Three men were arrested on suspicion of looting this week after authorities say they returned to a stolen truck in Angels Camp while deputies were already at the scene.


A deputy was on his way to work early Wednesday morning when he saw an unoccupied white Ford F-250 parked on the shoulder of French Camp Road near Austin Road, according to a San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office Facebook post. The truck matched the description of a vehicle involved in the burglary of a business, where fuel and gas cards were reportedly stolen.


The deputy called dispatch for another unit to come out to the scene and investigate the truck, sheriff’s officials say. About the time the other deputy arrived, three men showed up in an Enterprise Box Van claiming ownership of the truck.


But the truck came up stolen from an area agriculture business when the license plate was ran, authorities say. A search of both the suspect vehicles revealed stolen items belonging to various area businesses, including agriculture equipment and a 500-gallon tank containing approximately 300 gallons of red-dye diesel.


“New victims went to the scene of the investigation to advise of crimes they had just discovered on their surveillance cameras that involved the three detained suspects,” sheriff’s officials said.


The men, identified by authorities as 31-year-old Jose Hernandez-Bautista, 25-year-old Jose Oregel-Barajas and 24-year-old Jesus Castro, were allegedly linked to several other burglaries in the area that also included the theft of fuel and fuel cards, sheriff’s officials said.


“The suspects admitted to cashing stolen fuel cards at a local gas station, purchasing approximately $13,000 of diesel fuel, and going to truck yards where they offered diesel to truckers for $2.00 a gallon,” sheriff’s officials said.


The Sheriff’s Office thanked deputies and detectives from the county’s Agriculture, Gangs and Narcotics Enforcement Team who worked on the case.


“The initial Investigation of this case took most of the day and consisted of a collaborative effort by many,” sheriff’s officials said. ”Their combined efforts led to the return of stolen property to multiple victims and to the successful closure of several burglary cases in our county.“


Online jail records show Hernandez-Bautista, Oregel-Barajas and Castro are facing a combined nearly 30 charges among them, including grand theft, identity theft, vandalism and looting, which is the crime of burglary during a state of emergency. The county declared a state of emergency in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


All three men are being held at the San Joaquin County Jail on varying amounts of bail and are due back in court on March 28 at 8:30 a.m.in Stockton, jail records show.


“Thanks to the observant eye of one of our deputies, what started out as what appeared to be a disabled vehicle parked on the shoulder of the road turned out to be the opening of a legitimate can of worms,” sheriff’s officials said.


Contact reporter Cassie Dickman at (209) 546-8299 or cdickman@recordnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @byCassieDickman.