He was a big spender, breezing in and out of various towns purchasing expensive vehicles and telling people he was a real estate land developer.
In Stephenville, he wrote a check for $31,000 to Bruner Motors for a 2005 Dodge pickup on April 26. Later that same day, he bought a 27-foot RV valued at more than $28,000 from Bayer Motor Company.
His big spending habits took him to at least four counties, including Cherokee, Bell, Lampasas and Anderson, where he seemed to perfect the art of buying big ticket items.
Trouble was, the checks weren’t any good. In the words of Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant, they “were hotter than a $2 pistol.”
Now, the 26-year-old with a hankering for nice things, but an inability to pay, sits in a dank cell in the Brown County Jail facing a myriad of charges.
Jonathan Valentine’s spending spree came to a halt Tuesday when Brown County authorities took him in to custody after he wrote another bad check. This time Valentine wrote a check for $28,000 to Mears dealership in Brownwood on April 28. He told them he was employed with an oil company, then drove off the lot in a brand new Lincoln. By the time Mears realized they’d been had, Valentine had disappeared.
“When the dealership tried to verify the funds, it was too late - he was already gone,” Detective Sergeant Orlando Gaitan with the Stephenville Police Department said.
As investigators in Stephenville followed up on their case, the one in Brownwood was heating up. Gaitan said on May 4, investigators received a tip that the pickup and RV stolen from Stephenville were at the Shady Oaks RV Park in Brownwood. Both were seized and returned to Bruner and Bayer.
But it was an alert citizen who helped authorities catch the big-spending suspect and put him behind bars.
Gaitan said an employee of Mears was driving around Brownwood Tuesday and spotted the stolen Lincoln parked at a residence. The employee called authorities and Valentine was arrested.
Gaitan said when all the charges against Valentine are tallied, it could total more than $100,000. Valentine, who is listed as a Tyler resident, has been charged with two counts of theft by check over $20,000 under $100,000, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and theft over $1,500 under $20,000.
Gaitan said Valentine will also face charges in Stephenville.
Sara Vanden Berge covers courts, law enforcement, and business and political issues for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her work number is 968-2379, ext. 240.