Four Arrested In Series Of Car Thefts

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A group of four young adults from the Valley came up to Payson to joy ride and ended up in jail on multiple felony charges stemming from the thefts of three vehicles, police say.


The group odyssey apparently began Monday morning at Fort McDowell Casino when they reportedly stole a vehicle that was parked there.


Payson Police Officer David Vaughn said according to information obtained by Steve Johnson, an investigator with the Payson Police Department, the group left the vehicle at the Mazatzal Casino and took a blue van belonging to a casino employee, Jose Parra.


"That was reported to Payson Police at 3:15 p.m.," Vaughn said.


The suspects reportedly then went to the McDonald's parking lot. "They didn't have gas money," Vaughn said. "One or more of the suspects then took a white Chevy truck belonging to Mark Gibson of Payson."


Gibson reported the truck stolen at 11:11 a.m., just six minutes before Edna Putnam told police that someone had attempted to steal her 1985 Cadillac, which was parked at McDonald's.


Gibson's vehicle was spotted just after 3 p.m. by a Department of Public Safety officer on Highway 87 between Ballantine Trailhead and Mesquite Wash heading south, officers said.


Police arrested Pedro Rodriguez, 18, Samuel Perez, 20 and Crystal Sierra, 20, all of Mesa, and Alvaro Perez, an undocumented immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico. A minor child, whose parents were among the group, has been placed in local foster care under the supervision of Child Protective Services.


They reportedly had driven both the van and the truck north out of Payson to Buckhead Mesa. They left the van in the bushes off the side of the road and went driving in Gibson's truck on a dirt road.


"It's ironic," said Vaughn. "Gibson had a cell phone in the cab of the stolen truck. I called and one of the suspects answered it. We chit-chatted for a few moments and I asked him when I could get my truck back. That's when he hung up and threw the phone out of the truck."


As of noon Tuesday, the suspects were being detained in jail in Payson on numerous felony charges and made their initial appearances in court Tuesday morning, Vaughn said. They are charged with theft, unlawful use of means of transportation (joy riding), aggravated criminal damage, providing false information to a police officer, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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