good?" Vogel said. "It's a revolving door where criminals appear over and over again.
"And the revolving door remains open."