POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s not every day the man you stole from is there to witness you reap the benefits.
That’s what Polk County Sheriff’s Office said happened in Lakeland last week.
“It’s hard to believe that you would take a stolen bull to the local market where all the cowboys know each other,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.
Kyle Raybon visits Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction every week to buy and sell cattle. Last Tuesday, he spotted something out of place, but familiar.
“The first bull to walk into the ring, he was mine,” Raybon said. “I recognize him. I stand up. I get a good look, there’s my mark in his ear.”
He watched as the 4-year-old semi-Angus black bull he owns, but wasn’t selling, was sold for more than $1,000.
“Had I not been there during that 45 seconds of that happening, he would have been gone forever,” he said. “There is no trace.”
The bull had strolled over to a nearby pasture and Raybon’s neighbor, Stewart Gregg Smith Jr., 38, seized on the opportunity, authorities said.
“Shock. Of course I was mad,” Raybon said of his reaction. “I support my family with these cattle. Somebody stealing that from me drove the nail a little further.”
“Stew loaded up the bull and he took him to the market. That’s no bull,” said Sheriff Judd.
The auction’s owner, Dave Tomkow, said his company takes down the name and phone number of people who bring in livestock.
“We basically just go by what you tell us is what we put down on the ticket,” Tomkow said. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the people are honest and everything’s right.”
Once Raybon showed proof of ownership, the sale was called off.
“We put Stew in the pen where he belonged and we took the bull and gave it back to the victim,” said Sheriff Judd.
Smith Jr. has a criminal record that includes multiple counts of theft and grand theft, burglaries, possession of cocaine, felony domestic battery, domestic battery by strangulation, aggravated battery on a pregnant woman, among other charges, according to the sheriff’s office.
He was arrested last week on charges of grand theft and dealing in stolen property.
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