The Seeders Family Business

Police say they ran the biggest burglary ring of its kind in Texas history. And they might never have been caught if it weren’t for one stubborn small-town cop who had a hunch.

Even an hour past midnight on August 4, 2005, it was hot in the woods behind the Diamond grocery store in Bridgeport, Texas, about 40 miles west of Denton. Jerry Cato pushed up the sleeves of his hooded sweatshirt and pulled a pint of cheap whiskey from his pocket. He took a tug, just enough to steady the nerves, and chased it with a half liter of bottled water that had gone lukewarm in the time since he’d hunkered down in the brush.

He turned to see Bobby Seeders motioning him over. Bobby needed another set of hands to help him light a cigarette, to shield the flame so as not to draw attention. Jerry approached, a handsome man with a warm demeanor and three days of stubble perpetually on his cheeks. In the light that flickered through, Bobby’s already gaunt face looked skeletal. The man was downright fidgety. Even if he hadn’t been smoking meth tonight, there was no shortage of God knows what else coursing through his system.

This may be the last job I do with him, Jerry thought. He checked his watch again. Twenty-four minutes. Just wait. Wait the full half hour.

Things went more smoothly when Jerry worked with Bobby’s older brother, Danny Jr. But tonight it was Bobby, Jerry, and Jerry’s cousin Mike Cato. The three of them would be going in. Bobby’s girlfriend of convenience, Cassandra Glass, was working lookout. One of Bobby’s doper friends, Hud Parker, was in the getaway car.

The minutes crept by until finally it was time. Jerry keyed the walkie-talkie.

“Anything?”

There hadn’t been so much as a civilian car, much less a cop.

“You’re good,” Hud Parker said.

“Keep your eyes out. We’re gonna start cutting.”

Jerry, Bobby, and Mike geared up. Gloves. Ski masks. Tools. Backpacks. The three men jogged to the back of the Diamond grocery, 30 yards away. They went up the rope that dangled from the roof. They’d done this 30 minutes earlier, too, when they’d climbed up to the roof and stomped around to check for motion and sound detectors. Now, with all three once more atop the building and Bobby listening to the walk-talkie for alerts, the two Cato boys began cutting through the roof, the best path to the alarm system, using the grocery store’s own outdoor outlets for power. Jerry and Mike worked efficiently, like master craftsmen.

Jerry was glad he had his cousin Mike with him on this one. He was part of the core group—Jerry, Danny Jr., Mike, and a guy named Eddie Beggs—who brought a professionalism to robbery. No drugs. No messing around. With them, it was all about getting the cash and getting out. Things went smoothly and the payoffs were big. But with Bobby Seeders lately, the jobs had been sloppy.

The unnerving racket from the saw was a tradeoff for the speed of entry. Even with a lookout and a getaway driver, this was when it felt most like the cops could sneak up on you. Or maybe a strolling civilian could catch sight of you.

The hole cut, they checked in again over walkie-talkie with Cassandra at lookout. All clear. Jerry and his cousin Mike shimmied through the hole and down into the store. The two made quick work of the cover on the alarm box and checked the system. Jerry unscrewed the cellular backup antenna. The two traced the wires they were looking for, readied their cutters, held their breath, and, at three, snipped.

For a second, they stood motionless. But the alarm didn’t sound. The two men nodded, raced back to the hole in the ceiling, and climbed back up to the roof. Bobby Seeders was already on the ground. He had gathered the power tools they would need and zipped them into duffel bags. Jerry and Mike slid back down the rope and, with Bobby, made back for the brush. They would wait some more.

The three settled into their spots, peeling off masks and gloves to try to cool down. Bobby lit another cigarette. Jerry checked his watch. A little before 2 am. For another 30 minutes—not a second less, no matter how impatient Bobby got—they would sit there. Just like Big Danny had taught them. Burglary alarms often sound for a long time, and in the off-chance that Jerry and Mike didn’t clip all of them tonight, the cops would most likely respond within the next 30 minutes. After that, it would be an unhurried collection of bounty. Better to wait, then grab, and, most important, escape.

The three spoke quietly, killing time. Bobby went on and on, with grandiose, drug-fueled bull. A few cars passed. Then it was time.

All three climbed up the roof once more. Except Bobby, thank God. He might have wasted time grabbing cartons of cigarettes or some damn thing. Jerry and Mike slithered down. In the manager’s office was the safe. Jerry checked the dial. Danny Seeders Jr., Bobby’s older brother, had already hit this very same store, months ago, and he’d told Jerry that the safe had been closed but not locked. No such luck this go-round. Still, it was a simple enough model. They’d cut scores like it before. Mike and Jerry wheeled the safe and the lotto machine out the back door and, with Bobby helping, into the woods, where it was safer to cut them. Bobby had promised a big payoff. He’d told the Cato boys that he and Danny Jr. had taken more than $30,000 from the store back in January. Jerry did the math: minus a couple grand for Cassandra Glass and Hud Parker doing lookout and driving duties, and minus Big Danny’s cut, the three might pocket a little under $10,000 each. Not bad for a few hours of work. Not their best score by far, but enough for Jerry to pay down some bills and not worry for a few months. He worked the safe while Bobby tried to crack the lotto machine.

But they were unlucky that night. The take hardly exceeded $10,000.

On the 50-mile drive back to Fort Worth, Jerry made himself a promise he wouldn’t keep: Yep, I ain’t doing these with Bobby and his crew anymore.

THE NEXT DAY, AROUND NOON, SWEAT TRICKLED OFF THE HIGH-AND-TIGHT buzz cut of Bridgeport Detective Sergeant Bobby Arriola as he knelt to take yet more digital pictures out back of the Diamond grocery. He stood to his full height, 5-foot-9, and adjusted his gun, the USP Heckler & Koch 40 strapped to his waist. He surveyed the crime scene. He’d been out there since 8 am; he’d be out there a couple of hours more, despite his chief, Randy Singleton, telling him half the day was too long to spend on a simple burglary.

But to Arriola it didn’t seem simple. Part of it was pure hunch, something that was hard to sell given his relative youth. Just 30, he’d been promoted to criminal investigations a few months before. But he was from a family of cops. Ambitious and organized, Arriola had been tapped for investigations because even as a patrol officer his chief had noticed the young cop’s ability to read suspects and detail the most mundane evidence that later turned out to be critical in a case. Coupling street smarts with natural Southern charm, Arriola built a rapport with suspects. With a background in SWAT and a comfort with high-tech systems, he was exactly what Singleton needed in building a progressive police force in a small town that was growing fast.

It was the little things here that led Arriola to believe this was more than locals. The footprints on the sheer wall, the time and care taken to disable the alarm system, the way the safe was cut—all of it smelled professional. And this Diamond grocery had been hit the exact same way back in January. So even though cops usually don’t bother to gather DNA at a burglary scene, Arriola collected cigarette butts and empty water bottles.

“It was the same folks as in January. I just knew it,” he would later say. He just had to prove it.

First thing Arriola did back at the office was dig up the case file on the first Bridgeport Diamond burglary on January 29, 2005. Just a week after that one, the Euless Police Department alerted the Bridgeport cops that they’d arrested three people who were in possession of money orders traced back to the January Diamond grocery heist. Chief Singleton and another Bridgeport detective had interrogated the three suspects—Matthew Barnett, Cassandra Glass, and a fellow named George Burt—who gave them a flimsy story about having bought the money orders from a drug dealer in Fort Worth. Nothing ever came of it, and Singleton, a veteran police officer, admits he dropped the ball.

“We just didn’t follow through the way we should,” he says. But Arriola did.

Over the coming weeks, Arriola spent every free minute he could on the Diamond grocery burglary case, even as other cases piled up on his desk. He followed every lead, no matter how unlikely. He interviewed store personnel. He chased down rumors of local ne’er-do-wells bragging about having pulled the job. “I kept running the names from the Euless arrest through every database I could,” he says. “And I finally came up with a reference that sometimes George Burt used the alias Bobby Seeders.

“So I run Bobby Seeders, and it comes up ’alias George Burt.’ I called a guy with [Texas Department of Public Safety] criminal intelligence, and run the name by him. He says he knows the name [Seeders] from a case in Mansfield about three weeks before our first Diamond burglary,” Arriola says.

In that case, a little after 3 am on January 5, a Mansfield patrol officer drove by the Double Eagle car wash and noticed two men in a maroon Ford Ranger. Given the hour and the near-freezing temperature, the cop guessed the men were up to no good. As soon as he hit his lights, both men ran. The Mansfield officer caught one of the men—Alfred Walter Massey, a convicted felon in his late 30s—but the other got away. Massey kept his mouth shut and denied knowing the other man. He ended up being charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of marijuana, and possession of criminal instruments. The Ford Ranger was registered to one Danny Seeders.

Other details of the robbery caught Arriola’s eye, too. He read down the list of items found in the truck and a lopsided grin broke on his face: black hood with facial opening, black ski mask, black gloves, electric Skill saw, grappling hook with black nylon rope, Radio Shack 1,000-channel scanner, pry bar, diagonal cutters, sheet rock knives, 16-megabyte flash card, metal saw blades, Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun with laser sight and 13-round magazine.

“Everything they’d need to hit my Diamond store,” Arriola says. “I think, ’This has got to be them. This is the bastard who hit our store.”

Arriola ran the name “Danny Seeders” and up came convictions out of Polk County, dating back to 1994. Arriola called Polk County District Attorney investigator W.D. “Bill” Willis, Polk County Sheriff Kenneth Hammack, and his Chief Deputy Byron Lyons. Hammack had been a Texas Ranger assigned to the Livingston area in the 1990s. Lyons had been a Livingston Police Department shift supervisor. The three listened to Arriola’s account of the two burglaries at the Bridgeport Diamond and the Mansfield arrest. Arriola also told them about other burglaries in small towns all over North Texas that he suspected were related.

It all sounded too familiar to the Polk County men, down to the equipment the burglars used. They told Arriola the news: it looked like the infamous Seeders family was back in business.

BUSTED: Bobby Arriola (above) and James Dorsey (below) untangled the intricate connection between the crimes. Jerry Cato (left) says, “I feel bad about rolling on my homeboys.”

DANNY SEEDERS—”BIG DANNY” TO MOST EVERYONE—was gregarious and as sharp as the corner of a new $20 bill. He lived in a working-class neighborhood in White Settlement, a tiny suburb on the west side of Fort Worth. He loved his three kids to a fault, doted on his grandchildren, and was a generous friend and boss. Big Danny ran a golf-ball recovery business in the late 1980s. People who worked for him say he would gladly give his employees money out of his own pocket if they were short, or offer them payday loans at no interest if they were really tight. He got to work every morning at sunup and often put in 12-hour days.

“If you were in his good graces, he’d give you the shirt off his back,” says Jerry Cato, who worked for Big Danny and was a family friend going back to the late 1980s. “He’s a really good man.”

Jerry recalls afternoon barbecues at Big Danny’s house. Jerry’s son would play with Big Danny’s grandchildren in the backyard while the families grilled steaks and chops. Big Danny could tell a good joke, and, when the sun went down, they’d all go inside to drink beer and watch movies. But during those barbecues, they’d never talk business. Not a word about golf-ball recovery and certainly nothing about the other stuff. Most of the wives and girlfriends never suspected anything.

And yet Big Danny was the mastermind of what police say was one of the biggest business burglary rings in Texas history. Between 2001 and 2005, the Seeders group pulled more than 250 jobs netting $750,000. And those are the burglaries the cops have tied to them. The actual tally is probably far higher.

Court records show that during the early 1990s, Big Danny put together his first crew, which could properly be named the Seeders-Beggs crew. Operating out of Fort Worth, the group consisted of Big Danny, his son Danny Jr., family friend Eddie Beggs, Eddie’s father Tommy Beggs, and Tommy’s brother Henry Beggs. The five of them, two Seeders and three Beggs, with a few others that helped periodically, cleaned out an impressive number of East Texas businesses, from grocery stores to outlet malls. The crew would scout out a business target days ahead, study its security systems, cut through the roof late at night, disable the alarm system, and then head straight for the safe. Their takes ranged from $5,000 to $50,000 on the better jobs. They randomly hit up geographically isolated spots to throw cops off the trail, and they rarely used the same tools more than once, making it harder to tie the burglaries together.

But police caught a break in Livingston in early 1994. On high alert from all the burglaries throughout the region, local law enforcement responded en masse to a tripped alarm. They captured three of the Seeders-Beggs crew after a wild chase through the woods. Big Danny and Eddie Beggs escaped and made it back to their hotel. Police found them there and arrested Eddie. Big Danny actually talked his way out of arrest. He wouldn’t be booked until later.

While in custody, the two youngest of the crew—Eddie Beggs, 23, and Danny Jr., 25—broke under pressure and signed confessions to a number of crimes, resulting in the conviction of all five on an array of burglary and organized crime charges. They even detailed how each of their fathers had invited them into the burglary game over eggs and bacon at a local diner. Eddie couldn’t say exactly how many jobs they’d done “since there’d been so many, they all ran together.”

They all did stints in prison. Law enforcement officials say it wasn’t long after Big Danny and Danny Jr. got out, in 2001, that they started assembling another crew. Eddie Beggs signed up for a second tour, but as far as police know, the elder two Beggs, Eddie’s uncle, Henry, and his father, Tommy, stayed out of it—so, ostensibly, did Big Danny. He had learned from his mistakes. This time he played the puppet master, law enforcement officials say, providing intel on the jobs and watching the younger guys do the actual work.

During working hours, Big Danny started up the golf-ball recovery business again. It did well. With golf courses paying up to 20 cents a ball, a guy working for Big Danny could pull in close to $1,000 in a good week. The business provided great cover, too. Police say it gave Big Danny an excuse to travel around North Texas, casing places to hit. It also gave him a reason to deal with a lot of cash.

“That’s what’s so sad about this,” says Johnson County Detective James Dorsey. If the Seeders could legitimately make $1,000 a week, tax free, “they could have made a good enough living being honest, but it just wasn’t in them.”

Jerry Cato says it was during this second go-round that Big Danny recruited him. Jerry had been friends with Eddie Beggs since the two were teenagers, and he’d worked for Big Danny before he had his own run-ins with the law, in 1994, for small-time burglaries and a string of penny ante crimes. After a five-year prison sentence, Jerry went back to work for Big Danny, initially on the up and up.

“I worked for him doing all the golf-ball recovery contracts and stuff for a few months, and that’s when they propositioned me to go with them on a job,” Jerry says. “I was more or less a lookout at the beginning. I didn’t get much of a cut from jobs, so I told them I wanted in more, and they put me straight into doing jobs.”

The way Jerry tells it, Big Danny would scout a likely target during his business trips. He looked for businesses with older alarm systems and isolated locations off main roads. He’d map out multiple escape routes—through the woods and on surface roads—and if everything added up, he’d tell his boys it was time for some “night hawking.” In the golf-ball recovery business, “night hawking” refers to the practice of sneaking onto golf courses where other companies have contracts and cleaning out their water hazards under cover of darkness. For Big Danny and his crew, it was code for the real job. Big Danny was big on this sort of discretion, Jerry says. He never talked directly about what the crew did, avoided talking about it on the phone, and never went on any jobs himself. The crew needed his expertise in planning and in technical applications, like cutting alarm systems and cracking safes, but Big Danny always kept himself removed from direct involvement. When they couldn’t cut a safe on-site, they’d take it out to some remote area or to Danny Jr.’s place, and then one of the crew would go to Big Danny in person. Big Danny would tell them how to crack it but never would do it himself.

Between 2001 and late 2004, the crew did roughly one job a month, always far from their home base in White Settlement. Good takes topped $30,000. Jerry became a trusted lieutenant. Learning from Big Danny, he excelled at disabling alarm systems. The core group—Danny Jr., Eddie Beggs, and Jerry—were disciplined and professional about it. Part of their motivation was ironic: each man was on parole. Subject to random drop-ins from their parole officers and random drug testing, they had to stay clean and work day jobs intermittently enough to support simple lifestyles. Jerry socked away his money; he just wanted security. Danny Jr. spent his money on his passion, bowling; he traveled a lot with his league. Big Danny, who got a cut on every job, tucked it away. The crew was careful not to live beyond their visible, legal means.

Jerry says Big Danny taught them the system, almost a checklist for the commercial burglar: stomping around on the roof (which let them know where motion detectors were), retreating to the woods thereafter (which guaranteed, if they waited long enough, that they wouldn’t get caught by a cop responding to an alarm), cutting through the roof (where a loud, quick cut was better than a quiet, laborious one).  The entire meticulous operation.

“After maybe an hour and a half or two hours of running back and forth, we’d go in when we were sure, and we’d either pull the safe or cut it right there,” Jerry says. “And then that morning, we’d meet at Big Danny’s house, and we’d split up the money, and his son would pass it to him.”

Jerry says Big Danny would step into a back room with Danny Jr., and a few minutes later he’d come out with cash in hand, slapping his son on the back. Even among his most trusted lieutenants, Big Danny only trusted blood. This was a bit odd, given that Danny Jr. had ratted out his father in the 1990s. Water under the bridge, Jerry says.

But Big Danny made a mistake. It wasn’t a lack of planning or sloppy execution. In fact, it had nothing to do with the burglaries proper. It had to do with family. Big Danny decided to bring his two younger children into the business. Tammy Seeders wasn’t the problem; Jerry says she mainly served as lookout. The problem was the younger son, Bobby.

Bobby Seeders was just a kid during the first run of the Seeders-Beggs crew. He was a teenager by the time his dad went to prison for the burglaries in the 1990s. But now, in the new millennium, Bobby was in his mid-20s, and Big Danny must have figured he was ready. Bobby started learning the family business, going into buildings and cracking safes alongside his big brother, Danny Jr.

Jerry says Bobby wasn’t the smartest of the bunch. Worse, Bobby wasn’t subject to parole conditions like the others. He soon found himself with too much money and too much time on his hands. For Bobby Seeders, that led to one thing: crystal meth. By 2004 he was hitting the pipe regularly. “He could make a lick where we all would make close to $10,000 apiece,” Jerry says.  “And Bob would be broke within—I don’t know—a week. He was already a real live idiot, but after that it just got worse.”

Living out of hotel rooms and falling further into addiction, Bobby needed money faster than was generated by the deliberative pace set by Big Danny. So Bobby recruited his own crew on the sly. But he had neither the wisdom nor the technical knowledge his dad and older brother brought to the game. Police say he recruited his girlfriend, Cassandra Glass, and some of his meth buddies, Hud Parker and Tommy Blackstock. 

Through 2005, Bobby Seeders’ group pulled what were glorified smash-and-grabs all over North Texas. They broke one of Big Danny’s strictest rules. They started hitting places close to home. The deeper he got into crystal meth, the sloppier Bobby and his crew got. Yet during this time, Bobby still worked jobs Big Danny planned. Big Danny eventually heard his son was moonlighting on him, and like any good father, he tried to set his boy straight. But in the process, a larger rift was created with his older son.  Danny Jr. thought his father hadn’t slapped Bobby’s wrist hard enough.

“Big Danny started having bad blood with Danny Jr., over Bobby, because he was an idiot and his dad always had a soft spot for him and wanted to keep putting him in the group,” Jerry says. “Everybody was having problems and s— in the group because Bobby was getting strung-out on dope, and he was doing s— that was bringing heat on us.”

The acrimony started to break down the group, rotting it from the inside. Danny Jr., never a big drinker, and intimidated by his father, started taking Vicodin, Jerry says.

“So that was making everybody nervous in the group,” Jerry says. “We knew it was just a matter of time before they brought the heat on us.”

Click here to view a chart of the Seeders family operations.

BOBBY’S ACTIONS DID EVERYONE IN. HIS SLOPPY moonlighting jobs left a trail of crumbs that Arriola and other detectives throughout North and East Texas picked up, each independent of the other. After Arriola’s initial breakthrough in August—the truck registered to Bobby Seeders—it all came together. Using the relatively new Irving-based Crime Analyst intranet system, small-town detectives compared notes, and the pattern began to emerge. Clues from one robbery yielded leads to others, and the full scope of what they were dealing with started to unfold.

“A detective in Johnson County would pull up a surveillance picture of someone using a stolen credit card to buy power tools at a Wal-Mart in Burleson, which we’d then trace to a burglary in Gainesville,” Arriola says. “It was stupid stuff that no one in the group had done before 2005. If you followed one lead good enough, it would lead you to another and then another. It just kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Ultimately, two dozen agencies across Texas worked together to untangle the intricate connections between the crimes. With the help of the Texas Rangers, they outlined the structure of the new Seeders family burglary ring, along with Bobby’s splinter group. Law enforcement didn’t just want a couple of minor convictions for one or two jobs; they wanted both crews, and they wanted charges of organized crime on top of the dozens and dozens of burglary charges.

In late September 2005, Camp County sheriff’s deputies caught Tommy Blackstock, Bobby Seeder’s former dealer-turned-lookout. He was the first to roll over on the Seeders family. But Blackstock was an outsider to the core Seeders group and didn’t have intimate knowledge of their operations. Hud Parker wasn’t hard to catch, either, but like Blackstock, he knew little.

Then, almost by accident, Arriola and Detective Dorsey caught up with Jerry Cato. They were checking a grocery store where Jerry’s wife had recently used a credit card, hoping to get the store’s surveillance footage from the day, when Jerry himself walked out of the store. He was arm in arm with his wife, carrying a bag of groceries. Arriola and Dorsey took him down right there. Jerry, at 37, was a third-striker facing serious time, 15 years or more, and his wife was about to give birth to their second child. He started talking pretty quickly. Jerry is now in protective custody in Johnson County.

“I feel bad about rolling on all my homeboys,” he says. “But my family means more to me than them. I know they’d roll on me. My wife is only 21 years old. She’s just a baby. She’s got two kids out there, and I don’t want her to have to do that s— by herself for the next 10 or 15 years.” He says he especially hates giving up Big Danny. “I’m a big boy. He didn’t twist my arm. He brought me into this s—, but I feel really bad about f—ing him over because he was a good guy. I’m just hoping they don’t kill me for it.”

This is not hyperbole. Detective Dorsey, a former Air Force engineer with a direct manner, says, “[Jerry Cato] is in serious danger. Bobby may be a fool, but [Bobby] has got connections to the Aryan Brotherhood.”

With Jerry providing the roadmap, Arriola, Dorsey, and other detectives were able to tie together burglaries going back to 2001. And they were able to use the one bit of forensic evidence that the Seeders hadn’t guarded against. Their DNA gave them away. “They were cautious about everything except that,” Arriola says. “But those water bottles and cigarettes and hair samples pulled it all together.”

In early morning raids in October 2005, police converged on the remaining members of the Seeders family crew. Big Danny, Danny Jr., Bobby, Tammy, Tammy’s girlfriend Jimi McDonald, Eddie Beggs, and Jerry’s cousin Mike Cato were all taken into custody. So were a few other bit players. Charges ranged from burglary and parole violation to organized crime. Their trail ran as far west as Palo Pinto, east to Pittsburg, south to Corsicana, and north to McAlester, Oklahoma.

The largest business burglary ring in Texas was no more.

IT IS MARCH 2006, ALMOST FIVE MONTHS AFTER her arrest, and Tammy Seeders is sitting on her front porch in White Settlement. Charges against her were dropped. She’s the only one in the Seeders family willing to talk to D Magazine and she does so grudgingly. Chain-smoking Marlboro Light 100s while her teenage son sits inside playing chess on the Internet, Tammy says the police are using her family as a scapegoat to clear their backlog of unsolved burglaries. She says she knows her father and Danny Jr. have been clean since they got out of prison the first time around.

Scratching at the Grateful Dead tattoo on her ankle, she says, “Daddy was staying here, and he was up at 6 am to go to the golf course, and he had to check in. He couldn’t have been up all night doing that stuff and gone to work every day like he did.”

She admits that her younger brother Bobby, now in the Tarrant County jail, may have been involved in a few burglaries. But he was working alone or with his drug buddies. “The drugs, they got a hold of him. He may have done some bad things, but it wasn’t his fault,” she says. She waves her arm at the front yard, and the old gray Ford on the driveway. “Do I look like I’m living like we’re in organized crime?”

She fidgets with the gold cross around her neck and talks about Jimi McDonald, her lover of 10 years. Tears well up when she says McDonald left her after the two were released from custody. Her older brother still faces burglary and organized crime charges, as does Bobby.

More charges may be pending as new cases are linked to the Seeders burglary ring, and as confessions beget more confessions. Prosecuting this may take years, given the far reach of the cases and the overlapping jurisdictions. For now, new cases continue being linked to the Seeders, so there’s no way to know who yet may face the harshest sentence. It probably won’t be Big Danny. He’s living up the road from Tammy, with his girlfriend in Samson Park.

Arriola says, “We had to let him go. So far there’s not enough to tie him to charges.” Arriola’s worried about what might happen after the convictions and after the sentencing. “Here’s the scary part,” he says. “Once they get out again, we’ll probably never catch them again. Other than getting Bobby Seeders on stolen credit cards and at a few burglaries, what linked them all together is DNA. They won’t make that mistake again. They were doing everything but DNA. And now they know about that.”

Click here to view a chart of the Seeders family operations.

BOBBY’S ACTIONS DID EVERYONE IN. HIS SLOPPY moonlighting jobs left a trail of crumbs that Arriola and other detectives throughout North and East Texas picked up, each independent of the other. After Arriola’s initial breakthrough in August—the truck registered to Bobby Seeders—it all came together. Using the relatively new Irving-based Crime Analyst intranet system, small-town detectives compared notes, and the pattern began to emerge. Clues from one robbery yielded leads to others, and the full scope of what they were dealing with started to unfold.

“A detective in Johnson County would pull up a surveillance picture of someone using a stolen credit card to buy power tools at a Wal-Mart in Burleson, which we’d then trace to a burglary in Gainesville,” Arriola says. “It was stupid stuff that no one in the group had done before 2005. If you followed one lead good enough, it would lead you to another and then another. It just kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Ultimately, two dozen agencies across Texas worked together to untangle the intricate connections between the crimes. With the help of the Texas Rangers, they outlined the structure of the new Seeders family burglary ring, along with Bobby’s splinter group. Law enforcement didn’t just want a couple of minor convictions for one or two jobs; they wanted both crews, and they wanted charges of organized crime on top of the dozens and dozens of burglary charges.

In late September 2005, Camp County sheriff’s deputies caught Tommy Blackstock, Bobby Seeder’s former dealer-turned-lookout. He was the first to roll over on the Seeders family. But Blackstock was an outsider to the core Seeders group and didn’t have intimate knowledge of their operations. Hud Parker wasn’t hard to catch, either, but like Blackstock, he knew little.

Then, almost by accident, Arriola and Detective Dorsey caught up with Jerry Cato. They were checking a grocery store where Jerry’s wife had recently used a credit card, hoping to get the store’s surveillance footage from the day, when Jerry himself walked out of the store. He was arm in arm with his wife, carrying a bag of groceries. Arriola and Dorsey took him down right there. Jerry, at 37, was a third-striker facing serious time, 15 years or more, and his wife was about to give birth to their second child. He started talking pretty quickly. Jerry is now in protective custody in Johnson County.

“I feel bad about rolling on all my homeboys,” he says. “But my family means more to me than them. I know they’d roll on me. My wife is only 21 years old. She’s just a baby. She’s got two kids out there, and I don’t want her to have to do that s— by herself for the next 10 or 15 years.” He says he especially hates giving up Big Danny. “I’m a big boy. He didn’t twist my arm. He brought me into this s—, but I feel really bad about f—ing him over because he was a good guy. I’m just hoping they don’t kill me for it.”

This is not hyperbole. Detective Dorsey, a former Air Force engineer with a direct manner, says, “[Jerry Cato] is in serious danger. Bobby may be a fool, but [Bobby] has got connections to the Aryan Brotherhood.”

With Jerry providing the roadmap, Arriola, Dorsey, and other detectives were able to tie together burglaries going back to 2001. And they were able to use the one bit of forensic evidence that the Seeders hadn’t guarded against. Their DNA gave them away. “They were cautious about everything except that,” Arriola says. “But those water bottles and cigarettes and hair samples pulled it all together.”

In early morning raids in October 2005, police converged on the remaining members of the Seeders family crew. Big Danny, Danny Jr., Bobby, Tammy, Tammy’s girlfriend Jimi McDonald, Eddie Beggs, and Jerry’s cousin Mike Cato were all taken into custody. So were a few other bit players. Charges ranged from burglary and parole violation to organized crime. Their trail ran as far west as Palo Pinto, east to Pittsburg, south to Corsicana, and north to McAlester, Oklahoma.

The largest business burglary ring in Texas was no more.

IT IS MARCH 2006, ALMOST FIVE MONTHS AFTER her arrest, and Tammy Seeders is sitting on her front porch in White Settlement. Charges against her were dropped. She’s the only one in the Seeders family willing to talk to D Magazine and she does so grudgingly. Chain-smoking Marlboro Light 100s while her teenage son sits inside playing chess on the Internet, Tammy says the police are using her family as a scapegoat to clear their backlog of unsolved burglaries. She says she knows her father and Danny Jr. have been clean since they got out of prison the first time around.

Scratching at the Grateful Dead tattoo on her ankle, she says, “Daddy was staying here, and he was up at 6 am to go to the golf course, and he had to check in. He couldn’t have been up all night doing that stuff and gone to work every day like he did.”

She admits that her younger brother Bobby, now in the Tarrant County jail, may have been involved in a few burglaries. But he was working alone or with his drug buddies. “The drugs, they got a hold of him. He may have done some bad things, but it wasn’t his fault,” she says. She waves her arm at the front yard, and the old gray Ford on the driveway. “Do I look like I’m living like we’re in organized crime?”

She fidgets with the gold cross around her neck and talks about Jimi McDonald, her lover of 10 years. Tears well up when she says McDonald left her after the two were released from custody. Her older brother still faces burglary and organized crime charges, as does Bobby.

More charges may be pending as new cases are linked to the Seeders burglary ring, and as confessions beget more confessions. Prosecuting this may take years, given the far reach of the cases and the overlapping jurisdictions. For now, new cases continue being linked to the Seeders, so there’s no way to know who yet may face the harshest sentence. It probably won’t be Big Danny. He’s living up the road from Tammy, with his girlfriend in Samson Park.

Arriola says, “We had to let him go. So far there’s not enough to tie him to charges.” Arriola’s worried about what might happen after the convictions and after the sentencing. “Here’s the scary part,” he says. “Once they get out again, we’ll probably never catch them again. Other than getting Bobby Seeders on stolen credit cards and at a few burglaries, what linked them all together is DNA. They won’t make that mistake again. They were doing everything but DNA. And now they know about that.”

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