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More than $600,000 in stolen vehicles and marijuana seized by Arizona and California authorities during “Operation Bloodhound”

Several suspects including the leader of the criminal organization were apprehended

Friday, May 30, 2014 -

The states Automobile Theft Authority (AATA), the Department of Public Safetys (DPS) Vehicle Theft Task Force (AVTTF), Mesa Police Department and the California Highway Patrol culminated a four-month investigation of a vehicle-theft ring early Thursday morning May 29, 2014, serving 10 search warrants in Mesa, Arizona and the California cities of Bakersfield and Shafter.

The criminal organization, which detectives targeted under the name Operation Bloodhound,had been obtaining vehicle identification numbers (VINs) from salvaged vehicles, would steal a vehicle similar to the salvaged vehicles VIN, switch the VIN and retitle the altered vehicles in California with the use of stolen Arizona titles.

The Arizona titles had been reported stolen in March 2012, by the Arizona Department of Transportations (ADOT) Motor Vehicle Division (MVD)

The search warrants yielded the recovery of 13 stolen vehicle totaling a value at over $600,000. Detectives made five arrests, one of which was the suspected leader of the criminal organization.

"The investigation initiated from a Craig's List posting of a suspicious vehicle for sale several months ago," said DPS Sgt. Bowers.

During the search of one of the residences in Mesa, DPSHighway Interdiction Team (HIT) arrested Ricardo Ochoa, 33, for possession more than 50 pounds of marijuana. He also possessed scales, a weapon and the cellophane wrappings of multiple marijuana bundles that were inside 10 large trash bags.

Locally, the street value of the marijuana is $45,000.

Ricardo Ochoa was booked into the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office Jail for possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of dangerous drugs, money laundering, conspiracy, illegal conducting of an enterprise, prohibited possessor and use of a weapon in a drug offense.

All of the suspects are facing charges of trafficking in stolen property, vehicle theft, operating a criminal syndicate, fraud and tampering with vehicle identification numbers.

The Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force (AVTTF) is comprised of city, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies participating in a concerted effort to identify, apprehend, and prosecute individuals and criminal organizations that profit from the theft of motor vehicles and related crimes. The AVTTF provides a vital mission on behalf of the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority (AATA) to reduce vehicle theft in Arizona by deterring criminal activity through aggressive, proactive enforcement and by creating a public awareness through community education. Through continued grant funding from AATA, the AVTTF will continue to provide exemplary services to the citizens of Arizona.

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