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Multiple texts and Facebook messages helped lead to an arrest over the weekend in connection with a string of equipment thefts, including an $80,000 tractor from Ferguson Ag near Orchard last August.
An arrest warrant was issued Friday for Taylor J. Schwager, 30, of Orchard for theft by receiving/possession of stolen property and accessory to a felony in Antelope County.
According to the Council Bluffs Police Department, Schwager was arrested Sunday at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs on a fugitive from justice out-of-state warrant. He was found with meth and charged with possession of a controlled substance.
He is being held at the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office with no bond. Officials said Schwager likely will face those charges before being extradited to Antelope County.
The arrest warrant stemmed from an Aug. 22 theft of a 2017 Wacker Nueson tractor from Ferguson Ag west of Orchard, which is just inside the Holt County line. Last August, Jacob W. Humphrey of Tilden was arrested on possession of stolen property in the incident.
Court documents indicate texts and messages obtained by law enforcement connected Schwager to the theft. The messages provide conversations about finding “a buyer for the loader,” the “trailer is hot” and “If we don’t stick together we all got nothing.”
According to court records, on Aug. 22 video surveillance showed a white 2017 Ford F250 Platinum, allegedly owned by Schwager, driving by Ferguson Ag at about 3:35 a.m. The tractor was seen leaving the business followed by the white pickup.
Tracks indicated the tractor was loaded onto a trailer for transport. The affidavit states that authorities believe the trailer — valued at $15,000-$20,000 — was stolen about three months earlier from Borneke Construction at Grand Prairie Wind Farm in Holt County. On the trailer at the time of the theft was a $70,000 Caterpillar skid steer, which is still missing.
After the theft at Ferguson Ag, Shane Schwager — cousin of Taylor Schwager — told Holt County Chief Deputy Ed Nordby that he left Taylor Schwager’s residence around 2:30 a.m. the morning of the theft. Also at the residence was Jacob W. Humphrey. Shane Schwager said Taylor Schwager’s blue 2004 Ford F250 pickup was at the residence and was attached to a trailer.
The affidavit states Taylor Schwager’s blue F250 pickup and a trailer were located on Aug. 23 south of Tilden at the residence of Humphrey and Autumn Paten. Law enforcement found tire tracks matching the trailer and the stolen tractor. The trailer’s VIN matched that of a trailer stolen from Borneke Construction.
As the search continued for the tractor owned by Ferguson Ag, Antelope County Sheriff Bob Moore requested an airplane fly over the area. During the air search, authorities saw a pickup leave a shop “very hastily” about three miles south of Oakdale. The pickup was then stopped by authorities, and occupants were questioned.
At about the same time as the stop, Brian Ferguson of Ferguson Ag was contacted by an unnamed individual saying he was working near the location and that the usually open doors were now shut. Ferguson contacted the owner, who later confirmed that the tractor was in his shop.
When the sheriff went into the shop, the tractor was inside and had been stripped of its parts. Several tools were near the tractor, along with several removed parts. Court records stated that during questioning, Humphrey admitted to taking the tractor to the shop but said he bought the machine at Divots in Norfolk for $5,000. Humphrey’s shoe tracks matched the scene of the theft at Ferguson Ag, and he was arrested within days on possession of stolen property.
Holt County Investigator Steven Binkerd requested cell phone records from Schwager and others, along with Facebook accounts, which led to various text messages about the alleged incident, according to records.
In the messages, which were taken directly from the affidavit, Humphrey asked Schwager where to say he “borrowed cash from,” and Schwager told him “U got the cash from doing side mechanic (expletive)” and “U got part of the cash from selling my a washer and dryerfor $1,000. That links you being here.” Humphrey then messaged another person, “I’m gonna tell them i bought it off a dude so dnt saydifferentl.” When asked if Schwager would post Humphrey’s bail, Schwager messaged, “Not me but I’llhave someone for sure I got you. If wedon’t stick together we all got nothing.”
Messages from Humphrey discussed the trailer and loader. In one message, Humphrey asked, “do u for sure gt a buyer for a loader ready?”
In messages between Schwager and Humphrey, Schwager sent, “That trailer is hot. Idk where that plate even came from” and “Where was it?” Humphrey responded, “My house. I had it in meadow grove bt crawl brought itback to my house for some reason.”
Humphrey texted Schwager, “Wt if i say some dude rollled up and was trying tosell the works receivong stolen property is better than theft.” Schwager responded, “Yep. And then I still working on my truck and everythingchecks out. And i got your bail and lawyer if it works I guess.”
Law enforcement said they are continuing to investigate other equipment thefts in the area. This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.