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Citizen tracks down stolen cell phone, arrest made
Manteca businessman Jeff Liotard chased down the man police believe are responsible for stealing his cell phone. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Chalk one up for the small business owner. 

Last week Mountain Mike’s Pizza and Mike’s Coffee owner Jeff Liotard went out to his company van to find his cell phone charger – the one, he says, that his daughter always takes – and noticed that his phone was missing. 

He went back inside, checked the surveillance footage of the parking lot, and sure enough he caught the entire thing on camera. 

According to Liotard, a woman first walks by the van and looks in the window and a few seconds later a man appears, pops the lock, and grabs the phone. Within seconds he had taken out the SIM card so that it’s untraceable. And then they disappeared. 

“I recognize most of the transients in town but I had never seen these two so I didn’t know whether they were from out-of-town or passing through or what the deal was,” he said. “Then when I pulled into the parking lot later and they saw my van, they looked at me like they knew they were caught. 

“I ran inside and checked my surveillance cameras to make sure it was them and when I came back they were gone. I tracked them over to Rite-Aid and called the police but by the time they got there they had slipped out. I didn’t know what else I could do.”

He figured it out the next day. 

During a drive across town, still steaming from the fact that somebody had snatched his phone, it occurred to him that it was a Tuesday morning and that’s when people appear in court in Manteca. A pass by and quick glance, he thought, couldn’t hurt. 

The same guy in the red beanie that he had seen pop his door lock was standing right in front. This time a call to the Manteca Police brought a heavy response. They quickly determined that he was there because his girlfriend – the one who spotted the phone in the video – was appearing in court on a petty theft charge. 

After an hour-long exchange, officers eventually discovered a backpack full of stolen cell phones and the tools needed to crack them open and remove the chips and cards that make them traceable to their owners. 

Albert Azevedo Jr., 42, was arrested and charged with a felony count of petty theft with a prior count of theft, burglary or robbery. He was also found to be in possession of a stolen mailbox key which could bring a federal charge with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted. 

“I got my phone back – it was without the SIM card, but I got it back,” Liotard said. “Chalk one up for the business owner.”