A string of construction tool and supply thefts cost Whatcom victims nearly $25,000

A Deming man is suspected of possessing and trying to sell a number of different tools and supplies reported stolen in a string of thefts the past few months from construction companies and sites throughout Whatcom County.

All told, approximately $25,000 worth of items were reported stolen to local law enforcement, according to Whatcom County Superior Court Documents.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office on Monday, Oct. 7, booked Matthew Lloyd Romero, 35, into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of two counts of second-degree vehicle prowling, two counts of second-degree theft, two counts of first-degree possession of stolen property, three counts of second-degree possession of stolen property and three counts of first-degree trafficking.

Probable cause for some of those alleged crimes was filed by the Bellingham and Lynden police departments. Jail records also show Romero was booked on outstanding warrants for suspected theft of motor vehicle fuel and two counts of driving while license suspended.

More than $13,000 worth of stolen items have been recovered from from two vehicles associated with Romero, a Sheriff’s Office release said, along with a handgun. A search warrant is pending for a third car, where the release said, more stolen items are expected to be found.

According to information in court documents:

The Lynden Police Department received a report Aug. 27 that a trailer owned by KVC Construction left on a vacant lot in the 2200 block of Berryman Loop during a home construction project had been broken into overnight and that approximately $10,000 worth of tools were missing.

Approximately two weeks later, the victims notified detectives that they saw some of the power tools listed for sale on Craigslist. Detectives attempted to meet with the seller of the items, even reaching a man who identified himself as “Matthew” on the phone in one instance, but were unsuccessful.

Romero also reportedly pawned a Skil circular saw that was reported stolen by KVC Construction in Bellingham. After investigators got photos of the saw from the pawn shop, the victims identified it as one that had been stolen from the trailer.

The Sheriff’s Office investigated a Sept. 30 burglary at the Granite Construction gravel pit in Everson, where $4,800 worth of an uncommon heavy gauge wire and $300 in a more common wire had been reported stolen.

On Oct. 2, Z-Recyclers contacted the victim and told them that Romero brought some of the wire that had been stolen in to be recycled. Romero reportedly presented a identification card with his name and was driving a truck licensed to him.

On Sept. 23, Bellingham police located a dark gray Buick Verano sedan that was registered to Romero in the parking lot at the Quality Inn Barron Suites.

After learning of Romero’s warrant for possession of stolen property, officers looked through the windows of the car and saw drug paraphernalia in the center console and a large Stihl concrete saw labeled “Honcoop Gravel.” An employee confirmed that the saw belonged to Honcoop Gravel, that it was probably stolen and that the saw was valued at $1,200.

The employee later reported that a company truck had been broken into Sept. 21 or 22 and $5,200 worth of tools were taken.

The Buick was impounded, and surveillance footage from the motel showed Romero and a woman emerge from some nearby woods looking for the car after officers had left the scene.

After obtaining a search warrant on Sept. 24, investigators found $3,810.59 worth of tools in the car, as well as Romero’s ID card and several pawn shop receipts made out to Romero.

Early Oct. 5, a Dodge truck known to belong to Romero was captured on a security video pulling into a parking lot in the 800 block of East Hemmi Road, getting out the truck with a flashlight and attempting to enter several outbuildings and a storage trailer in the area.

The victim reported the next morning that approximately $4,447 of hand and power tools had been taken from the trailer.

Bellingham Police contacted Romero on Oct. 7, according to the release, and he reportedly admitted to the trailer theft and led deputies to where he had stashed the stolen tools.

“We appreciate the staff at Z-Recyclers for their alertness and cooperation with law enforcement that led to the recovery of the victim’s property and the arrest of Romero,” Sheriff Bill Elfo said in the release.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.