5 arrested in chop shop, theft ring in Del Rey

FRESNO, Calif.

It all started when officers spotted a truck pulling away from a home at Bethel and Jefferson with its bed full of scrap metal, and what was found at the home could tie the suspects to several other crimes.

Bags and boxes of coins covered the truck's tailgate, as officers from Fresno's Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) team sifted through thousands of dollars in collectibles found at a chop shop near Del Rey.

The truck was reported stolen from a Sanger tow yard two months ago, and the coins are from a burglary that happened Tuesday. The owner hadn't even realized they were missing until they were called by officers.

Investigators also discovered several firearms. "A revolver from the same victim was also found, a semi-automatic pistol, similar to a Tech 9, and also a M1 rifle," said Sgt. Lenny Sherman, HEAT supervisor.

Officers with the Ag Crimes Task Force first stopped another truck near the home Tuesday, and quickly realized it had been stolen. Another vehicle on the grounds had already been stripped apart. Investigators also found items they believe to be stolen from a Sanger Police Department storage unit within the last month.

In all, five people were taken into custody, and Fresno County Sheriff's Department Chris Curtice said the suspects are likely tied to a larger ring. "There are some people in recent weeks that were arrested that may have been involved in several burglaries and it appears we may be tying them to this residence. So it's an ongoing thing -- it's a vicious cycle. It just keeps going."

Relatives of the coin's owner showed up to collect their stolen property Tuesday evening.They didn't want to be interviewed, or have their faces shown on camera, but they were happy to have the coins recovered so quickly.

At this point, three of the suspects taken into custody face charges related to vehicle theft and the chop shop. Two were taken into custody on other outstanding warrants, including vehicle theft.

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