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Chopped up pickup leads to arrest of parolee
A Riverbank pickup cab was seized as evidence on Sunday after a chop shop operation was discovered on Walnut Avenue. - photo by Courtesy of Ceres Police

A dismantled pickup was among the evidence found by members of the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Taskforce (StanCATT) in arresting Tony Arreola, 34, of Ceres, of auto theft last week.

Arreoloa was arrested by StanCATT officer Jason Brock after Ceres Police conducted a probation search of his home in the 1800 block of Walnut Avenue. Arreola was on parole for a prior conviction of auto theft.

The discovery unfolded on Sunday, July 14 at 12:20 a.m. when Officer Kiashira Ruiz was patrolling in the area of El Camino and Sixth when Jessica Fernandez, 31, of Ceres, whistled loudly to signal to her boyfriend that police were near. Suspicious, Ruiz decided to do a search on Fernandez and found her in possession of a loaded .22 caliber magazine.

Ruiz conducted a probation search of the residence since Arreola was on probation and found a credit card manufacturing machine and the chopped up pickup. Brock was called in to investigate.

Officers found the 2000 GMC Sierra pickup - which had been stolen from Riverbank nine day before the discovery - had been chopped up into more than 20 pieces. Gone were the motor, rims and tires and the transmission.

The Ceres felon was also charged with operating a "chop shop," and possession of a stolen vehicle.

These other significant crimes were reported by Ceres Police:

• SUSPECT RAMS STOLEN PICKUP INTO PATROL CAR: A suspect rammed a stolen pickup into a Ceres police cruiser on Sunday afternoon, July 21 during a short pursuit which ended with two suspects in custody.

The incident unfolded at 1:45 p.m. when a citizen called to report a suspicious vehicle in the 3400 block of Sixth Street. Police learned that the pickup had been stolen but by the time officers arrived the suspect had left the vehicle.

Officer Brian Albonetti located the pickup at Fourth Street and El Camino Avenue and watched it to see if the suspect would return. The suspect and another man walked up, climbed in and began to drive off. When Albonetti initiated a traffic stop, the driver, Nathan Serpa, 20, of Ceres, acted as though he were stopping but then accelerated southbound.

Officer Brittney England joined in the pursuit as it went south on the frontage road and engaged in a maneuver to striking the pickup in the left rear, spinning it around 180 degrees. The suspect then allegedly rammed into Albonetti's car as the officers boxed it in. Serpa put the pickup in neutral and took off running up the Service Road overpass and down the other side but was apprehended east of Highway 99 by Albonetti. Serpa fought the officer and was struck in the upper legs with a baton to finally be subdued for arrest. He was charged with auto theft, assault, possession of stolen property, and obstructing and delaying a peace officer.

Officer James Riley took Sean Lasswell, 22, of Ceres, into custody as he remained in the pickup. Lasswell was charged with possession of stolen property, conspiracy and violation of probation.

• BEER RUN INTERRUPTED BY OFFICER - A California Highway Patrol officer who was taking a break at the Service Road AM/PM mini-mart was at the right place Thursday, July 18 to interrupt a beer theft and make two arrests.

The officer was at the store at 3:27 a.m. when he saw Jessie Maggard, 22, of Modesto, running out of the store with beer for which he didn't pay. Maggard was arrested for burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The driver of the awaiting car, Luis Heras, 18, of Modesto, was arrested and charged with commercial burglary, conspiracy to commit a crime and DUI.

• JUVENILES RUN AFTER TAKING MONEY - A 14-year-old Ceres boy was cited for petty theft and released to his parents Sunday, July 21 after he was stopped after running with a bag of money taken from the concession stand at Costa Fields in Smyrna Park.

The bag was lying on a table in the stand when it was snatched up prior to 6:51 p.m. Two boys ran westbound from the park. Police found them on Caswell Avenue but they had dropped the bag of money along the way. One boy admitted to the theft while the other said he joined in the run.

• THEFT SUSPECT ESCAPES - A Walmart loss prevention officer detained a man for petty theft on Sunday evening but the suspect escaped before police arrived.

The store called police at 8:17 p.m. to pick up suspect David Gutierrez, 31, of Modesto. Gutierrez managed to run out of the office, into the store and into traffic where he jumped into a passing car which left the area. Police Lt. Brent Smith said it is unknown if Gutierrez forced his way into the car or if the driver gave him a ride but no reports of a carjacking were made.

Police searched the area but did not find the car nor suspect.
Gutierrez also has an arrest warrant issued by Modesto police.

• SHOTS FIRED IN PARK RESTROOM - City parks employees reported hearing shots fired in the restroom at Smyrna Park on Wednesday afternoon, July 14. Police found 9mm shell casings in the restroom but were unable to find the suspect, who was described as a light-skinned Latino male. He ran to a gold-colored Toyota Camry and fled the scene at 4 p.m.