Madera recyclers turn in suspected metal thieves

MADERA CO., Calif.

Two men are in custody after investigators say they took rebar and piping from a work site at Avenue 12 and Highway 99. They were caught when recyclers noticed they were turning in brand new material.

"The question is, how many people, how big is this little ring of thieves, if you will," said Madera County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Erica Stuart.

So far two people are in jail for stealing $2,000 in rebar and nearly a thousand dollars in steel pipes. Twenty-eight-year-old Lonnie Wells and 36-year-old Cesar Mendoza both face charges for theft and possession of stolen property.

Velocity Recycling is where their crime came crashing down. The owners say Mendoza is a regular customer. But when he arrived with a truckload of brand new rebar they grew suspicious and called the sheriff's department.

"When we went to go look at the metal we seen that it's still new, it is real heavy duty stuff," Carlos Arriaga. "And we know they're doing construction around there, like on the freeway."

Ag crimes investigators then linked the stolen rebar to the construction site at Avenue 12.

"[Detectives] have really created a wonderful relationship with the recyclers, where they are now calling us with anything and everything that comes in," Stuart said. "And even something that may be find and legit, they don't care they're going to call us. We've made numerous arrests because of it."

"We'll get other people who try to bring other stuff," Arriaga said. "We'll call the sheriffs on them, too. We'll call them to come check it out, they'll give us the go if it's good or not."

Mendoza also faces charges for meth possession, charges Madera County investigators say is very common in metal theft cases.

Detectives think there could be more people trying to steal from this construction site. They're asking everyone who passes through there to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.

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