'Bandit Ranger' couple charged for stealing campaign signs around Humble

HUMBLE, TX (KTRK) -- In election season, you hear about political signs being taken down by opposing camps. Usually, that's done during the nighttime hours.

In Humble, a husband and wife removed signs for Congressman Ted Poe and Sheriff Ron Hickman in broad daylight. The signs were posted in front of a shooting range on FM 1960 on October 23.

According to Humble police, Steven Vanris and his wife, Susan Pilko, told an employee who ran out to tell them to stop, that they were part of the county's "Bandit Ranger" volunteer program -- which targets signs posted to phone poles and rights of way.

The political signs were on private property. According to police, Pilko told the employee that, "she was given authority to remove the signs by Devon Anderson."

The DA's Office has no connection to the program.

The attorney's Office said that the couple went through training for the "Ranger Bandit" program, and the distinction between public and private property is made clear, as well as informing volunteers that campaign signs are not to be touched.

The couple stuffed the signs in their Prius and drove away, with the employee running after them. The entire incident was recorded on surveillance video.

Police were contacted, tracked down the car from its license plate, which led them to the couple's Kingwood home. There, according to police, 18 signs were found in their garage, all of them promoting Republican signs. Among the candidates were Ted Poe, Ron Hickman, Mark Herman and Mike Sullivan.

Signs were said to be taken from four locations in the Humble area.

The couple has been charged with aggregate theft with their bond set at $500 each.

Pilko and her husband are both Democrats. A Clinton sticker was on the bumper of a car in their driveway.

Neighbor Sal Bautista said Pilko held a democratic party last Christmas.

"We didn't go because I don't believe in parties and discussing politics," he said, adding that he was 'surprised' the couple would be accused of theft.

Congressman Ted Poe responded with this statement:

"This is not politics. This is a crime. I trust the law in Houston to bring justice to those responsible. Thieves ought to be punished whether they're stealing political signs or cars."
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