Thieves Loot Graveyard, Fail to Notice Little Device Family Planted That Led Police Right to the Stash


Prostitution, it is said, is the world’s oldest profession. That doesn’t speak well about the early work ethic and morality of human society, but it is what it is.

Speaking of amoral early professions, I’m not quite sure where robbing from burial sites fits into the list, but I have to imagine it’s in the top 100 first opportunities in the immoral prehistoric gig economy.

Alas, technology has made sex work considerably easier to facilitate and harder to crack down on, meaning the world’s oldest profession is also going to be one of its most resilient. For targeting final resting sites, however, it seems that technology may have had the opposite effect on their life’s work — at least if a story out of Texas is any indication.

According to KPRC-TV in Houston, three suspects have been arrested on felony theft charges after hundreds of cemetery thefts in Houston-area Brazoria County.

Their downfall? An Apple AirTag, the ubiquitous device that helps track lost or stolen items wherever they may be.

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It’s unclear whether the suspects were responsible for all of the thefts, in which tens of thousands of dollars worth of bronze vases were stolen.

Authorities say the items were intended to be sold as scrap metal.

However, after having two vases stolen from his uncle’s grave in Restwood Memorial Park in Clute, Texas, a man named Tony Velazquez took matters into his own hands.

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“It is very frustrating having to do this over and over again,” Velazquez said in an interview with KPRC. “I think we found out last week on Monday that our vase was stolen.

“In December, we bought another one for my uncle because that was the first time that it was stolen,” he added.

At least this time, Velazquez said, the robbers were nice enough to leave the flowers in the empty hole left by the stolen vase.

However, the second bronze vase had the AirTag attached, which helped authorities find the stolen property — along with “dozens more” purloined vases — about 45 minutes away.

“[The family] gave us the login information and allowed us to then track it. We tracked it to a residence right outside of the town of Brazoria,” Clute Police Chief James Fitch said, according to KPRC.

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KTRK-TV in Houston reported that police found a large fire in the home when they arrived; some vases were being melted down inside of it, while already-melted vases were cooling next to it.

Police also found other implements the thieves might have used — including jugs of gasoline, a sledgehammer and saws.

Fitch said they suspect the men arrested — identified as Dillon Bryan Pollock, Cody Eben and Daniel Lewis Hale — are suspected of stealing 102 vases over a two-month period. A fourth suspect is still being looked for. And if you think this is small-stakes scrap-metal theft, think again.

“These things run about 600 bucks a piece, so we’re talking $62,000 worth,” Fitch said.

In addition to the AirTag leading them to the purported grave-vase chop-shop, authorities indicate there’s other evidence against the men charged.

In court documents, investigators say a man was turned away from a scrap metal buyer in Sweeny, Texas — the westernmost incorporated area in Brazoria County — when he tried to sell the vases.

Undeterred, he returned one day later with a five-gallon bucket filled with scrap metal from cut-up vases. Apparently, our graveyard-robbers are stupid or think scrap metal dealers are. If they were operating under the latter assumption, they were incorrect, since they were turned away again.

“They did not accept the vases, and that’s when they started breaking them and trying to sell them for parts,” Fitch said.

No precise motive or reason for targeting graveyards was cited in the reports — although I’m just going to go ahead and surmise, based on their reported interaction with the Sweeny scrap-metal dealer, that neither gainful, skilled employment nor illicit endeavors that require careful planning are exactly the métier of any of these gentlemen.

KTRK interviewed a family member of one of the deceased whose grave was targeted for robbery. Her name was withheld by the station, but she is apparently the decedent’s daughter — and was happy the alleged thieves had been apprehended.

“The lengths that my family will go [to] is very far to get what we feel is right for my dad. My dad was my favorite person in the world,” she said. “Why would we want him to be out there with no vase and no flowers? This man worked his whole life to provide for me and my mom and my sister.

“We feel very proud that it worked out the way that it did, and the people were finally caught because that’s just disgusting,” she added. “For the people who just don’t have any sort of regard to the families that already lost their loved ones. They’re already grieving, they’re already hurting, and now they have to worry about paying for another vase.”

There is a bright side, at least: Thanks to technology and this family’s ingenuity, one of the world’s older professions might be about to get a whole lot harder.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture