FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --A recovered stolen car has led Fresno police to an auto theft ring now out of business. Investigators discovered the thieves were altering the cars in an unusual way.
At the corner house on Sierra Vista and Dayton Fresno police said Ruben Lozano was operating an auto theft ring. The arrest was no surprise to neighbor William Davis who has been wondering for a while why cars were constantly showing up and then being altered. "He'd be out on the side of the road painting them with a spray paint can, painting them different colors. A red car, a dark black car, and a tan car."
The seemingly worst kept secret operation ended Monday, when undercover officers with the career criminal auto theft team closed in on the first of several stolen cars. One of them, a black Honda that used to be gray with different license plates. "Obviously they had a bit of a system going. So he was stealing cars-- some of them had been stolen for quite some time. The one out of Clovis had been more than a month I believe," said Sgt. Doug Goertzen, Fresno Police Department.
Detectives arrested Kathleen Braden and passenger Stephen Wade in a stolen white Honda. But that only began their investigation. Officers began to watch the home to find the alleged ringleader concealing cars by covering them up. "A short time later he came back out, started to remove the tarp-- as though he was going to leave and that's when we contacted him," said Goertzen.
Inside the garage officers found a stolen maroon Honda. Just as officers got ready to leave Sandra Gonzalez pulled up in this stolen red Honda Accord. She spotted officers and tried to turn around and leave, but it was too late.
Detectives said all four suspects are acquaintances-- several have priors involving drugs and auto theft.