SEGUIN, Texas – Police said they've charged nine people, including eight workers at the Caterpillar plant in Seguin, with organized crime involving the theft of parts worth at least $160,000.
Detective Clint Halbardier, Seguin police spokesman, said investigators also have recovered 207 diesel injectors that are used to spray fuel into the cylinders of the engines manufactured at the Caterpillar plant.
"It was very alarming for Caterpillar. They were shocked as well," said Halbardier.
He said the alleged thefts began in July, but on Aug. 1 a diesel repair shop owner in Houston became suspicious about paying only $12,000 for 107 diesel injectors he'd seen on Craigslist that are actually worth $83,000.
Halbardier said the shop owner contacted Caterpillar directly about his concerns that the diesel injectors were stolen. The detective said his concerns were quickly confirmed using serial numbers.
He said had it not been for that shop owner, "It probably would not have been discovered for several years until maybe an inventory was done."
Halbardier said instead Seguin police were called in after being contacted by an investigator with Caterpillar.
He said Seguin detectives, along with Texas Rangers, arranged a meeting Sept. 10 with 32-year-old Jessie James Daniels, of Luling, the alleged middleman, at the Buccee's in New Braunfels.
"Searching his vehicle, we found 100 injectors in the trunk of his car," Halbardier said.
He said after interviewing Daniels and executing a search warrant on his phone, they made the first three arrests at the Caterpillar plant. The suspects are identified as 31-year-old Gary Wayne Sanders, of Seguin; 39-year-old Christopher Lee Cook, of Cibolo; and 27-year-old Saul Martinez, of Seguin.
The detective said two days later they arrested the remaining five suspects off site: 25-year-old Edgar Perez-Tellez, of San Marcos; 26-year-old Danielle DelaGarza, of Seguin;27-year-old Kevin Bice, of Seguin; 28-year-old Robert Leslie Crouch, of Seguin; and 23-year-old Jesus Eduardo Baeza-Diaz, of San Marcos.
They were booked into the Guadalupe County Jail on $200,000 bonds.
Halbardier said the charge of engaging in organized criminal activity makes the crime a first-degree felony with a possible penalty of five to 99 years in prison.
He also said the investigation is ongoing.
Barbara Cox, Caterpillar spokeswoman, said the company is working with the authorities.
"Integrity is the foundation of all we do," Cox said in a statement. "The reputation of the enterprise reflects the ethical performance of the people who work here."
One of the largest employers in Seguin with 1,200 people on its payroll, Caterpillar assumed operation of the plant in February 2013.