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3 arrested in string of Stanislaus vehicle burglaries

Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies arrested three people in connection with a vehicle burglary ring that had more than 30 victims stretching between Modesto and Oakdale, authorities reported.

Authorities tried to find Billy Ray VanHouten, 24, in Hickman last week during a probation and parole sweep, but VanHouten was not home, according to deputy Royjindar Singh, Sheriff's Department spokesman.

Wednesday, authorities said they found a pellet gun in VanHouten's truck, which was parked at his mother's home in Hickman. VanHouten was nowhere to be found.

A deputy from Hughson Police Services saw VanHouten driving his white pickup around Hughson while on patrol about 5 a.m. Monday, Singh said. The deputy called for backup, then stopped VanHouten, who had two passengers.

After searching the truck, deputies found stolen property belonging to victims from Modesto, Oakdale and Knights Ferry, Singh said. Some of the property belonged to a victim who was burglarized about 4 a.m. Monday while he was working at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto.

The passengers, Ricky Ray Bargas, 18, and Kelly Jo Peterson, 38, both of Empire, were arrested, Singh said.

All three were arrested on suspicion of burglary, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools.

VanHouten had been a wanted parolee and also was arrested in connection with that violation. He has a no-bail parole hold because of it.

Bargas is being held at the downtown jail. Peterson is at the Public Safety Center. Both have bail set at $15,000.

The Sheriff's Department asks anyone with information about this case to call Detective Jon Rivera at 525-7094. Callers also can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at 521-4636 and be eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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