MERCED SHERIFF’S DESTROY MARIJUANA, SEIZE 8 GUNS

Sergeant Ray Framstad and the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Team were busy on Saturday serving six (6) search warrants throughout the county. During the search warrants, the Marijuana Enforcement Team eradicated 3887 marijuana plants, destroyed 115 pounds of finished product, and seized eight (8) guns.

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. All 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)

PLANADA DRUG STORE BURGLARY, CHASE ENDS IN SACRAMENTO

On May 30, 2018 at about 2:21 am, Deputy Chris Chilton with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office received a call to the San Joaquin Drug Store in Planada regarding a burglar alarm going off. Deputy Chilton arrived a short time later and saw a silver BMW on Sutter Ave driving slowly near the drugstore.

Two subjects were seen running on Sutter Ave near the vehicle and were picked up shortly after spotting Deputy Chilton’s patrol vehicle. Deputy Chilton attempted to stop the vehicle near the Valero gas station and the BMW failed to stop and a vehicle pursuit was initiated.

Deputies pursued the vehicle from Planada to Merced onto Highway 140 with speeds reaching 90 MPH. Deputies followed the vehicle onto north bound Hwy 99 and continued the pursuit until the California Highway Patrol (CHP) took it over in Livingston at Hammett Ave.

Deputies dropped out of the pursuit and returned to San Joaquin Drug Store to continue the investigation. Deputies learned the business had been burglarized and several opiate pharmaceuticals were taken. Deputies located a garbage can full of medication in the alleyway of Bigler and Sutter Ave. Deputies recovered more pharmaceutical medication in the field behind the store on Bigler Ave which made up most of what was stolen according to the owner of the store. A large yellow crowbar and one of the suspect’s phones was found inside the business.

Sacramento CHP later advised they were able to get the BMW stopped at Hwy 99 and Mingo Road in Sacramento. CHP used spike strips on a few different occasions to disable the vehicle and arrested four (4) occupants. The subjects arrested were a female driver indentified as 23-year-old Christina Gamez from Mendota, 21-year-old Andrion Navarrete Mendoza from Fresno, and 19-year-old Miguel Valencia from Fresno.

The fourth subject was a 17-year-old Hispanic male juvenile from Fresno. All subjects have been arrested and booked into the Merced county jail and juvenile correctional center.

3,500 PLANTS AND 150 POUNDS OF DRIED MARIJUANA CONFISCATED

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office took down another illegal marijuana grow in the Ballico area of Merced County. On May 18, 2018, Deputies Ibarra and Bucio along with the rest of the Marijuana Enforcement Team served a search warrant in the 8900 block of East Avenue in Ballico.

During the service of the search warrant, Deputy Kent utilized the sheriff office UAV for security purposes and watched 11 individuals run from the property as deputies arrived. Two subjects were detained during the investigation and later arrested for the violations of H&S 11358 and MMC 9.29.060.

Deputies confiscated more than 150 pounds of dried and processed marijuana and eradicated 3,496 plants from two large green houses.

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. All 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)

MAN ARRESTED FOR THROWING PUPPIES AGAINST WALL, WAS RELEASED FROM JAIL TODAY

Darryl Turner, was released from custody today, May 16, 2018, by Judge Shaver, over the strenuous objections of Deputy District Attorney Donna Bakich. Darryl Turner is charged with one felony count of cruelty to an animal, a misdemeanor vandalism and resisting arrest.

Turner was arrested May 7, 2018 after his mother called 911. According to his sister, Turner picked up a cage containing three German Sheppard puppies and threw the cage against the wall. The witness said the puppies cried out in pain as they hit the wall and fell to the floor.

Turner then grabbed his sister’s grown male German Sheppard by the collar and lifted it into the air, strangling it. She tried to take the dog away from him but he lifted it even further in the air. She reported she could hear the dog gasping for air and gurgling. When Turner heard his mother calling 911, he dropped the dog and ran out the door.

Turner was found by responding Deputies some distance from the house. When they tried to arrest him he resisted by trying to fight them. One Deputy was forced to use his Taser but the Taser had no effect. Deputies were finally able to control him.

In addition to felony cruelty to animals, Turner is also charged with a serious or violent prior conviction, Terrorist threats, from 2012. As a result, he is facing six years in prison if convicted. “Turner should have never been released from custody by the court. He is violent and society is not safe while he is out of custody. Anyone who is comfortable violently abusing animals is a serious threat”, according the Chief Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt.

13 MERCED COUNTY RESIDENTS ARRESTED, ON INSURANCE FRAUD

Thirteen people were arrested Friday following a lengthy investigation by the Merced County District Attorney’s office into an automobile insurance fraud ring involving 10 different insurance companies that paid out more than $430,000 in bogus claims, District Attorney Larry D. Morse II announced.

Last month, a Merced County Grand Jury indicted 21 people for their role in orchestrating staged auto accidents and vandalism and then submitting bogus claims. The scheme began in September of 2011 and continued through June 2016 during which time there were 20 fraudulent claims submitted to insurance companies for payment, Morse said.

The insurance fraud ring was brought to light in January 2016 when an investigator with the Special Investigation Unit of Allstate Insurance contacted Merced County District Attorney Investigator Sheri Carpenter regarding a claim that she believed was a staged accident. Carpenter started her investigation by running the names through an insurance database provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau which linked the claim to 19 other similar claims.

During the investigation it was discovered that some of the same vehicles were used for multiple claims, with the same damage being reported. The main method of theft, according to Carpenter, came from the alteration of hospital bills that were submitted by the suspects to the insurance companies for which they were paid directly. Carpenter found that many of the same bills were used in multiple claims with the names and dates of service being altered to reflect a new claim date. In some cases, she noted, the totals on the hospital bills were altered to reflect a larger amount so that the payouts to the suspects would be higher.

“Not only is insurance fraud a crime, it costs Merced County residents substantially more in premiums and insurance costs every year ,” Morse said. He praised the work done by Carpenter in “unraveling this sophisticated and far-reaching conspiracy to defraud insurance companies and consumers. Investigator Carpenter worked this complex case relentlessly for the last two years in addition to her other work and did an incredible job of putting all the pieces together. It was a first-rate effort,” Morse said.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), auto related insurance fraud, particularly staged accidents, are a significant component of the $30 to $32 billion lost to insurance fraud each year.

“Unfortunately, many individuals view insurance companies as their personal piggy banks and they engage in fraudulent behavior without any concern for the economic harm they cause all consumers,” said Frank Scafidi, public affairs director for the NICB. “NICB commends District Attorney Morse and the participating law enforcement agencies for their diligence and extensive investigative efforts in this case.” Joanna Tucker, 29, from Livingston, was described by Carpenter as the “ringleader” of the scam and directly involved in 19 of the 20 claims.

Deputy District Attorneys Walter Wall and Scott Drexel presented the case over several days to a Merced County Grand Jury last month which returned with 19 felony counts of insurance fraud and 17 felony counts of grand theft against Tucker. The grand jury also handed down indictments of 20 other defendants on charges of insurance fraud and grand theft.

Tucker’s boyfriend, Johnathan Huerta, 30, also of Livingston, was indicted on 10 felony counts of insurance fraud and nine counts of grand theft.

Investigators from the District Attorneys office, with assistance from Merced Sheriffs Department, Merced Police Department, Merced County Probation, Livingston Police Department, Atwater Police Department, State Parole and the Merced Area Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Team (MAGNET), arrested Tucker, Huerta and 11 other defendants in a coordinated sweep on Friday.

Tucker was being held on $500,000 bail. Huerta’s bail was set at $100,000, three defendants were already in custody outside Merced County on unrelated charges.

The following were taken into custody,Rhonda Valencia 45, Diana Tucker 26, and Freddy Barajas 29 all of Livingston; Jessica Valencia 27, Alejandro Cervantes 31, Patricia Diaz 31 and Angelina Galvan 35 all of Atwater; Britney Groves 29, Charlece Scott 27, and Monique Eguiluz 28 all of Merced.

The DA also issued warrants on the following individuals, Maria Hernandez, 59, Celina Garza-Hernandez, 27 and Sarai Bernal, 27 all of Merced; Rico Tucker, 28, Carlos Tucker, 26, Heena Birly, 25, and Jessica Barajas, 30 all of San Jose and Jairo Barajas, 29 of Livingston.

THIS MAN STOLE A LARGE AMOUNT OF CASH FROM CIRCLE K IN ATWATER

Atwater Police are asking for your help identifying the person in these photos. He is wanted for questioning in a theft of a large amount of cash from the Circle K store on Sycamore Avenue in Atwater that occurred just before the noon hour today.

He is described as a Black male adult and was last seen driving out of the parking lot in the smaller white pickup pictured here. Any information as to his identity would be greatly appreciated. Please contact either Atwater PD at 209-357-6396 and ask for Officer Cardoza or the Detective Division at 209-357-6394. Callers can remain anonymous.

THREE FOUND DECEASED IN A HOME OF THAT 4-YEAR-OLD AND 6-YEAR-OLD

Detectives are investigating a homicide that occurred early this morning inside a home in the 1800 block of Rancho Encantado. Three people are deceased to include two boys, ages 6 and 4.

Detectives believe this is an isolated incident and the suspect involved is not outstanding. The investigation is in the early stages and no other information is available at this time.

Noticia En Español

Detectives estan investigando un homicidio que ocurrio esta manana dentro de una casa en Rancho Encantado. Tres personas han fallecido que incluye a dos ninos, de edades 6 y 4. Detectives creen que esto es un incidente unico y el sospechoso involucrado no esta libre. Esta investigacion esta en las etapas iniciales y no mas informacion esta disponible en este momento.

ATWATER STUDENT ARRESTED FOR POSTING VIDEO ON SNAPCHAT THREATENING SCHOOL

On April 19th, at approximately 10:00 AM, Atwater High School Resource Officer W. Martin, obtained information from a student that a fifteen year old male student of Atwater Valley Community School had recently posted a video to his Snapchat page showing him holding a pistol and making reference to returning to Atwater High in the future. The reporting student felt that the video was very concerning and possibly posed a future threat to students.

SRO Martin subsequently met with SRO Dash at the Atwater Valley campus and conducted an interview of the fifteen year old student. The student, who had recently been removed from Atwater High and placed at Valley Community School for a similar video, admitted to having created the video but stated that the pistol he was holding in the video was only a BB gun and that he did not intend the video to be taken as a threat. The student was arrested and charged with distributing a harassing message via an electronic device and booked into Merced County Juvenile Detention Center. A charge of threatening a school campus is also being recommended for consideration.

34-YEAR-OLD MAN FOUND DEAD IN HILMAR IDENTIFIED

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit is currently investigating the homicide of a Hispanic male adult identified as 34-year-old ISRAEL GUTIERREZ of Modesto. Gutierrez, was found deceased in the area of Williams Avenue and Hwy 165 in Hilmar on April 4th. 2018.

If you have any information regarding this homicide, please contact Major Crimes Detective Victoria Bonilla at 209-564-0407. Your tip could help solve this case and you can remain anonymous.

FIRE INSIDE MERCED WALMART, VIDEO INCLUDED

On April 9th, 2018, At around 2:42P.M., a fire was reported inside the Merced Walmart located at 3055 Loughborough Drive, Merced Fire Department and the Merced police department responded to the call. Upon arrival the store was being evacuated by employees and store security. Upon firefighters arriving they extinguished the fire quick, firefighters turned fans on at the entrance door and emergency exits on the area the fire started to get rid of the smoke inside the store.

Store Manager put some clothing from the men’s apparel area in an empty trash bag from the area the fire started, the bag with the clothes was put outside in the front of the store. Store employees waited approximately 30 minutes before the bag with the clothes was able to be re-opened to check if there was any smoke damage to the clothing that was by the area the fire started.

According to Cory Hass, Fire Battalion Chief of the City of Merced Fire Department the fire was intentionally set no injuries were reported and the damage to the building and it’s continents was only minor according to the Fire Department Chief.

Wal-Mart remained closed as of 4:30P.M. unknown time was given when the store will re-open.