Three men from Modesto, Ceres arrested in Columbia-area mail-theft, drug case

From left, Jose Lopez, Ruben Deleon and Bobby Moss
From left, Jose Lopez, Ruben Deleon and Bobby Moss

A report of a suspicious vehicle with a flat tire in the Big Hill area of Columbia led to the arrests of three Stanislaus County men on mail-theft and drug charges, according to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office.

About 5:50 a.m. Tuesday, deputies were dispatched to a report of three men and a woman, with a large amount of mail, in a car stuck in the caller’s driveway. The car left the reporting party’s residence before deputies arrived, but they located it a short distance away.

The car was found unoccupied, with its doors open. Inside, deputies found stolen mail, about 34 grams of methamphetamine, and items commonly associated with drug sales. “The amount of mail is unknown at this time,” Deputy Niccoli Sandelin told The Bee on Wednesday, adding that all of it had been taken from Tuolumne County residents.

Ceres resident Bobby Moss, 47, and Modesto resident Jose Lopez, 43, were found hiding nearby and arrested.

A couple of hours later, deputies received another call from a Big Hill resident of a man who looked like he had been running, the Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook. The man was asking for water and a ride to Jamestown.

When deputies arrived, they contacted the man, Ruben Deleon, 46, of Modesto. He was determined to be the third man from the car, so was arrested.

The woman from the car, 38-year-old Gina Chiodo of Modesto, was found hiding underneath an abandoned house in the area. She was issued a citation for conspiracy to commit a crime and possession of stolen property.

Moss and Lopez were booked on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of stolen property and possession of drug paraphernalia. Deleon was booked on suspicion of transportation of drugs for sales, possession of drugs for sales, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of stolen property and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Postal Inspection Service offers tips on protecting mail from theft, including:

  • Use the letter slots inside your post office for your mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.

  • Don’t send cash in the mail.

  • Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight. If you’re expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.

  • If you don’t receive a check or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.

  • If you change your address, immediately notify your post office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.

Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.