HEBER CITY — Two men accused of stealing high-end equestrian equipment, including priceless saddles, have been arrested in connection with a burglary and theft ring.
As of Friday, Wasatch County sheriff's deputy Jared Rigby said the two cousins had been linked to three barn burglaries, stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of saddles and other equestrian equipment — possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars worth. But investigators were looking at whether the duo could be linked to many more burglaries, including cabins in Summit and Wasatch counties.
Garett Gressmen and Tyrel Gressmen, both 29, were arrested Thursday night. They are accused of breaking into three barns in the North 40 Fields area between March 10 and March 13, stealing horse equipment and vehicles, Rigby said.
Several stolen saddles belonged to Erin Grady.
"Some of the saddles are priceless. They're from saddle makers that are no longer alive. They are custom saddles," she said.
Grady said her neighbor had saddles stolen that he had won from roping competitions that can't be replaced.
The horse properties that were burglarized do not have full-time residents living there. Grady lives in Park City.
"It's indescribable what it's been like for our family. It's just horrible what people can do and have done," she said, describing the area as a "trusting small community."
Rigby said the cousins, who are from Heber and have horse property and horses of their own, are also believed to have stolen cars and trucks. The deputy said the men tried to change the vehicles' appearances by repainting them or attaching different license plates.
But detectives were able to solve the case quickly.
"It came together all at once," Rigby said.
A big break for investigators came Thursday when one of the men was stopped in Utah County by the Utah Highway Patrol for a traffic violation. The trooper discovered the vehicle the man was driving was stolen and arrested him.
A total of 15 saddles were taken, all of them worth $2,500 to $3,000 each, Rigby said. They were all sold within just a couple of days for $200 to $300 each, many on KSL.com.
Another Heber resident actually bought one of the stolen saddles and returned it after he heard where it came from, Rigby said.
"They were bringing in quite a bit of money," he said of the cousins.
The men specifically targeted the places they are accused of burglarizing, according to Rigby.
"I think they knew what they'd find. They calculated pretty well," he said. "They had their targets."
One of the motivations behind the thefts was a drug habit, Rigby said. Methamphetamine and marijuana were recovered during a search of their apartment. Neither man had a job and supported themselves by selling stolen property, according to Rigby.
Police also recovered other items that had not been taken from the barns, including firearms, tools and welding equipment. Rigby said investigators weren't sure Friday where it came from, but were looking at whether it was stolen from cabins in the area.
Grady said she is thankful the sheriff's office acted so quickly and solved the case. But she is still missing five saddles and her neighbor is missing 11. She hopes that anyone who may have purchased a saddle within the past week and may have questions about it will contact the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office at 435-654-1411.