An unusual armed robbery of the Walgreen’s in Hilmar took place last week. On January 25, 2018 the Merced County Sheriff’s Office received a call from Walgreen’s employees saying they had just been robbed. When deputies arrived on scene the suspect had already left the area heading northbound on Hwy 165 towards Turlock. Additionally, the vehicle was described as a white colored newer model Chevrolet Silverado 2500 Z71 crew cab pick-up.

Deputies spoke with the employees who were involved and they stated a male subject wearing a white colored disposable jumpsuit walked into the store with a backpack sprayer. The employees added that the man had his face covered with some sort of dust mask and wore a blue and white colored baseball hat, and sunglasses. The man walked back towards the pharmacy and showed the staff a handgun in his waist band and demanded all the cash. The man then left in his pickup truck headed towards Turlock.

The attached photos were taken from the surveillance footage and shows the male subject may have had a tattoo on the right side of his neck. If you have any information about this crime please contact the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division at 209-385-7472.


On January 25th, 26th, and 27th, Officers of the Merced Police Department DART and GVSU Team conducted undercover operations in support of a State wide Law Enforcement combined operation targeting those involved in Human Trafficking and Prostitution. (Reference Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department Press Release)

Merced Police Department operations conducted on January 25th and 26th included contacting online prostitution advertisements and arranging to purchase sexual acts from commercial sex workers in an attempt to determine if the workers were victims of Human Trafficking. Operations targeted advertisements where workers appeared underage or whose faces were not shown or obscured.

Six sex workers arrived at agreed upon locations and were detained to determine their victim status. Officers also conducted interviews to determine if the workers were working with Pimps who control and profit from the workers activities. Each worker contacted was interviewed and provided counseling and other services in an attempt to offer support to leave the commercial sex industry.

Through interviews and investigations it was determined that two suspects, Jake Lebeaux and Phillip Victor Garcia, were Pimping, Pandering, and Supervising Prostitutes that were detained during the operations. LeBeaux and Garcia were arrested and booked for the charges. The investigation into other pimps is ongoing as investigators determined the possibility of other suspects involved with pimping the sex workers contacted.

The operation on January 27th focused on arresting people who engage in prostitution by purchasing sex acts through online advertisements. The Merced Police Department DART Team with the assistance of the MPD GVSU (Gang Violence Suppression Unit) and the Fresno Office of the FBI posted online advertisements on known commercial sex web sites.

When contacted through the number posted online, officers negotiated to perform sex acts for money, and arrested the subjects when they arrived to engage in prostitution.
Officers arrested seven men David Nason (33), Reginald Chandra (32), Juan Villanueva (37), Kellen Cheadle (27), Kenady Sims (33), Armando Valencia (37) and Carlos Molina (34) for solicitation of prostitution and all were given citations for the violations and released.

Merced Police are asking anyone with any information regarding these cases to contact Officer Rinder at (209) 385-7773, or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text messages to police department by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “Comvip” as the “keyword” in the text message.


On January 30th, 2018, At around 2:05 PM A man was taken by ambulance with possible head injuries after a two-car collision at the intersection of East 21st street and Glen Avenue in Merced. Names of the vehicle occupants involved in the crash were not available.

Police and witnesses said the driver of a Volkswagen Beetle appeared to have run a red light. The Volkswagen crashed into the driver side of a red Toyota sport SUV causing it to crash into a street light pole.

The driver of the Volkswagen was taken to an area hospital with possible head or face injuries, officers said.


These photos were taken after Officer Todd Pricolo stopped 30-year-old Albert Noriega of Los Banos in a stolen construction water truck. No damage was reported and the vehicle owner arrived to take possession of his vehicle.

Noriega was placed under arrest for possession of a stolen vehicle and booked into the Los Banos Police Department Jail.



On January 29, 2018 at approximately 4:57 p.m., Los Banos Police Dispatch received several 9-1-1 calls regarding a shooting in the 1000 block of East B Street, near Miano Elementary School. Officers arrived within minutes and found a 17-year-old male suffering from at least one gunshot wound to his lower body. After the shooting occurred, the victim ran onto the school campus for help. The victim was transported by ambulance to a Modesto area hospital for treatment.

The victim was walking down the street in front of the school when the shooting occurred. The school was out of session, but a group of students were participating in an after school program, Because of the close proximity to the shooting, the school was placed on lock down as a precaution. This shooting was not connected to the school.

Police are investigating the shooting and no other information is available at this time.


On Monday January 22nd, 2018, at around 7:00PM, Jeremy A 14-Year-old of Hoover middle school was a victim of an assault by three unknown teens in the area of Yosemite Parkway and East 21st street by family dollar. Jeremy’s mother posted on her Facebook about the incident a few days ago saying, “They hit my son with a bat.”

Jeremy says “they had masks on and called me by a different name (Tony)” “they told me to stay away from Mason, “I don’t know anyone with that name” Jeremy said. One boy was wearing a red hoodie the second one a brown hoodie” The third he was not able to describe. One of them had a turquoise shark tooth necklace. Jeremy’s mother says “The assault affected my sons memory he barely started walking yesterday January 28th, 2018.

If anybody knows anything about the suspects please call Merced Police department at,(209) 385-6912, or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text messages to police department by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “Comvip” as the “keyword” in the text message.


Vehicle vs Train at W. Monte Vista & N. Golden State Blvd in Turlock. No Injuries, No occupants in the vehicle at time of collision. RR Crossings at Monte Vista & Tuolumne are both CLOSED. Avoid these Areas and use alternate Routes.


The Merced County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Team took down another illegal marijuana grow in the Delhi area. On January 24, 2018 at about 8:00am, Deputies from the Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant in the 7700 block of Sycamore Street in Delhi.

When agents arrived at the single story residence, no one was home, but they found a large barn filled with 210 high quality indoor marijuana plants. Additionally, the back yard of the residence contained 120 roosters which were believed to be used in illegal cock fights.

Sergeant Ray Framstad with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office said the search warrant on the residence was served after weeks of investigation and surveillance on the property. Sergeant Framstad added that this was the third search warrant served to the residence within a three-year period and a broken door from the last search warrant was still laying in the yard.

Sergeant Framstad explained that an indoor marijuana grow of this size could produce 1,260 oz. of high quality marijuana every 60 days which would produce 472 pounds every year. The average sale price per pound is between $2,000.00 and $2,500.00.

Sheriff Vern Warnke wants to remind everyone that the Merced County Sheriff’s Office will be enforcing the cultivation laws regarding marijuana that the county has put in place starting in 2018. Allen outdoor marijuana grows are illegal and will be dealt with immediately and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Additionally, you are only allowed to grow 6 plants indoors. If you have questions about the laws regarding cultivation and possession of marijuana, please call the Merced County Sheriff’s Office 209-385-7445. The new County Cannabis Ordinance details are as follows:

Personal Cultivation Restrictions reasonably regulated (Ord. 9.29.060):
• Personal use cannabis plants limited from twelve (12) to six (6)
• Cultivation can occur in either 1) within a single private residence; or 2) inside a fully enclosed and secure structure located upon the grounds of a private residence. Outdoor cultivation of any type, on any parcel is prohibited.
• Cultivation must comply with Building and Construction Code, Title 16.
• Cultivation cannot be conducted in a manner that constitutes a public nuisance.

Enforcement – penalty/consequences for noncompliance unchanged from previous Medical Marijuana Cultivation ordinance
• Administrative Penalties for unlawful cannabis cultivation(Ordinance 9.29.083)
• All violations deemed a misdemeanor; Sheriff has ability to abate unlawful cannabis cultivation (Ord. 9.29.200)


A Merced Gateway News viewer messaged us saying the following message, “Hi good morning i was wondering if you can help me look for my dad I don’t know nothing about him all i know is his name and that he lives here in Merced California i also know that he’s married and he has more kids two of them I know their names one of Yesenia Maldonado i think she’s 18- years-old and Marcos Maldonado he is like 9-years-old and my dad his name is Juan Manuel Maldonado Medina about 38-years-old please I’ve been looking for him since years ago my name is Jessica Elvia Martinez 21-year-old I found one of his daughter on Facebook I have messaged her a few times asking her that to tell her dad I’m looking for him and she just been ignoring my messages.” I’m asking for help someone please help me locate my dad!


On Monday January 22nd, 2018, Jerry Cox’s controversial land case was extended for two more months, following a hearing at the Mariposa County Superior Court. The land-grab case as become high in public interest and even involved more than a dozen protesters marching with various signs through streets headed to Monday’s hearing at the Courthouse in Mariposa.

The case involves the 430-plus acre property known as Bison Creek Ranch (BCR), has several buildings, including a main residence and a guest house. There are also outbuildings, a greenhouse and more. The property was put into receivership by a court order last year, receivership was based of over 100 code violations cited by the Mariposa County.

One of the main reasons for the receivership is the County contended Cox was “running an illegal overnight business.” At one point Bison Creek Ranch did offer overnight accommodations for visitors. However, that stopped several months after the receiver was appointed to oversee the property, then was seized by the receiver.

The judge set the next hearing for Monday, March 19th, 2018 at 2PM, in the Mariposa County Superior Court.