SAN BERNARDINO – Three suspects are due in court this week to answer charges of stealing tailgates from the back of pickup trucks, a crime that drew a six-month investigation from San Bernardino County sheriff’s investigators.
Damon Lamar Robbins, 39, Michelle Adaeze Abandy, 22, and Meghan Nicole Mitchell, 26, all of Winchester, were arrested and are scheduled to appear Wednnesday in San Bernardino Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga for a preliminary hearing.
While Abandy was arrested, court records show she may not be prosecuted in the case.
Chino deputies identified the three suspects after finding seven stolen tailgates at a Montclair wrecking yard on Aug. 3. Wrecking yard officials told investigators about the transactions with the suspects.
Robbins is on parole for possession of stolen property and the two others were on parole for fraud, said police. Robbins has two prior convictions and has spent time in prison for a non-violent felony.
“The suspects stole the tailgates, removed the vehicle identification number from the tailgate to conceal its origin, and then sold the tailgates on internet sites and/or to local auto parts/dismantling businesses,” said one police report.
Other tailgates were discovered at a parolee’s home in Winchester, a small town located just outside Hemet, according to deputies. A day after the arrests, deputies found additional tailgates, including one stolen from Murrieta. The stolen tailgates were confiscated as evidence and those that were identified were returned to their owners.
The theft of tailgates seems to be directed at Toyota Tundra and Tacoma pickup trucks. Sheriff’s officials are saying truck owners should engrave their driver’s license number and their vehicle identification numbers on their tailgates and, perhaps, other parts of vehicles.
Sheriff’s investigators said the investigation into tailgate theft is continuing.
“There are so many wrecking yards, dismantling yards, shops that deal in parts like this that it takes a lot of leg work,” said one investigator.
Robbins and Mitchell will appear in court on Wednesday morning in a pre-preliminary hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence to determine if there will be a trial on charges of receiving stolen property, court documents said.
Abandy was convicted last year on felony forgery charges while burglary charges were dismissed.
The case has touched parts of three separate counties, including the Los Angeles County city of Montclair, plus the San Bernardino County city of Chino while the suspects resided in Riverside County.