35-year-old homeless man arrested

WHATCOM ­— County Sheriff Bill Elfo reports a case that involves recent thefts of tools and wire from construction sites. The sheriff gives this account:

On Sept. 30 deputies investigated a reported burglary at the Granite Construction gravel pit in the 6700 block of Mission Road near Everson.  Investigators found that heavy and small gauge wire valued at approximately $5,100 had been stolen, along with several tools.

Local recycling companies were contacted and given a description of the wire. Z Recyclers later contacted Granite to say wire had been brought in to them for recycling, and an employee identified the wire as a portion of what had been stolen.

Matthew Romero was identified as the person who had brought in the wire and he was observed leaving the business driving a Dodge truck belonging to him.   

On Oct. 7 deputies responded to a report of a theft from a storage trailer in the 800 block of East Hemmi Road. The theft had occurred on the morning of Oct. 5 and was captured on security video.  

A Dodge truck was observed pulling into the lot and a male was seen leaving the vehicle and attempting to enter several outbuildings and a storage trailer.  The next morning, the victim discovered that approximately $4,447 in hand and power tools had been taken from the storage trailer. Deputies watched the security video and recognized the Dodge truck as being associated with Romero.  

Bellingham police officers contacted and detained Romero in the early afternoon of Oct. 7. When questioned about the tools taken from the Hemmi Road address, he admitted to taking them from the trailer. He also brought deputies to the location he had stored the stolen tools — where they were subsequently recovered.  

Up to this point, Elfo said, two vehicles associated with Romero have been searched and a large quantity of suspected stolen tools has been recovered along with a handgun. A search warrant is pending for a third associated vehicle. Over $13,000 worth of stolen items has been recovered and that amount is expected to increase as the investigation continues and additional victims are identified.

Several recovered tools have been linked to thefts reported to the Lynden Police Department, Elfo said. 

Matthew Romero, a 35-year-old male listed as homeless, was booked into the Whatcom County Jail on investigation of vehicle prowling, second-degree theft, possession of stolen property and trafficking in stolen property. Additional charges are anticipated. 

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