BEAVERTON – Police arrested a suspect and are searching for two others who they say stole thousands of pounds of watermelons from two WinCo stores in the Portland area.
At around 4 a.m. on June 7, six pallets of watermelons that weighed almost 6,000 pounds were taken from the WinCo on Cedar Hills Boulevard, said Mike Rowe with the Beaverton Police Department.
Five of the pallets were later recovered in a storage building on the Stoller Farm property in Aurora, Ore. after Paul Stoller contacted police and said a man dropped them off there.
Police also learned that around 1:40 a.m. on June 7, 11 pallets of watermelons were taken from a Tigard WinCo.
A Beaverton WinCo employee confronted the suspects as they were loading the watermelons into a truck, Rowe said. The employee went to get the supervisor and when the two returned, the thieves were gone.
A spokesman for WinCo told KGW Tuesday that the retail value of the watermelons was around $7,000. He also said the suspects had to have used a pallet jack and a heavy truck to make off with that much product.
The employee gave a solid description of the suspects, and their truck.
After police reviewed security video, they identified the two suspects as Brad Taylor, 40, from Molalla, and William “Billy” Traverso, 42, from Canby. They later identified a third suspect, 46-year-old Gregory Bennett, who they said was the driver during the thefts.
Traverso was taken into custody Tuesday night in Canby.
Anyone with information on the location of Taylor of Bennett is asked to call Beaverton police at 503-629-0111.
Taylor was at one time employed delivering watermelons and was identified as the man who dropped the watermelons off at Stoller Farm. Police believe he, Bennett and Traverso stole the pallets with the intent to sell them.
Back in May of 2010, Traverso was arrested by federal agents for supplying steroids to a Canby police officer. Two other men in the well-documented federal probe were also in custody in 2010 for selling stolen firearms to Traverso.