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Man's suspicions about stolen saddles leads to arrests

Facebook posts raised stable owner's suspicions

MADISON, Wis. - Three people were arrested after a Columbus stable owner suspected they were trying to sell him stolen saddles, according to the Dodge County Sheriff's Office.

The stable owner called deputies on Monday after he was contacted by someone offering to sell him saddles. The owner said he contacted friends who told him they saw a post on Facebook about a riding stable in Elkhorn that was robbed of 10 saddles the night before.

The Elkhorn stable owners had gone to Facebook and the blogs telling their friends in the industry that they had their saddles stolen, which were valued at about $5,000.

The stable owner agreed to contact deputies when the three people arrived to show him the saddles.

Deputies said the stable owner called when the people arrived and it was determined, based on photos, that the saddles had been stolen from the Elkhorn ranch.

"They were described to me as very expensive, very unique and expensive saddles," said Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls.

The Columbus stable owner said the suspects didn't know the value or the quality of the saddles they were selling, so he called law enforcement.

"He's been in the business a lot of years. He knew exactly what he was looking at," Nehls said. "That gut instinct, you hear about that gut instinct all the time, respond to it, because more often than not, there's something to that."

One person was arrested at the scene on suspicion of receiving stolen property. The other two were detained and eventually arrested.

Shawn Mercier, Michael Southworth and Jasmine Ingersoll, all in their 20s and all from Walworth County, were arrested. Deputies said the three are being implicated in other burglaries.

The sheriff said Mercier was the leader, and he brought the other two along because they knew more about the saddles.

Man's suspicions about stolen saddles leads to arrests

"Here you have a thief that's selling stolen stuff bringing someone along who knows more about the industry because he doesn't want to get ripped off on the stuff he ripped off," Nehls said.

Nehls said he's seen everything from copper thefts to guardrail thefts to manhole thefts, but he hasn't seen a saddle theft like this before, perhaps because there aren't many places to sell saddles outside of the close equestrian community.

"But they're the criminal element. We've never boasted that they're very smart, and of course we in law enforcement appreciate that lack of intelligence sometimes because it helps us solve the crime," Nehls said.

The sheriff said the Columbus stable owner did the right thing be speaking up when something didn't seem right.

Authorities said people should also mark their belongings, so if they get stolen, investigators can identify the rightful owner.

Owners of the Elkhorn riding stable said they were surprised and grateful the bust happened so quickly. They said they had a security camera at their barn, but the thieves knocked it over and got in.

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