By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star
When a veteran Sugar Land police officer was arrested last month it raised eyebrows not only for the allegation of organized crime but also one of the charges – cattle thief.
It sounds like a crime out of the Old West, but cattle theft is alive and thriving in Texas, said Larry Gray, executive director of the Texas Southwest Cattle Raisers Association.
One of Gray’s men, Ranger Tommy Charbulla, was the lead investigator in the case involving Sugar Land Police Officer William Allen and three other suspects identified as Myles Wallace, Justin Sessums, Leon Washington Jr.
Charbulla declined further comment only saying they are still looking at other suspects including those arrested Aug. 31.
The main investigative unit, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), said they worked the case with sheriffs departments from Fort Bend, Brazoria and Liberty counties.
Lt. Craig Cummings of the DPS said the arrests occurred about 8 a.m. Aug. 31 in Fort Bend County and Brazoria County for “engaging in organized criminal activity (aggregated theft) a first degree felony.”
Some of the items allegedly stolen were heavy-duty construction equipment, cattle trailers, lawn mowers, pick-up trucks and cattle. Cummings said the value of all items stolen was about $150,000.
“We don’t run into many organized crime cases, we have conspiracy type cases where two or more are involved,” Gray said.
In most cattle theft instances, thieves will come under cover of night and lure cattle with a sack of feed using existing pens, he said.
“They get them penned, back up the trailer and take off and go to a local cattle auction and that’s where we catch ’em, at the auction,” Gray said.
Authorities have been watching those recently arrested for about a year. They are tight-lipped because it is an on-going investigation, said Cummings.
Gray said this kind of theft is different than someone stealing electronics from the home.
“You might get 10 to 20 cents on the dollar for a TV. Stealing cattle is a little different because you get market price. For a real good mama cow, you’d get $1,000 to $1,500,” he said.
But even the prices for that cash cow has changed. Last year the market would have netted $3,000 for a cow, said Gray who is headquartered in Fort Worth.
From January to Sept. 1, there have been 425 cases of cattle theft with a total of 3,057 livestock and $1.6 million in livestock and property recovered, Gray said.
As the investigation continues, the Internal Affairs Division of the Sugar Land Police Department is investigating Allen, who is charged with engaging in organized crime, said Sugar Land Assistant Police Chief Scott Schultz.
Allen posted $50,000 bond and is on paid administrative leave from the department per department policy, said Schultz. The department has 45 days to conclude its investigation. If convicted, Allen will lose his license and no longer be a police officer.
“He is a seasoned officer. He has been here a long time,” said Schultz who was unaware of any prior discipline action involving the traffic officer who handled auto thefts reports, accident reconstruction and traffic accidents. “Not to my knowledge has he been in trouble, there is nothing that comes to mind.”
In the 25 year Schulz has been with the department, he said there have been three incidents where a police officer has been charged with a crime.
“This doesn’t happen often,” Schultz said.