A thief who stole sets of moose antlers was caught in a sting operation due to several parties working together and at least partly because of social media.
Charles Binkley had eight sets of moose antlers stolen from his home in Fairbanks, Alaska, but recovered most of them thanks to some good people working together by way of social media.
Some time after the theft Binkley’s daughter Madison noticed that the antlers were missing from the shed where her father had them on display, so she contacted law enforcement about the stolen antlers. She also posted a notice about the theft on a Fairbanks facebook page for recovering stolen and lost items.
Binkley, a.k.a. “Skip”, collected the antlers over the course of a couple decades of moose hunting. Each set has sentimental value to him, and he’s familiar enough with them to be able to identify them on sight. Of course, they also have monetary value to antler buyers, which is where the next actor in this drama comes in.
Jessica Sanborn is an antler buyer who owns a business called Arctic Antler Works. Sanborn advertises her desire to purchase legally acquired antlers on Craigslist.
A couple days before Madison Binkley reported the stolen antlers, Sanborn was contacted by a Joseph E. Erickson telling her that he had some antlers to sell. Sanborn bought seven sets of moose antlers from Erickson, but indicated that she felt uneasy about the transaction.
She took note of Erickson’s garage, saying “I was thinking, ‘this is not a hunter’s garage’,” as there was no hunting equipment in view. Plus, she also noticed multiple sets of chainsaws and tools, items that are often taken in home burglaries.
At the same time, Sanborn’s father had seen Madison Binkley’s facebook post about the stolen antlers and had told his daughter about it. Sanborn then got Binkley’s phone number and the two women exchanged photographs of the antlers. Binkley recognized at least one set of antlers from those that Sanborn had purchased.
As Binkley and Sanborn were trading photos, Erickson again contacted Sanborn with an offer to sell her more antlers. So, the two women decided to work together to catch the thief.
The meeting was set for just a couple days after Binkley first reported the missing antlers, but at an apartment complex this time. While Sanborn went to the meeting, Binkley was trying to get hold of the trooper she had first contacted about her father’s stolen antlers. She said, “He called me at 3:57 p.m. I said, ‘go to Sophie Station right now, Jessica’s buying the antlers. It’s not safe, go there.’”
News Miner reported that, “The trooper arrived at the apartment parking lot while Sanborn and Erickson were standing outside with the antlers.” Erickson was arrested without incident and has been charged with second-degree felony theft, in addition to a pending misdemeanor assault case.
Erickson is being held without bail at Fairbanks Correctional Center. In an interesting addendum to the antler theft case, Erickson told authorities that he had been selling the antlers for another man. Troopers investigated the residence of the other man and arrested two individuals on warrants unrelated to the moose antlers theft.
Erickson ultimately had seven of the eight Binkley moose racks in his possession, which were returned to Binkley. He also had two additional racks of unknown origin.
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