Beer-bandit arrest reveals broader operations

A trio of DalyCity men suspected of masterminding a series of thefts of 18 tractor-trailers, loaded with such merchandise as refrigerators, instant noodles and furniture, were arrested recently but authorities said a handful of fellow bandits remain on the loose in the Bay Area.

California Highway Patrol officers charged Carlos “Peru” Demartini, Etuimo “Cubano” Rodriguez and Carlos “El Guardia” Iraheta with stealing trailers from unsecured trucking yards and delivery points in the East Bay — including Home Depot — and then storing the loot in a warehouse near Cesar Chavez Street and Interstate Highway 280 in San Francisco, CHP Sgt. Ward Radelich said. Authorities said they recovered more than $2 million in merchandise.

“A few years ago we had a theft of Fox backpacks,” Radelich said. “And then, in May of 2007, we arrested people with a 53-foot trailer of Top Ramen, which led us to the rest of the crew.”

Police said the trio sold more than $2 million in wine, Nabisco products and Home Depot merchandise. Many of the stolen items — which also included ovens, wine bottles and Crate and Barrel furniture — were sold to local mom-and-pop stores, authorities said. A truckload of Viking kitchen rangers were sold to Bay Area restaurants, Radelich said, and the CHP is in the process of recovering them.

Police said that the ring may have also sold many items on eBay, repackaging and shipping them to Central America. They said that profits were sent to a Canadian bank before being redirected elsewhere, Radelich said.

Demartini was arrested in early February after allegedly selling distinctively bottled Corona beer to liquor stores in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, while Iraheta and Rodriguez were arrested Feb. 19 and 21, respectively. All three kept residences in Daly City.

The thieves used a stolen tractor to make off with the trailers, and grinding tools to break the trailers’ locks, Radelich said. He said a handful of fellow bandits remain on the loose throughout the Bay Area, but that Demartini, Rodriguez and Iraheta were the ringleaders.

Demartini and Rodriguez have both pleaded not guilty in San Mateo County court and remain in local custody, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Morley Pitt said.Iraheta will be arraigned in Alameda County court Wednesday, and is currently housed in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, according to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Although federal and international law-enforcement agencies are not involved at this time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is involved, and “all three of [the suspects’] citizenships are in question,” Radelich said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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