WOOSTER, Ohio — Social media is being credited for leading law enforcement to three suspects who stole about 850 pounds of beef from a local meat processing company.
The Wayne County Sheriff’s office arrested three people around 3 a.m. Feb. 22, just hours after they posted information about the theft on their Facebook and Twitter pages. It took just 15 minutes before they started receiving leads.
Wayne County Sheriff’s Captain Doug Hunter said the meat was reported stolen the night of Feb. 19-20, from Canaan Country Meats along Canaan Center Road. Deputies found the suspects in a single residence, with the meat stored in a refrigerator, as well as bathtubs and in trash bags, with snow used to keep the meat cool.
Arrested were James Malone, 36; Penny Malone, 41; and Tyler Chrostowski, 24, all of Wooster. Deputies also discovered marijuana and a ledger containing the names and phone numbers of individuals who purchased meat from these three. Additional charges are expected.
Hunter said about 100 pounds of the meat had already been sold. He asks that people who may have purchased the meat or who have more information, to contact the sheriff’s office at 330-287-5750.
The sheriff’s office is calling the case Operation Where’s the Beef.
A majority of the meat was owned by Dickinson Cattle Co. of Barnesville, Ohio. Darol Dickinson, a Texas Longhorn breeder and owner of the store where the meat was going to be shipped to, said it helped that the meat was individually packaged, with either the name of the processor, or the supplier, printed on each package.
He estimated about $9,200 of his own product was stolen, with about half recovered. Canaan Country Meats processes about 15,000 pounds a month for Dickinson, who sells it from his Belmont County store, Longhorns Head to Tail.
The stolen product inventory included Texas Longhorn beef jerky, summer sausage, hundreds of pounds of lean grind, halves of freezer beef, quarters and assortments of primal cuts of choice grill steaks.
Dickinson said the stolen meat was being sold to the suspects’ neighbors and friends.
Ryan Lilly, co-owner of Canaan Country Meats, said the theft occurred in a freezer outside the main facility. He said theft has not been an issue at his store, and that business is back to usual.
Lilly and Dickinson said they are unsure about what will be done with the recovered meat. The obvious issue is liability, Dickinson said, because they can’t guarantee the integrity of the meat, given the trail it has followed.
The majority of the meat was vacuum packed, which Dickinson said makes it brittle and susceptible to tears in the package seals, if not handled with care.
“When you throw a package of hamburger into the bathtub, there’s a 50 percent chance you broke the seal when it hit the wall of the bathtub,” Dickinson said.