By Kathi Bliss
Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel C. Law announced this week that three arrests had been made, and thousands of dollars worth of property recovered after a May robbery.
Law announced on Monday afternoon that his office, working in connection with Bastrop and Travis Counties, had recovered property that was stolen from the outbuildings on an historic Caldwell County ranch in May.
Because the property is largely unsupervised, Law said it was difficult to determine when the theft occurred; detectives could only narrow the time frame to the period between May 1 and May 22. The suspects were alleged to have familiarized themselves with the property using free satellite mapping technology available on the Internet, and entered the property undetected several times, stealing upwards of $100,000 in antique machinery, farm equipment and family heirlooms.
“This is really a ‘teachable moment’ for property owners,” Law said on Monday during a press conference. “Services like Google Maps and other Internet services like it give people the chance to look at properties from the air, see how to access them and know where the outbuildings are.”
Law also cautioned Caldwell County residents to be aware that equipment that is not stored under cover can also be seen on such satellite photographs; he said “crooks are not always smart, but they use technology and they are getting smarter all the time.”
He said property owners should take care to monitor their properties, or to work with their neighbors to make sure that access points and fence lines are being monitored for trespassers and other suspicious activity.
When the theft was reported on May 23, Law’s detectives circulated information about the property stolen; because of the unique nature of the items taken, it wasn’t long before a witness found some of the equipment. Deputies received a call that a witness had spotted a truck driving on IH-35 near Buda, hauling what appeared to be antique wagons. Officers with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Public Safety spotted the vehicle at the 204 Exit on IH-35 in San Marcos.
The occupants of the black Dodge pickup were identified to be Kristopher Taubert, 32, and Steve Whited, also 32. Both have addresses listed in Elroy, and both were found to have outstanding arrest warrants in other counties.
Taubert and Whited were taken into custody and charged with Theft from the Elderly and Burglary of a Building, both felony offenses.
The course of the investigation also led officers to arrest Brandon Bukowsky, of Lockhart, who also faces felony charges in connection with the theft.
In addition to the antique wagons and the Model T Ford truck recovered in the investigation, investigators discovered the trailers used to transport the stolen property from the scene were also stolen. Both trailers were recovered and are being held by the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department.
Additional arrest warrants for engaging in organized criminal activity have been issued, according to Law, and additional suspects are expected to be charged in connection with the investigation, which is still pending.
To report a theft or suspicious activity in your area, contact the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department at (512) 398-6777. If you have an emergency, dial 9-1-1.