AP NEWS

Trucks of two Houston rodeo vendors stolen days apart

March 18, 2019

Two owners of food companies vending at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo had their trucks stolen within days of each other, leaving them without reliable transportation and out of thousands of dollars.

Jim Rewerts, owner of Cajun Unlimited, said after 32 years of vending at the Houston rodeo, this year’s experience has him looking over his shoulder. His blue Ford F350 truck, used to transport several trailers from his base in Beaumont to the rodeo, was stolen.

Rewerts said he parked his truck at a hotel nearby the rodeo just before midnight on March 6. Members from his crew checked on the truck at around 4 a.m. the next morning, but by 6 a.m. on March 7, his truck, its new $10,000 engine, fancy hitch and valuable tools, were gone and remain missing.

“This is uncharted territory,” said Rewerts, adding that within the decades he’s worked at the rodeo, nothing like this has ever happened.

Alex Simeonidis, the North Dakota owner of food vendor Santa Lucia who has worked with Rewerts at different festivals for around 20 years, said he was in disbelief when he learned about his stolen vehicle.

“I was shocked that something like that would happen,” said Simeonidis, who is serving up Greek food at the rodeo for his fourth year.

But days later, the same thing happened to him.

Simeonidis said that after completing a day of vending at the rodeo, he returned to the nearby Motel 6 where he was staying around midnight on March 8 and parked his 2018 GMC Sierra Denali in the motel’s parking lot. The long hours of the rodeo likely had him distracted, he said, and the fact that the hotel had a gated area with only one entrance and exit made him feel safe.

He woke up the next morning and went outside in the parking lot to meet his crew. His truck was gone — in its place, broken glass.

“I was panicked,” he said. “This had never happened to me.”

Inside were his phone, a cash box with around $4,000, his and his sons’ Canadian passports, and his wallet. His truck, with only 25,000 miles, was practically brand new.

Simeonidis spent the next morning talking to police and reviewing hotel footage, which showed men breaking into his car around 1 a.m., smashing its tracking system, and driving off. Simeonidis said the thieves were working to steal his truck for nearly 30 minutes. His car has been untraceable since.

Both Rewerts and Simeonidis believe that their stolen trucks were no coincidence. They believe they were being watched and have warned other rodeo vendors of what happened to them, they said.

“It’s really sad, especially for me — a person comes from another state and is in the city for three weeks,” Simeonidis said. “You feel beyond violated. You feel like your whole life is ruined. ... I would not like it to happen to my worst enemy.”

brittany.britto@chron.com

twitter.com/brittanybritto

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