A woman who had to abandon her car after it was overtaken by mud and rising waters during recent storms became the victim of fraud after two men allegedly got inside her stranded vehicle and stole her belongings.
Authorities said the woman was evacuating her home in rural Ventura County on the morning of Jan. 10, during this month’s dangerous downpours.
Heeding the advice of officials, the woman decided to evacuate, but her car got stuck in the mud near the intersection of Balcom Canyon Road and Mountain Road near Santa Paula.
As her vehicle stalled out in the dangerous conditions, she was forced to abandon it, as well as several personal items, including her credit cards.
The next day, she received a call from her credit card company alerting her of suspicious activity.
More than $1,800 worth of purchases were made at nearby businesses, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators later learned that someone had gotten inside of her abandoned vehicle, stolen her belongings and then went on a spending spree with her credit cards.
Detectives from the Santa Clara Valley Station obtained video from some of those nearby stores and were able to identify two men in connection with the fraudulent purchases.
Last week, on Jan. 25, deputies arrested Pedro Chavez in Fillmore. On Monday, deputies arrested Rodrigo Estrada, aka Rodrigo Perez, in Santa Paula. Both men were arrested without incident, officials said.
A search of a vehicle led to the discovery of several of the items purchased with the stolen cards.
Both Chavez and Estrada have been booked into the Ventura County Pretrial Detention Facility to await charges for identity theft, conspiracy and receiving stolen property.
Their bail amounts have been set at $50,000 each and they are due in court in the coming days.
Anyone with information about this or any other similar crimes, is asked to contact the Fillmore Police Department at 805-524-2233. Anonymous tips are welcomed.