Investigation shows pattern of alleged thefts

A search warrant affidavit shows that Ashland police and parks employees spent more than a month investigating parks technician Harold Ross Straub and found a pattern of alleged thefts.

The investigation resulted in a Nov. 19 search of Straub's home in Rogue River, where police recovered fertilizer, a wheel barrow, a ladder and other items valued at about $1,000. Straub was arrested on theft charges.

A Nov. 18 search warrant affidavit signed by Ashland Detective Sgt. James Alderman describes the sequence of events that led to Straub's arrest:

  • July — Oak Knoll Public Golf Course workers order 20 bags of specialized golf course green fertilizer through a Portland-area distributor. One bag goes missing almost immediately.
  • Sept. 28 — Straub tells a parks employee that he is re-doing a private putting green in Ashland.
  • Early October — A parks employee witnesses Straub leaving work with several city of Ashland 5-gallon gas cans in his personal truck.
  • Oct. 2 — A parks employee sees four bags of golf course green fertilizer and a bag of grass seed in Straub's parks department work truck. The employee puts the fertilizer back on a pallet with the department's remaining fertilizer.
  • Oct. 3 — On a day when he was not scheduled to work, Straub calls the employee from the golf course maintenance area to ask who had taken the fertilizer from the truck. The employee says the fertilizer was only for the golf course. Straub apologizes and says he did not know it was for golf course use only.
  • Oct. 4 — A parks employee finds four bags of golf course fertilizer missing and reports the suspected theft to a supervisor. Straub apologizes for taking the fertilizer and says he had already used it before he was told the fertilizer was for the golf course only.
  • Oct. 6 — Parks Director Don Robertson and Parks Superintendent Steve Gies meet with a police detective to spell out their concerns over Straub's actions.
  • Oct. 8 — A check of video surveillance recordings shows Straub refueling his city work truck and gas cans on multiple occasions. A pattern emerges that when Straub comes in to work early — usually at 4 a.m. on Mondays — 10 to 20 gallons of gas turn up missing from gas cans stored at the golf course. Another pattern emerges that full gas cans disappear for the weekend and then turn up again on Monday empty or with fuel missing.
  • Nov. 10 — Police surveillance at the golf course shows Straub arriving at about 3:45 a.m. and emptying gas from four gas cans into his personal truck. A detective sees shovels, a rake and part of an irrigation pipe in the truck. That afternoon, a detective follows Straub in an unmarked police car and discovers Straub lives in Rogue River, not in Phoenix, as city officials believed.
  • Nov. 12 — Detectives see tools, a circular saw, a wheelbarrow and a ladder at Straub's home. That evening, all of the regular gas cans are missing from a parks maintenance yard.
  • Nov. 13 — A detective sees five gas cans at Straub's home matching the description of the missing cans.
  • Nov. 15 — A police sergeant sees Straub come in to work at 4 a.m. with five gas cans in his personal truck.
  • Nov. 16 — Parks department supervisors tell a detective about missing items, including a ladder, a wheelbarrow, hand tools, a metal post pounder, two saws, including a circular saw, a cordless drill, a 6-foot steel digging bar and about 20 buckets.

Police calculated that in a period of about two weeks, at least 83 gallons of fuel valued at about $265 were unaccounted for, based on a check of Straub's city of Ashland gas card use and the actual mileage on his work vehicle.

Based on gas logs, police said they believed Straub had stolen at least $1,000 in gas during the previous six months.

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