A tracking device volunteers placed on a campaign sign allowed Bixby police officers to nab an alleged thief early Sunday morning, an arrest report says.
According to the report, Lee Alan Belmonte, 58, of Bixby, was arrested for possession of stolen property just before 7 a.m. and was booked into the Tulsa County jail on $1,500 bond.
Police said Belmonte was found with campaign signs that belong to Dean Martin, the opponent of Pat Key in Tuesday's Republican run-off election for Tulsa County Court Clerk.
Belmonte works for the Key campaign, according to the arrest report.
Martin's son, Jared Martin, placed a $100 dog-tracking device on a Martin campaign sign when "hundreds and hundreds" of signs went missing hours after they were placed around the county.
"I'd go at night when I'd get off [work] and I'd put up signs," Jared Martin said. "And within hours, every single one would come up missing, and actually, a Key sign would be in its place."
Jared Martin said he has seen several people removing his father's signs and replacing them with Key signs, but, he said, the most frequent was the man identified as Belmonte.
One night, when driving home after dinner, Jared Martin said he and his wife spotted one of Belmonte's vehicles, followed it, and watched Belmonte as he swiped a sign.
"We got it on video," he said. "It was kinda dark, so we knew it wasn't enough."
That's when an idea sparked: Put a tracking device on a random Martin sign, which was located on private property, and see if they could catch the thief red-handed.
Early Sunday morning, Jared Martin got an email alerting him the dog-tracking device had "left its yard" and was on the move.
Jared Martin hopped in his car and the tracking system led him to Sonic Drive-In, located at 11053 S. Memorial Dr. He called police, who arrested Belmonte at Sonic and recovered many Martin signs from the vehicle.
"Neither I or my campaign manager has either authorized or directed any volunteer to remove my opponent's campaign signs. This is nothing more than an attempt by my opponent's desperate campaign to blow out of proportion a single act by a single overzealous volunteer in an attempt to smear my good name and reputation."
- Pat Key, candidate for Tulsa County Court Clerk, in a written statement to News On6
Key is a longtime Tulsa County Deputy Court Clerk, and Martin is a Tulsa businessman. Both failed to get 50 percent of the vote in the June 26 primary election.
They are vying to replace Earlene Wilson, who is retiring after 12 years in office.