Campaign volunteer arrested for stealing opponent's signs

BIXBY, Okla. - The Republican primary runoff for Tulsa County Clerk took a drastic turn after a volunteer for one of the campaigns was arrested and accused of stealing campaign signs.

Bixby police arrested Lee Belmonte, 58, in a parking lot in the 11000 block of South Memorial Drive on Sunday morning.

According to a police report, Belmonte, a volunteer for Tulsa County Clerk candidate Pat Key, was followed by volunteers of Dean Martin's campaign after they placed a tracking device in a Dean Martin campaign sign.

The Martin campaign said their signs had been disappearing for weeks.

"For the last three weeks we've been putting up signs, hundreds and hundreds of signs all over Tulsa County," said Jared Martin, the candidate's son.

Martin said when his dad's signs were removed they were replaced by Pat Key signs.

That's when Martin said he got the idea of putting a GPS dog collar inside one of the signs which was located at a Bixby residence.

Martin said he received an alert on his phone early Sunday morning and that is when he knew the sign was being removed.

"So my wife and I hopped out of bed and we got in our car like private investigators and we followed [Belmonte] for  about a mile and made sure he was taking them," said Martin.

The campaign volunteers followed Belmonte to a store parking lot and called police.

After finding several Martin campaign signs in the back of a white van he was driving, police arrested Belmonte.

Martin said they had suspected Belmonte was the person stealing their campaign signs for a while, but had no proof.

"It's pretty frustrating to know someone this involved with the campaign has been taking signs," said Dean Martin's campaign manager, David Tackett.

In a statement to 2News Pat Key said "Neither I nor Marvin Branham, my campaign manager, have either authorized or directed the removal of our opponent's campaign signs.  Lee is a volunteer along with many others who have spent countless hours putting up my campaign signs."

Key also said many of her campaign signs of gone missing in recent weeks.

Belmonte was released Sunday afternoon on a $1,500 bond.

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