Law enforcement remain busy as crime rate rises

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Dope slingers, cattle thieves, forgeries some of the cases under investigation

Law enforcement officials in the bi-county area continue their investigations into a number of crimes that have taken place in local communities in recent weeks.

Det. Sgt. Melissa “Mo” Stanford reported activity taking place north of Pierce City, in which a suspect rents a box truck, such as a U-Haul, and drives to people’s homes while they are away and loads their belongings into the vehicle.

“That’s happened three times so far,” she said. “The same suspect has also forged at least 12 checks.”

Stanford also reported a rash of vehicle thefts that took place in the Sarcoxie and Wentworth areas, along with two individuals caught and jailed for cattle thefts.

“I recently wound up an investigation involving a burglary ring that resulted in 52 cases that totaled over $100,000 in stolen goods, primarily power tools and hand tools. We have 17 suspects in jail. So far, we have officially recovered more than $59,000 in property.”

Many of the items are Kobalt and DeWalt brands. Those who have reported items stolen may contact Stanford at the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office at 417-466-2131 with the serial number or a description of the items missing.

A former Pierce City man, Martin Meza, a.k.a Carlos Gonzalez, who is wanted for committing first degree murder, may have been located.

Word has come back to local law enforcement officials that it is believed he was one of several hundred bodies unearthed in a mass grave in Mexico, individuals who were reportedly killed by a drug cartel.

Locally, several members reported suspicious activities taking place in surrounding communities.

Jeff Carr said some men with T-shirts wrapped around their heads approached his neighbor’s home in the Plymouth Hills area late at night and were acting in a suspicious manner.

Donna Beckett, secretary for the Barry-Lawrence Chapter, said asphalt scammers were also making the rounds again with offers to pave driveways.

Kevin Litchfield, chairman, said he had been approached by men driving an unmarked box truck selling meat.

“I asked them if they had gotten their city license to sell, and he did not answer,” Litchfield said. “I told him I was going to call the police right then and he ran back to the truck and took off. There was no telling what kind or quality of meat they were trying to sell.”

Martinez Brooks, one of the individuals who were stealing mail from boxes in the areas of Shell Knob, Eagle Rock, south Barry County and northern Arkansas, has been apprehended.

Some residents in Verona, Everton and rural Purdy have reported being called by individuals claiming to be agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Drug Enforcement Agency, stating a family member needs help and instructing them to purchase $10,000 in iTunes cards and call back with the numbers on the cards.

“Another one called a local resident and told her that they had found a rental car in her name in Texas, with traces of blood and cocaine inside,” said Purdy Police Chief Jackie Lowe. “They were requesting her personal information so they could verify the car rental. Of course, she hadn’t rented a car, but she put $1,200 on a Walmart card and gave them the number on the back of the card. They cleaned out her account.”

Stanford said no law enforcement agency in the nation will ask an individual to purchase cash cards and give them the numbers.

“That is not how law enforcement works,” she said. “There seem to be a lot of scams going around at this time, but they seem to be working.”

Anyone who receives a call in which they are solicited for money on a gift card is asked to contact their local law enforcement agency and report the matter.

“I can’t stress this often enough, but no one should ever give out private information, account numbers or bank information to a stranger who calls on the phone,” said Lowe. “It’s always someone trying to scam you out of money.”

The next meeting of the Barry-Lawrence Chapter of Crime Stoppers will be at noon on June 20 at Angus Branch Steakhouse in Monett.

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