Westport Police have accused a Taunton man of stealing brass cemetery vases and selling them to a local scrapyard.
Although 41 were recovered, another 160 vases have apparently been melted down or otherwise vanished.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, Westport Police arrested Jason Howard, 29, of 52 Cottage St., Taunton, after a two-week investigation.
Detective Jeff Majewski said that Mr. Howard had been stealing the cemetery vases and taking them to Mid City Scrap Yard in Westport. The vases are made of red brass and the replacement value of each is nearly $200.
For each of the 8-pound vases, Mr. Howard was paid a scrap metal value of $16.
“This is a deplorable, despicable type of crime,” Det. Majewski said, adding that hard times and a difficult economy are no justification.
The vase scheme was uncovered by accident when Westport Police Lt. Paul Holden visited Mid City Scrap on another matter. While there, he spotted three of the vases and asked where they had come from.
“He was told that (Mr. Howard) had been dropping them off 20 at a time for awhile,” Det. Majewski said.
Westport officer Barry Beaulieu arrested Mr. Howard at the scrap yard Saturday on a default warrant for an unrelated larceny after the scrap yard notified police that Mr. Howard was back at the business trying to sell additional vases.
Police seized 20 stolen vases from Mr. Howard Saturday, and the detective division also seized 21 stolen vases that had been located at the same scrap yard on October 17.
Mr. Howard told investigators that he had been stealing the cemetery vases from the Sharon Memorial Park Cemetery on Canton Street in Sharon, Mass. He stated that he would regularly visit that cemetery and steal about 20 vases at a time.
To avoid attracting attention, he told police that he carried flowers with him as he collected the vases during his daytime visits— putting the vases aside until he could safely collect them later.
The vases still had dirt and leaves stuck to them when they were taken by police.
Det. Majewski said that during the past several months, Mr. Howard had received several thousand dollars as a result of selling the stolen vases. Sharon police told investigators that they had received reports of nearly 200 cemetery vases stolen over several weeks from that cemetery.
Only the 41 from the last two shipments have been recovered. The rest, Det. Majewski said, were either melted down or shipped off to another facility.
“We have a good relationship with the three Westport scrapyards but anything like this should obviously have immediately have raised a red flag” when dropped off for sale at the scrapyard, Det. Majewski said.
State law requires that scrapyards obtain the identification of anyone who sells to them but the log lists only the material dropped off — “brass” — not brass cemetery vases.
Mr. Howard was charged with larceny by false pretenses and receiving stolen property — both felony criminal charges. He was placed on a $ 5,000 cash bail pending his arraignment in Fall River Second District Court.
Sharon Police and Westport Detectives are continuing the investigation.