Ripon man sold stolen trailers from Stanislaus, San Joaquin counties, prosecutors say

Check out these Stanislaus County auto theft suspects from March 14-27

All of these people were arrested on suspicion of auto theft in Stanislaus County from March 14-27, 2019.
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All of these people were arrested on suspicion of auto theft in Stanislaus County from March 14-27, 2019.

An alert witness called 911 after seeing a stranger towing his Modesto friend’s flatbed trailer. That call led auto theft investigators to Cornelius Peter De Jong’s truck, where they found several California license plates belonging to trailers stolen in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

De Jong was arrested in December 2017 and later charged with three counts of vehicle theft and four counts of possessing a stolen vehicle, according to Stanislaus Superior Court records.

The defendant on March 21 reached a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a preliminary hearing to determine whether he would stand trial.

De Jong, 31, of Ripon, pleaded no contest to one count of felony vehicle theft and three counts of possessing a stolen vehicle, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday in a news release. The other charges were dropped in the “interest of justice,” according to court records. Deputy District Attorney Ahnna Reicks prosecuted the case.

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Cornelius Peter De Jong Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office

The investigation began Dec. 19, 2017, when a 2006 white Dargo flatbed trailer, worth about $3,800, was stolen from a Modesto home. The alert witness spotted the stranger towing his friend’s trailer and called 911 to report the suspicious activity.

Investigators from the California Highway Patrol’s Modesto Area Office and the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force responded to the report and took De Jong into custody.

The Investigators found inside De Jong’s truck California license plates, according to prosecutors. Seven of those license plates belonged to the trailers reported stolen in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

Prosecutors said one of the license plates found in De Jong’s truck belonged to a 2009 Iron Panther flatbed trailer, worth about $1,200. That trailer was reported stolen Dec. 14, 2017, from a Modesto home.

On the same day the Iron Panther flatbed trailer was reported stolen, De Jong posted the stolen trailer for sale on the web site Offer Up and met with a Stockton buyer, according to prosecutors. They said De Jong told the buyer the trailer belonged to him and sold it for $200. The buyer later identified De Jong in a photo lineup.

The Offer Up web site provides its users guidelines for prohibited items. It also has a list of illegal items or items that encourage illegal activity not allowed on Offer Up. That list includes “stolen or found goods.”

Here are some steps that you can take to avoid vehicle break-ins and keep yourself and your belongings safe from thieves.

Prosecutors said De Jong sold other stolen trailers with advertisements on Offer Up, including a 2011 Apache dump trailer, worth about $10,000. The buyer didn’t know the dump trailer was reported stolen until he took it to a local CHP office to verify the Vehicle Identification Number.

The same buyer then asked the CHP to check another trailer DeJong had sold him, a 2008 SPCNS flatbed trailer worth about $1,800, according to prosecutors. Officers found the VIN had been covered by spray paint. The officers verified the VIN and confirmed that trailer was reported stolen Nov. 24, 2017, from Modesto.

On April 3, De Jong was sentenced to serve a year in the Stanislaus County Jail. The court also ordered De Jong to serve felony probation and pay restitution to the victims of his crimes.

Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.