Lemoore man arrested for siphoning fuel from Fresno County farmers, selling it illegally

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A 38-year-old Lemoore man has been arrested for stealing thousands of gallons of fuel from farming equipment in western Fresno County and selling it illegally.

Investigators say Juan Martinez-Barajas stole plastic containers from farmers and then siphoned fuel from farming equipment and storage tanks.

Sheriff's officials say he painted the containers black to conceal the red-dye diesel used in the off-road vehicles to divert suspicion while hauling them in the bed of his pickup truck or ATV.

Officials say Martinez-Barajas would sell the stolen fuel to truckers at half the price.

On Wednesday morning, detectives with the Fresno County Sheriff's Office Ag Task Force tried to pull over Martinez-Barajas in Coalinga, but he sped away.

Deputies tracked down the suspect's truck, which had been abandoned. Several teams from the sheriff's office helped search for Martinez-Barajas, and eventually found him under trees in a dry riverbed.

Martinez-Barajas surrendered, and investigators recovered the stolen items and an AR-15 rifle with no serial numbers.

Detectives had seen an uptick in reports of stolen fuel during August and September, but they believe Martinez-Barajas was stealing around 800 gallons of fuel per week over the last six months, which costs about $60,000.

He was booked into the Fresno County jail on various charges, including grand theft, evading police, illegal possession of a firearm, possession of armor-piercing ammunition.

Officials say he also had an active warrant out for his arrest in connection to a domestic battery case.

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