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Local Realtor’s Hunch Leads To Chop Shop

POSTED March 5, 2013 9:46 p.m.

When a Ford F-250 was stolen in a burglary from one of Oakdale Realtor Kevin Benziger’s properties on 26-Mile Road, he went into detective mode trying to tie the loss and possible motive to identify the thieves.

“Part of what was taken in the break-in was two boxes of insulin needles and other things of value were left behind,” said Benziger. “It made me think that the thieves were tied to drug usage.”

The day following the burglary, Benziger said he happened to be discussing the incident with another client who told him of a suspicious house, also on 26-Mile Road, less than two miles from Benziger’s property.

So he went by the address and saw a truck very similar to the one taken on the property, but a distance from the roadway.

“I called the auto theft detectives and had them come out to meet me by Dodds Road,” said Benziger. “I put the hood of my car up to look like I had broken down and the detectives were there talking with me to look like they were helping me.”

Benziger used binoculars and was able to identify specific characteristics of the truck giving the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force (STANCATT) detectives probable cause to go onto the property to further investigate.

STANCATT Sergeant Alan Pittman said after they met with the property owner, they determined the truck was the one reported stolen from 26-Mile Road. After searching the property, the task force was able to also recover another four stolen vehicles.

“One vehicle was completely stripped apart,” said Pittman. “A couple had engines, transmissions, and their VIN plates also removed.”

Pittman said two persons were arrested at the scene and the task force is seeking complaints on another two subjects that were not at the property or able to be contacted.

Because of the number of stolen vehicles on the property, and the various states of being dismantled that they were in, the suspects were charged with operating a “chop shop” in addition to stolen vehicle charges.

According to STANCATT, the investigation is continuing and may have ties to other crimes in the Bay Area.

“When I saw the truck there, I was sure it was the one stolen and I was right,” said Benziger. “I had no idea of the others. I think they (suspects) took advantage of the situation of being out in the country. We got lucky.”

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