Manteca Police detective Steve Harris has been lauded for his investigation into an ID theft case that involved the fraudulent purchase of two vehicles from new car dealers in Manteca and Modesto.
Detective Sgt. Tony Souza said Harris’ effort into locating and tracking down the suspect was nothing short of “excellent” police work that has sent the suspect to state prison for a seven-year term.
Heath Lee Roberson, 36, of Modesto, has been convicted on two counts of vehicle, theft, evading a police officer and resisting arrest, according to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
Roberson, who had been a parolee-at-large, reportedly duped the sales staff at Cabral Chrysler Jeep Dodge on May 25 with a wallet filled with another man’s identification that he had stolen from a counter in a Modesto office supply store.
After purchasing the $44,000 Dodge Ram extended cab pickup truck with the fake ID at a point near closing time, he had his picture taken for the dealership’s Facebook page and drove away.
He was soon to be charged with a similar scam at the Alfred Mathews dealership in Modesto where he had used the same identification to purchase a new Land Rover, police said.
It took just a few days for Harris and fellow detective Rob Armosino to follow up on leads that took them to the man’s residence in Modesto using one of their suspect addresses.
Harris said they found the truck backed into the driveway of the man’s home with Alfred Mathews paper plates mounted on the front bumper. The Cabral paper advertising plates had been removed, he said, but were later found on the Land Rover.
“When we found it, we called in the troops – the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force,” he said. But before they could arrive on the scene Roberson left the house and drove off in the pickup.
As detectives followed the suspect, they witnessed him making what they described as counter surveillance maneuvers making sure no one was following him. He circled blocks and went through parking lots, they said.
Harris said the driver finally parked by a residence on Dawn Street and went inside where he stayed for about 30 minutes. As they kept his vehicle under surveillance, the STANCAT auto theft task force and two CHP units worked their way into the neighborhood.
The officers had taken up tactical positions before the suspect left the house and drove off down the street. A CHP spike strip deflated tires on the truck as Roberson made a turn at the end of the block.
Detectives said the suspect fled at high speed through the residential neighborhood for some six blocks before he crashed into a parked car on College Avenue. Roberson reportedly fled on foot and jumped over back fences in an attempt to evade officers. Members of the auto theft task force apprehended their man and placed him into custody.
Detective Harris has credited other Manteca detectives and members of the Manteca Street Crimes Unit in unison with the members of the auto theft task force and the CHP in what he described as a very complicated identity theft case.
Detective Sergeant Tony Sousa noted that Roberson has previously served prison sentences for convictions of grand theft in 1996 and in 1999 as well as having had prison time for forged checks in 2003 and for a commercial burglary in 2004.