Valley Trucking Companies Hit By Thieves, Costing Millions

Fresno police say 39-year-old Mariano Perez was caught red handed, behind of the wheel of a stolen big rig truck and trailer.

Officers believe Perez is the ringleader of a crew responsible for a rash of 18-wheeler thefts.

Police say Wednesday afternoon, 9-1-1 operators got a call from the driver of a big rig stolen near Parkway and Ashlan.

Miles away, officers then spotted the stolen rig parked in the area of Sarah and Florence in southwest Fresno.

Minutes later, police say Perez jumped into the rig, and officers made the arrest.

But officers say the arrest of Perez is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now the real police work begins, finding his crew and bringing them all down.

Charlie Davis the general manager of Pape Kenworth Trucking Center.

Davis says, "I've been doing the best I can to contact other local business, it's pretty rapid and they are all having the save problems."

In the past few weeks, thieves have hit the trucking center eight times.

Davis says, "If we can't stop it, we got to go somewhere else. We have to keep our people safe. We got to keep our investments safe. I probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-million dollars in trucks and equipment on this grounds. We can't keep having it stolen."

Davis says he is already spending nearly 15-thousand dollars a month for on-site security.

He is thankful for the arrest of Perez, who police say is a major broker of stolen big rigs, tractors and trailer parts.

Police say the cargo, thousands of dollars worth of breakfast cereal.

Sgt. Tim Tietjen is with the Fresno Police Department.

Sgt. Tietjen says, "Mr. Perez is no stranger to us. He is someone that we've dealt with on a regular basis. Mr. Perez is a career criminal who's actively been involved in chop shops and vehicle theft for a number of years."

Meanwhile Davis and other trucking companies hope the suspected thief is not released before he heads to court.

Davis says, "If there are no consequences, if they are not put in jail, if they are not able to pay for what they've done, then we are not going to fix it. If it's a revolving door that's not going to fix either. If we do catch them we need to keep them behind bars."

Detectives are now attempting to tie Perez to other big rig thefts.