January 21, 2016

Stolen iPad Leads SCPD to Arrest in Home Burglary Case & Fencing Operation

Two suspects who fenced thousands of dollars worth of stolen items including electronics, high-end bikes and jewelry were arrested by Santa Cruz Police. A stolen iPad led Officers directly to the 76 Gas Station on Mission Street and Walnut Avenue where the fencing operation was discovered.

On Friday, January 16, 2016, at about 1:30 p.m., the Santa Cruz Police Department received a call from the victim of a residential burglary who believed he had located his stolen iPad. The victim activated the "Find My iPhone" app and was able to trace his iPad to a location near the corner of Mission Street and Walnut Avenue.

An SCPD patrol officer met with the victim and confirmed that the app signal was emanating from inside the 76 Gas Station at 904 Mission Street. The Officer gave instructions to the victim to sound the alarm on the iPad when the officer was inside the gas station.

While the Officer was speaking with the store manager and an employee standing behind the counter, the iPad alarm sounded. Initially, both suspects claimed not to hear it and tried to ignore the alarm. The stolen iPad was located inside a bag on the counter next to station manager Felipe Chavez and employee Angel Guzman. The bag contained two iPads.

Felipe Chavez, 46 from San Jose
The 76 Gas Station manager is Felipe Chavez, 46 years old from San Jose. Chavez claimed that he had found the bag outside the business in the bushes. Officers continued to investigate and eventually searched Chavez’s truck parked at the business. That search resulted in additional stolen items seized from Chavez. Those items included property stolen from the victim.

Angel Guzman, 19 from Watsonville
The gas station employee is Angel Guzman, 19 years old from Watsonville. During the investigation, Officers also searched Guzman’s car parked at the business. Like Chavez, Guzman also had additional items believed to be stolen in his car.

As the investigation continued, Officers discovered a backroom at the business that contained additional property also believed to be stolen. This property consisted of high-end bicycles and construction tools. Based on this discovery, the business was closed and secured as detectives were called in and a search warrant was obtained.
Mr. Chavez, the 76 station manager, resides in San Jose and is the domestic partner of the business owner. Detectives conducted a search of their home on Flinthaven Drive in San Jose. During this search, Detectives seized 19 mid to high-end bicycles, jewelry and electronics. Detectives have been successful in matching a number of items with property stolen in burglaries throughout Santa Cruz. So far, over $10,000 in stolen property has been matched to previous burglary cases. Detectives believe stolen items were likely traded for goods or resold at the gas station. They may have also off loaded the stolen products at flea markets in the Bay Area.
The investigation found that the suspects are involved in the ongoing distribution of stolen property, also known as a fencing operation. Felipe Chavez was arrested for receiving and possession of stolen property. Angel Guzman was arrested for conspiracy to commit a crime and possession of stolen property.

SCPD Investigative team believes the stolen property came from home and auto break-ins in Santa Cruz and the San Jose area. Police believe that the arrested suspects are part of a larger theft and stolen property operation, and our investigation continues.

SCPD encourages people to enable such security features in their portable electronic devices whenever possible, and to familiarize themselves with how to use them. If your portable electronic device is stolen or lost and you are using a remote application to track its location, notify your local law enforcement agency immediately and do not take independent action to attempt to recover your property.

Anyone with information relative to this investigation is encouraged to contact the Santa Cruz Police Department Investigation Unit at (831) 420-5820.