James Ernest Mathis

James Ernest Mathis

Seguin police arrested a Houston man last week in connection with alleged theft of high-priced lawn mowers and trailers at local businesses.

Investigators found one of two stolen mowers stashed behind a nearby business and set up a sting to capture the thief, Seguin Police Chief Terry Nichols said. Within a few days, a suspect took the bait and was subsequently arrested, the chief said.

“We set up electronic surveillance on the mower and monitored it for the next two days,” Nichols said, adding that someone retrieved the machine on a trailer and drove it on I-10 toward Houston. “We detained and ultimately arrested a male subject who was pulling the stolen mower and brought him back to Seguin.”

Authorities learned of a break in during the early morning hours of June 17 at Dietz Tractor Supply, located in the 500 block of East Interstate 10, Nichols said.

Someone had taken two riding lawn mowers and investigators later learned that also stolen around the same time was a flatbed trailer from Seguin Machining and Supply Co. in the 200 block of East I-10, Nichols said.

“They also damaged several machines at Dietz Tractor trying to move them,” he said.

Detectives began investigating and that morning police found the stolen trailer abandoned in a parking lot at Phillips Mart on North Austin Street, Nichols said. Police searched the area and found one of the law mowers but did not locate the other, he said.

Police got permission from management at Dietz to leave the mower in its hidden position but with officers electronically monitoring it, Nichols said.

“It was Friday, June 19 at about 10 a.m. we noticed the mower was moving,” he said. “We found it traveling, being pulled on a trailer on I-10 headed toward Houston.”

Officers stopped the pickup truck driver pulling the mower on a different trailer, Nichols said. Seguin police received help with the stop from deputies with the Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office during the stop near mile marker 647 on I-10 in Gonzales County, he said.

Police said the trailer the truck was pulling at the time of the stop also was stolen out of Seguin.

They arrested James Ernest Mathis, 51, of Corsicana, Nichols said.

Mathis remained held Tuesday at the Guadalupe County Jail facing a charge of theft of property between $2,500 and $30,000, according to online jail records. Bond was set at $50,000, according to only records.

The charge Mathis faces is a state jail felony, Nichols said.

“I’d like to recognize the management/owners of Dietz Tractor for working with us and allowing us to keep that mower under surveillance so we could solve this,” he said. “Without them allowing us to do that, we wouldn’t have been able to solve this crime.

“We appreciate their confidence in us.”

Dalondo Moultrie is the assistant managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at dalondo.moultrie@seguingazette.com .

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