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Alleged gang member charged in car thefts
Suspected gang member arrested in Stafford car theft spree

Date published: 5/25/2005

By KEITH EPPS

An apparent gang member has been arrested in connection with a rash of vehicle thefts and break-ins in Stafford County.

Daniel Villatoro, 18, of Woodbridge is charged with obstruction of justice, two counts of grand larceny and 15 counts of tampering with a vehicle.

Overall, there were 36 vehicle tamperings and four vehicle thefts over the weekend, mostly in North Stafford, according to Stafford Sheriff Charles Jett. He said investigators think Villatoro and fellow suspected Northern Virginia gang members came to Stafford specifically to steal and break into cars.

Jett did not name the gang.

The spree started late Friday in Park Ridge subdivision, Jett said, when people went into at least eight vehicles and stole money, credit cards, compact discs and other items. They also stole three vehicles.

One of the vehicles was recovered Sunday on Fulton Drive. Those who took it apparently left it there after seeing another car they wanted.

Jett said his office increased patrols in that area as complaints kept coming in.

Police got the break they needed about 1:30 a.m. Monday from off-duty Aquia Harbour Police Chief Aurie Schwarting. Jett said Schwarting called the Sheriff’s Office after seeing people rifling through cars in Stone River subdivision.

Schwarting gave police a description of the car the suspects were in, including the fact that the vehicle’s tire had been flattened when they slammed into a curb.

Deputy Larry Neal spotted a car matching that description leaving the subdivision and tried to stop it near U.S. 1. The vehicle, which had a flat tire, accelerated into the nearby Food Lion shopping center. The driver and the passenger bailed out before the car came to a complete stop.

They ran into the woods with Neal and Sgt. Ryan Pangretic pursuing on foot. Other deputies rushed to the area and set up a perimeter.

About five minutes later, Jett said, the dog found Villatoro in the brush. He is being held without bond in the Rappahannock Regional Jail.

The vehicle involved in the pursuit had just been stolen, Jett said. Another stolen vehicle was found in Prince William County, leaving just one of the four stolen vehicles—a blue Ford Explorer—missing as of last night.

Jett said most of the cars, if not all, had been left unlocked. Some had keys left in them.

“This type of crime is becoming more and more prevalent,” Jett said. “That’s why we’re asking residents to lock their cars no matter where they live.”

Jett said his office receives reports of about 400 larcenies from cars a year and between 100 and 150 vehicle thefts.

To reach KEITH EPPS: 540/374-5404 kepps@freelancestar.com