In less than 60 hours police solved what turned out to be the biggest vehicle theft ever in Manteca recovering three of five vehicles stolen and making two arrests.
Two men were arrested in Rocklin Tuesday at noon in connection with the theft and arson of high profile commercial vehicles valued at over $400,000 that were taken from the parking lot of Manteca’s Hampton Inn before dawn on Sunday.
The San Joaquin County’s Delta Regional Auto theft Task Force made the arrests and transported the suspects to San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp on felony charges for the theft of three bright orange promotional Volkswagen mini buses valued at $100,000 each.
Ryan Anthony Monaco, 38, and Brian Michael Lancaster, 32, both of Sacramento were pursued by officers on the ground and in the air believing only one of the suspects was in the vehicle they were chasing— they found two.
The men were charged with possession of stolen vehicles, arson and conspiracy with their bail nearing $800,000 each. They were held to appear in the Manteca Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion said it was fortunate that the law enforcement task force team was very diligent.
“I believe the men saw the vehicles when they were in Sacramento and followed them to Manteca,” he added.
Obligacion said the team had the air support from the California Highway Patrol helicopter as they were zoning in on the two suspects as they headed toward Rocklin.
The thefts occurred over the weekend while the Tillamook Cheese transport truck and trailer containing the three restored custom VW microbuses were parked outside the hotel near the 120 Bypass and Union Road.
The buses have been seen throughout the nation on their advertising tours since 2009. They have been an important part of Tillamook’s “Love Loaf” promotional tour – each one highlighting the company’s different cheese, yogurt and ice cream products. The microbuses were originally manufactured in 1959, 1964 and 1966. They were scheduled to make stops at markets in Oakdale, Riverbank and Modesto today.
The San Joaquin County’s Delta Regional Auto Theft Task Force consisting of the California Highway Patrol, the Manteca Police Department, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department, the Lodi Police Department, the San Joaquin County Probation Department and the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office took the lead in the investigation, the Manteca chief said.
“If not for the combined efforts of each member of the San Joaquin County Delta Regional Auto Theft Task Force, this quick recovery of vehicles and the apprehension of these suspects would not have been possible,” Obligacion said.
The arrests were without incident, he added.