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Credit card con costs stores $16K
Thieves steal tires, stereo equipment
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Boxes of audio speakers, amplifiers and woofers were stacked in the back seat of a 2003 GMC van that police stopped Thursday on Union Road, south of Louise Avenue. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Two Manteca tire shops and an automotive audio shop were all victims of a slick maneuver by an alleged con artist who made off with some $16,000 in merchandise over the last two weeks.

Manteca Police patrolmen made a car stop on Union Road at Sapphire Way at about 1:15 Wednesday afternoon and arrested 17-year-old Cyrus Ashford of Hayward on fraud charges. 

An older man in the vehicle with the teen was released at the curb because his association in the crime was considered not provable even though he had been videotaped on security cameras carrying audio equipment out the front door of a Manteca store, officers said.Professional Auto Stereo and Security, in the 400 block of North Main Street, was the most recent business to be victimized Thursday noon, minutes before police located the suspect’s 2003 GMC Savanna van.  The loss amounted to over $4,000 worth of stereo equipment including four channel power amplifiers, speakers, coaxial two way speaker systems and woofers.

Stereo shop owner Alex Zideh said the men were in his store for about 45 minutes Thursday as they selected the various items off of the shelves and placed them on the front counter.

Zideh said he is accustomed to customers trying to bargain on price, but that was not the case Wednesday.  He noted they were fine with the cost and wanted to use their credit card to make the purchase.

“We were so nice to them, we even helped them carry the boxes to their van,” he said.  “But we do that with all our customers.”

The shop has a dozen security cameras located around the business that captured every move the two men made in selecting and carrying out the merchandise, before the owner became aware that the credit card was invalid and called police.

Zideh and the owners of the two tire shops – Los Amigos on South Main Street and Xavier Tire and Wheel in the 900 block of West Yosemite Avenue – all told the same story about Ashford who claimed to be from the Bay Area.

They said they checked his Nevada driver’s license and saw that it matched the information on the teen’s credit card.  But when they swiped the card it was declined by the issuing bank.  The man took the phone and said he was calling the bank himself saying he had recently had issues with them.

Turning the phone back over to the business owners, he told them to talk to “Chris” on the other end of the 800 line he had just dialed.  They all said Chris gave them an approval number to enter into their terminals and the sales immediately cleared.

At Los Amigos Tire in the 100 block of South Main Street the same two men entered the store, first on May 10 and then again on May 11.  They reportedly purchased two sets of rims and tires – sizes 24 and 26 inches.  Some of the items had to be ordered in from a warehouse prompting them to return to the shop.  The reasoning for the decline of the card was that it had exceeded its limit and the purchase had to be confirmed by phone, the shop owner said.

Manuel Sandoval said the men had come to his Xavier Tire on West Yosemite Avenue twice, because he too had to order some of the tires and rims that he didn’t have in stock.  The first was on Monday, May 14, and the second was Wednesday, May 17.  He had run the ticket for the $5,200 total on May 15 and it was classified to have been approved “offline.”

Sandoval said the man had first come to his shop a month and a half before when he was just looking around but noted that didn’t buy anything.  His final purchase amounted to 16 tires – 20, 22 and 22 inches in size.