Three men from the Dallas area were arrested for burglary early Monday morning after a Somervell County Sheriff's Department deputy on patrol stopped their vehicle and discovered the driver's license was suspended.
That led to other discoveries, including that someone had tried to cut the phone line of the Phillips 66 station on U.S. Highway 67. Authorities also found a pry bar stuck in the door, said Derrell McCravey, the department's chief deputy.
The officer on patrol made the traffic stop around 2:50 a.m. on Rodeo Hill, the high hill on U.S. Highway 67 west of the State Highway 144 intersection. During the stop the officer observed a black hoodie in the car similar to one that alleged burglars were observed wearing in videos taken during several recent convenience store break-ins.
Also in the car were a 4-foot-long pry bar, mask and gloves, McCravey said. One of the suspects had the receipt for the pry bar purchased the previous evening at the Walmart in Mesquite, McCravey said. The bar still had the bar code on it and officers were able to match it to the receipt, he added.
The suspects did not admit trying to break into the convenience store, McCravey said.
Authorities are looking into that incident and any possible connections with similar crimes in Somervell, Hood, Johnson and Erath counties.
Last month someone broke into the Chevron station on U.S. Highway 67 and stole an undisclosed amount of cash. The store video also showed three men doing the crime.
The three men arrested were Nicholas Lopez, 22, of Irving; Sean Allen Schwartz, 25, of Rockwall; and Luis Vallejo, 27, of Dallas.
Lopez and Vallejo were charged with burglary of a building and engaging in organized criminal activity. Schwartz also was charged with those two offenses, as well as driving with an invalid license with a previous suspension.
Bond was set at $10,000 for the burglary charge, $50,000 for the organized crime charge and $1,000 for the driving with an invalid license charge.
The men remained in custody as the Reporter went to press.
The sheriff's department has had deputies patrolling the area since the break-ins began.
“Everyone has been working a lot of hours trying to catch them,” McCravey said of the burglars.
The men who were arrested were driving around slowly and trying to pick up one of the guys in the group, he added. The officer noticed that one of the men had grass burrs stuck on his pants.
The vehicle also had different license plates on the front and back, McCravey said.
Each of the men has a criminal record for burglary, he added.
The department will work with other sheriff and police departments in surrounding counties to see if there are connections between the three men arrested and similar incidents, McCravey said.
As for the money taken from stores that were the scene of other burglaries, McCravey said he was “not very hopeful” any money would be recovered from the three men if it turned out they committed the other crimes.