Two Virginia men have been arrested and charged with interstate theft after they allegedly stole a tractor trailer and goods worth $94,000 and then buried the tractor, the FBI said yesterday.

The ruse failed, according to an FBI search warrant, when a girlfriend of one of the suspects "observed the exhaust stack of the [12 foot high, North American Van Lines] Peterbilt tractor protruding from the ground" in an isolated filed in Nelson County, about 120 miles southwest of a Washington.

"It's pretty humorous. They used a backhoe to bury it and got it all covered except for about 18 inches of the stack," said Al Hein, spokesman for the FBI's Alexandria field office.

In custody yesterday were Wilbur Holloway James Jr., 31, and John Herbert Thorpe, 30, both of Brandy Station, near Remington, Va. Both were charged with one count each of interstate theft, Hein said. The FBI said it took investigators one month to find the truck and stolen goods.

Trucker Jeffrey Lynn Miller was driving the rig, with its 42-foot trailer, from Florida to Connecticut on March 30 when he briefly parked it at the Fauquier Livestock Exchange in Marshall, Va. Although the truck carried the North American logo, it was owned by Accredited Movers Inc. of New Jersey, the FBI said.

When Miller returned, the truck, with several thousand dollars worth of household items, was gone.

According to the warrant, the suspects allegedly unloaded the trailer at their two-story, stone and frame house at Brandy Station and then drove south about 80 miles to preperty owned by Thorpe in Nelson County where the tractor was buried. The trailer was abandoned at a truck stop in rural Ruckersville, Va., authorities said.

The girlfriend also told officials that she attended a party at the Brandy Station home and that "James has been running his mouth about the stolen property located at the house," the warrant said.

The FBI added that an "undetermined amount" of household goods was recovered by Fauquier County authorities in several area residences.