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Suspect sought in defrauding of 18 people

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Suspect sought in defrauding of 18 people

Steve Garcia

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POSTED April 10, 2009 4:12 a.m.
A Manteca short order cook who allegedly defrauded three elementary school secretaries with the promise of “cheap computers” has other citizens telling police he took money from them as well and didn’t deliver a product.

There are some 18 alleged victims to date and police are continuing an open investigation searching for more of the man’s “customers” dating back more than three years.

Additional members of the community have gone to Manteca Police detective Steve Harris with similar complaints after reading the story in the Manteca Bulletin in mid-February.  Steve Garcia, 52, was wanted for questioning at that time for not delivering purchased computers to the school secretaries.  He was also being sought on a 2005 felony embezzlement warrant.

Harris is forwarding fresh charges for multiple counts of embezzlement to the district attorney as of this week.  Police say he bounces between three communities:  Manteca, San Jose and Fresno.

Garcia reportedly told one of his victims, who later confronted him, that selling the Dell computers to so many people “was something of a sickness” that he couldn’t control, police said.  Victims all tell the same tale that Garcia has an uncle in San Jose who works for Dell and he can get computers for $275.

Northgate Little League coaches were sold pitching machines they claimed they never received and another victim was offered a 42-inch flat screen HD Visio television at half price - $450.   It was never delivered, police confirmed.

Garcia is described as a good conversationalist who quickly draws people in the community to  him.  They all relate a similar litany of excuses from Garcia explaining why he can’t deliver the promised laptop computers, television, speaker amp or pitching machines – or return the money to them.

One said he was heading to San Jose to visit his parents’ graves – his mother had died a few  months  ago after a long illness.  The victim later said she was told by a family member that mom was  very much  alive.  

They said Garcia had told them that he was getting a $48,000 inheritance and repaying his debts would be no problem.

Police said that Garcia had worked for two restaurants in the Manteca area – the French Camp Café and the Mangy Moose on East Yosemite Avenue.

Detectives  quoted a victim who said Garcia was working at the French Camp Café some three years ago when he asked the owner for a $20,000 loan saying his parents were hospitalized and he was responsible for their bills.
She reportedly went ahead and gave him her life’s savings and he disappeared, police said.  Once the woman located him after several moves he did pay her $2,000, but she was forced to close her restaurant.

Another victim said she learned that Garcia was fired from the Mangy Moose because many of its customers were coming in complaining that he owed  them a computer or the money they had given him.

Anyone with further information on additional victims or the current whereabouts of Steve Garcia is urged to call Detective Steve Harris at 239-8406.  Harris is also seeking victims who did not receive a return phone call from the police department due to the volume of complaints received.

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