Man accused of stealing new home for his family

OKEECHOBEE — Late Saturday afternoon, Oct. 20, Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Deputies John Fisher and Brian Cross knocked on the door of Ken Vargas’ new home and arrested him for stealing it. According to the arrest report, it all began earlier that same day when Gregory Connaughton contacted the sheriff’s department to report his 43’ blue and white Franklin travel trailer stolen. Mr. Connaughton stated neighbors had seen it on the property that morning and said they had seen a black or blue Dodge truck in the area.

Deputy Brian Cross investigated, but at that time there were no suspects and little evidence.

Later that day, Deputy Cross received a call from Mr. Connaughton with information on a possible sighting of his trailer. Mr. Connaughton explained he had posted a picture on Facebook and asked people to keep an eye out for it. He had offered a $500 reward, and someone had given him a possible location.

Deputy Cross contacted Deputy Fisher and asked him to go look at the trailer to see if he thought it was the same trailer. After looking at the trailer, Deputy Fisher believed it to be Mr. Connaughton’s. Deputy Cross arranged to meet Mr. Connaughton at the trailer to confirm this.

Ken Vargas

While waiting for Mr. Connaughton, Deputies Fisher and Cross knocked on the door of the trailer and spoke to Ken Vargas. They told him it was obvious the trailer was just placed there since there were tracks on the ground and new plumbing. Mr. Vargas’ wife stated she did not know the trailer was stolen, but they needed a new home after a bee infestation in their old home. When Mr. Connaughton arrived, he confirmed it was his trailer and Mr. Vargas was arrested for burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, grand theft and criminal mischief over $1,000. His bond is to be set by the judge at his first appearance. Mr. Connaughton agreed to allow Mrs. Vargas to remove her belongings from the trailer.

After leaving the trailer, deputies went to the residence of another suspect, Steve Barton. Both Mr. Vargas and Mr. Barton have recently been released from prison for dealing in stolen property. Mr. Vargas advised the deputies that Mr. Barton would likely be armed and is not mentally stable. Mr. Barton was located on Wednesday, Oct. 24, and was arrested and charged with burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, grand theft and criminal mischief over $1,000. Bond will be set by the judge at first appearance.

Steve Barton

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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