By JOSH NEWTON
Prosecutors have charged a Welling man with three counts of grand larceny for allegedly stealing multiple trailers and pawning them with fake bills of sale.
Robert Wayne Mathews, 46, was arrested in Sallisaw on June 4 by Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart. At the time, Mathews was allegedly in possession of a utility dump trailer that had been stolen out of Muskogee County.
According to a report filed by Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault, authorities in Van Buren, Ark., contacted local investigators May 22 and said Mathews was pawning an “unusually large number” of trailers.
The pawn shop transactions were being monitored through a computerized reporting system. None of the trailers Mathews had pawned had Vehicle Identification Numbers, investigators said.
Local authorities received a list of the trailers Mathews allegedly pawned, and believed at least one on the list – a 20-foot-long car hauler – had been stolen from Terry Foster in Cherokee County. That trailer was taken from Foster sometime between May 16 and 19, and was pawned in Van Buren on May 28.
Investigators from multiple Oklahoma and Arkansas agencies gathered in Sallisaw June 5 to interview Mathews. He allegedly admitted to stealing at least 16 trailers in various areas in northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas, and later pawning them.
Mathews allegedly admitted three of the trailers were taken from Cherokee County. He did not know the names of the victims, but was able to provide geographic locations and trailer descriptions for the three trailers, Chennault’s report said.
According to Chennault, Mathews took trailers from Foster; from local resident Ray Goode; and from S&S Communications Specialists, a company in Hulbert. The latter two trailers have not been located, as Mathews was unable to remember where he pawned them.
Mathews told investigators he would drive around looking for trailers to steal, and that he preferred to take bumper-pull trailers. Once he decided he would take a particular trailer, he would back his truck up and hook onto it. If the trailer had a hitch lock, Mathews told investigators, he would remove it with bolt cutters. He would then pull the trailer a short distance, drive into a secluded area, and remove the VIN with a battery-powered angle grinder.
He also allegedly told investigators he would sometimes paint the trailers with spray paint, then place a self-manufactured decal labeled “H&H Trailer Sales” on the trailer. He would later provide pawn shops with fake bills of sale, showing he purchased the trailers from the H&H Trailer Sales, which he claimed was in Nebraska.
Mathews allegedly told authorities he never broke through a locked gate or into a building to steal a trailer, and said he never took one on a Sunday.
Investigators searched Mathews’ truck June 5 and found bolt cutters, an angle grinder, the self-made H&H decals, and blank bills of sale containing the H&H name, Chennault’s report says.
Mathews has also been charged in Sequoyah County with grand larceny and knowingly concealing stolen property.
Court records show a $20,000 bond was set on his Cherokee County charges and Mathews was released from jail. A bench warrant was issued Tuesday after Mathews failed to show up for his initial appearance.