Teen's stolen truck leads to pot grow bust in Fresno County

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A South Valley teen's customized pickup truck was stolen and stripped days before his graduation. Now, three men are in custody as investigators help the victim piece the truck back together.

Officers found the stolen pickup Friday morning and ultimately ended up discovering more stolen car parts and a marijuana grow at a property on South Chateau Fresno, just west of Riverdale.

Investigators say the three suspects stripped that pickup truck, which was stolen from Lemoore as the victim was at his high school graduation practice Wednesday.

The California Highway Patrol and the Fresno County Sheriff's Office also found what looks like a family heirloom stolen during a home burglary in 1983.

"At least I got some parts," Tyler Riggio said. "The whole truck would have been better, but I got something. I got one of the most expensive parts out."

Investigators called them Friday morning to have them recover their stolen items. Riggio says his truck is in such bad shape, though, he doesn't even want to keep it.

"I thought about it, but it's not worth it," he said. "There's too many things wrong with it, too many parts gone."

It appears the suspects tried to hide their illegal operation from the street, but investigators say they didn't do a good enough job. Undercover auto theft officers discovered much of the criminal activity in plain sight. Once on the property they found parts everywhere.

"If there's a way for people to make money illegally we all know people will go and make bad choices," said CHP officer Johnny Fisher.

More than two dozen pot plants were also discovered along with a stolen trailer. "The stolen trailer that was out of Visalia was being used as a small grow house," Fisher said.

The Highway Patrol says 42-year-old Hector Hernandez was arrested at the home armed with a small gun. A quick search showed it was stolen during a Fresno home burglary in 1983.

Investigators say 38-year-old Alexandro Ballesteros and 41-year-old Javier Hernandez led them to the property after they found Riggio's stolen truck a few miles away.

More investigating still needs to be done to determine exactly how much of the stuff is stolen.

Riggio is trying to find the silver lining after becoming a victim. "I thought they would have been sold already," he said.

The Highway Patrol says auto theft has dropped dramatically in the Central Valley, but it's something that will always be a problem.

More arrests may come out of this as investigators track down where the stolen items came from and who stole them.
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