Two men accused of selling stolen materials

December 21, 2010 4:10:18 PM PST
Building a home in this market is hard enough with the lagging economy. Now thieves are making it even more difficult, by ripping off construction equipment - sometimes directly from construction sites. It's a crime police say they're seeing a lot more of recently in our area and now a former police officer is accused in a scheme to sell stolen building materials.

Freddie Gonzales and Antonio Salazar were recently indicted on charges of engaging in organized crime. Investigators at HPD headquarters say they caught the pair with thousands of dollars worth of stolen building materials.

A former Houston police officer, Freddie Gonzales makes his living buying and selling building materials out of his south side business along the Gulf Freeway.

"It looks like a very clean, regular business," said HPD Sgt. R. Buchert.

But according to Houston police, looks can be deceiving. Investigators with HPD's Major Offenders Squad say they caught Gonzales and Salazar, one of his relatives, with $30,000 worth of stolen product taken in two separate cargo thefts.

"This particular stuff was manufactured in Mobile (Alabama). You could see that on the wrapping which is sort of unusual because we don't see a lot of that stuff here," said Sgt. Buchert.

The pair allegedly bought the stolen materials and then sold them at a discount rate to make a profit.

"Oh no, I don't want to talk about nothing like that, man," Salazar told us.

Salazar maintained his innocence and referred us to his attorney Robert Scardino, who also is representing Gonzales. Scardino claims neither of them knew the merchandise was stolen.

"My clients are honest businessmen. They run a business. They've invested a lot of time and money in the business," said Scardino. "It is the type of business where it is often difficult to determine the origin of the merchandise that they are buying."

Evidence uncovered during the course of this investigation led to state charges filed out of Travis County for failure to pay sales tax.

Police say theft of building materials is big business in Houston and the problem is more widespread than you can even imagine.


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