A retired Monroe County farmer received $11,000 from Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation as a reward for the arrest and conviction of a man who stole nearly $10,000 worth of copper wiring from an irrigation system near Frisco City, Ala.
Monroe County Farmers Federation President Ronnie Joe Jordan presented Willie Saucer of the Goodway community a $10,000 reward check from Alfa Insurance and a $1,000 check on behalf of the Alabama Farmers Federation.
"I can't think of anyone I'd rather be giving this to," Jordan said. "Mr. Saucer has always been an honest, hard-working man who does the right thing. I'm glad he saw the crooks and helped the sheriff bring them to justice."
Alfa Insurance President Jerry Newby, who also serves as president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, said Saucer’s involvement should serve as an encouragement to others to follow suit and report metal thieves.
“We appreciate Mr. Saucer's efforts to help catch these criminals,” said Newby. “The thieves burglarized not only his farm, but also several others in the area. Metal theft causes thousands of dollars in damage to homes and businesses, and it can impact a farmer's livelihood by leaving important equipment inoperable. We hope this reward will encourage others to turn in metal thieves."
Saucer's farm is now run by his son, Wesley, and his grandson, Scott Saucer.
The elder Saucer, 80, spotted the thieves on an early Sunday morning in March of last year. "There were two of them trying to get their truck out of the ditch in the edge of the field," Willie Saucer said.
"I knew something wasn't right, so I drove back to the house and told my wife, Nellie, to call the sheriff. I drove back up there, and they broke and ran."
Arrests made quickly
The field where the irrigation system was located is only a few hundred yards from the elder Saucer's home. Monroe County Sheriff Tom Tate arrived minutes later and, after setting up a perimeter around the property with several deputies, he called for help from the state prison in Atmore.
"The prison officials brought in two tracking dogs, and we had one of the suspects caught in just a few minutes," Tate said. "The first one we caught told us there was another one still in the cypress swamp area, so we went back with the dogs and soon found him."
Both suspects were indicted by a Monroe County grand jury. One pleaded guilty, and the other is awaiting trial.
The damage to the irrigation system was covered by an Alfa farm owner's policy. The thieves stripped nearly a quarter mile of copper wiring from the system.
Tate said metal theft, particularly copper wiring, is a big problem around the state. Irrigation systems and churches seem to be a favorite target, he said.
Willie Saucer said he didn't have specific plans for the reward money, but said he'll find a way to put it to good use. "I figure catching these guys actually helped save Alfa money in the long-run because they weren't going to stop until they got caught," he said.
"They admitted they had done this on other farms. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to catch them in the act — well that, and they got their truck stuck."
Alfa Insurance is offering the $10,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for the theft of copper and other metal from poultry houses, farm irrigation systems and other property in Alabama covered by an Alfa Insurance policy.
Alabama Farmers Federation members already benefit from a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction for theft from their property.