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Police arrested a Ceres man Thursday for allegedly stealing state lottery scratch-off tickets from at least 30 stores in the Valley.

Matthew "Matt" Roberts, 37, was arrested at 7:44 a.m. at a home in the 2500 block of Fifth Street after a local law enforcement task force were drawn to him by a string of evidence. Assisting in the case were the Modesto and Turlock police departments, the state Department of Justice, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and the newly formed Ceres Police Street Crimes Unit.

Since Roberts is a parolee, he was searched and found with evidence linking him to the burglaries. He was charged with three counts of burglary, and vehicle theft.

Modesto police officials said that Roberts is suspected of stealing tickets from stores as far south as Madera. They also said the value of the tickets numbers in the thousands of dollars.

Tickets were stolen from outlets in Ceres, Modesto, Turlock, Delhi, Waterford and Madera. Mike Borges, Ceres' deputy police chief, said three of the thefts occurred at the Griffin Valero station at Fourth and El Camino in Ceres.

Most of the thefts occurred during night-time store break-ins.

Investigators with the California Lottery's Law Enforcement Division noticed a pattern to the thefts and formed a task force in December to make an arrest. Police also surveilled a number of store locations.

The identification of Roberts was later confirmed after he cashed in a winning scratcher at the Save Mart store in Ceres. What Roberts apparently didn't know was that the state tracks the numbers of stolen Lottery tickets in a computer data base. Investigators were able to get the license plate number of the "winner" from a store manager.

Police first believed that Roberts was at the home of his ex-wife and children in the 2000 block of Venus. They found some stolen Lottery tickets but determined that Roberts' ex was not involved in the crime. They moved to the Fifth Street home where they found Roberts hiding behind a chair.

Ceres police also made other arrests at the house. Dana Ahart, 31, was arrested for a parole violation. Misty Martin, 27, of Ceres, was arrested for using another ID, and possession of a controlled substance and drug parapheranalia. Douglas "Cody" Sexton, 20, was arrested for possession of marijuana.

Weapons and drug pipes were seized in the bust, said Borges.