Patrons in a Spokane Valley pub thought the meat salesman was legit when he walked into the bar a month ago selling frozen steaks.
“He had a little uniform on and sounded like he really knew his meat,” said Jackie Christenson, bartender at the Trent N’ Dale pub on East Trent Avenue.
Turns out the peppercorn steaks the customers bought from the man that night were stolen, and Spokane police say they’ve arrested the ringleader of a meat-theft operation.
Christopher M. Webber, 37, was booked Thursday into the Spokane County Jail on charges of leading organized crime, an unusual charge in Spokane, police officials said.
“There are more people out there,” and detectives will be looking for a getaway driver or lookouts, said police spokeswoman Jennifer DeRuwe. More charges will be coming, she said.
Detectives say Webber may have had five people working under him. For the past three years, they say, the individuals have stolen about $1,000 of meat from local grocery stores each day, five days a week, and then sold it at bars throughout the Spokane area for half the retail price.
The individuals have been caught on video surveillance at an Albertsons store, DeRuwe said, although they hit several stores. The thieves fill up a shopping cart with meat, and then find a somewhat concealed spot in the store to put the meat down their pants “or somewhere else on their person,” DeRuwe said.
Webber will make his first appearance in court today. He declined a reporter’s request for an interview at the jail.
According to news reports dating to 2000, Webber has pleaded guilty to burglary, possession of a controlled substance and multiple theft charges.