Garrett Wayne Meyer, a recent graduate of a firefighter academy in College Station, won’t be putting out fires anytime soon. Instead, he’ll be in prison.
The 35-year-old man, who left his job on a Hunt ranch last year to be a firefighter, paid for some of his tuition with money acquired from selling coins, watches and other items that were stolen from his employer, according to 216th District Attorney Lucy Wilke.
Meyer pleaded guilty to first-degree felony theft last month before Judge N. Keith Williams and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He also was ordered to pay $411,535 in restitution to the ranch owner, who did not have an insurance policy covering the items stolen.
“I doubt that (Meyer) will ever be able to pay it
back — he just doesn’t have the means,” Wilke said. “The complainant is aware of that — he’s not holding his breath for restitution. He understands you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.”
But anything can happen — Meyer could win the lottery, for example — so Wilke’s office always makes it a point to tack on restitution, even if a defendant probably can’t pay all of it.
“It’s likely he will pay a small monthly payment, but it’ll be a drop in the bucket,” she said.
However, Meyer did go on a spending spree using money from selling the stolen property, so Wilke’s office is in the process of seizing dozens of firearms, ammunition and other items to sell at auction. The proceeds from the auction will go to the ranch owner, she said.
Meyer worked for the Hunt ranch owner for about eight years, according to a report by the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office. The ranch owner had been in Houston while dealing with health problems for most of 2018, and hadn’t been to the ranch for any prolonged length of time. His daughter and her husband lived at a home on the ranch.
According to the report and Wilke, Meyer had, at some point, obtained the combination to the owner’s vaults and made off with platinum, gold, silver, antique coins, diamond Rolex watches and other valuables. He amassed more than $540,000 in stolen items and sold them online and at a Kerrville gun and jewelry store.
Meyer told the owner of the gun and jewelry store that he acquired the coins from a deceased grandfather. But the store’s owner, having had experience with people selling stolen coins there, contacted the ranch owner and advised him to check his safes. The ranch owner, however, told Young he trusted Meyer and considered him family.
“(The ranch owner) stated that if Garrett said it was his grandfather’s, then he wouldn’t lie about it,” wrote Investigator Jonathan Edwards in his report.
Meyer conducted several transactions at the gun store in 2017 and 2018 for several thousand dollars’ worth of firearms, ammunition and related items.
Months before the ranch owner found out about the thefts, Meyer left his job at the ranch, saying he wanted to study to be a firefighter in College Station. Meyer also told the ranch owner that he’d been having marital problems and trouble affording rent.
After Meyer graduated from the fire academy last year, he reportedly texted his wife, “I’m not coming home.”
The ranch owner visited his Hunt property in October 2018 and noticed the valuables missing from his vaults. He called the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office, which put Edwards on the case.
In November 2018, officers obtained consent from Meyer to search his residence — an RV — in Bryan. He was arrested that day, confessed, gave officers combinations to the gun safes in a storage unit and allowed officers to search his home. Coins stolen from the Hunt ranch were found in his home, along with a number of weapons.
According to Wilke’s office, Meyer used the money he made from selling the stolen goods to buy a 2010 Ford F-150 King Ranch Truck — in addition to several thousand dollars of work to customize it — a 2004 Keystone 5th Wheel RV, a riding lawn mower, iPhone, gun safes, ammunition, numerous firearms, gun scopes and other items.
Felony theft cases usually involve amounts less than $10,000 and usually are motivated by drug addiction, Wilke said, which made Meyer’s case unusual. Wilke said his motivation appeared to be greed.
“It certainly wasn’t to feed himself or his family,” Wilke said.
Although he was smart enough to graduate from the fire academy, Meyer apparently took no steps to hide his thefts.
“I’m not sure how he thought he was going to get a way with it,” Wilke said.