BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - Deputies with the Butte County Sheriff's Office arrested three subjects early Friday morning with a connection to agricultural theft as well as mail theft.
Officials say on March 20 at approximately 3 a.m., deputies with the Butte County Sheriff's Office were alerted to a burglary in progress at a building on Hamilton Nord Cana Highway in Butte County west of Chico.
Officials say deputies had been investigating numerous thefts in the northern Butte County area directly related to agricultural theft. This particular property had been the victim of recent thefts of building materials during the remodel of an ag-shop building.
Deputies say they had placed a piece of equipment inside the shop equipped with a tracking device. The equipment was also coated in Smart Water CSI.
Officials say Smart Water CSI is a forensic marking solution used to identify items of property when they have been stolen to help identify the owner and get the property returned. When an object is coated with this transferable grease, it will transfer the coating to any skin/clothing that has touched the item and will remain there for a number of days. Each batch of Smart Water is a unique mixture registered to individual users and is invisible to the naked eye.
Officials say after being alerted to the theft of equipment, Butte County Sheriff Deputies tracked the equipment to a parking lot on Esplanade at East Ave in Chico.
Deputies contacted three subjects standing outside of a vehicle in the parking lot. Deputies carry a special high UV spectrum flashlight that I used to locate the smart Water CSI. When deputies used the special flashlight, they were able to see traces of the Smart Water on all three subjects' hands and clothing.
The three subjects were identified as Ryan Marx, 43, Christopher Seghetti, 32, and Joanna Zepeda 30.
Deputies say the stolen equipment, valued at $2,000, was located in the back seat of the vehicle and was recovered.
Officials say one of the burglary tools located happened to be a makeshift post office key used to open a community mailbox. A large amount of mail was located in the vehicle as well that appeared to be recently stolen from a business district in the north end of the City of Chico. Deputies say they will investigate the mail theft and will be returning that stolen mail to the owners.
All the subjects were arrested and charged with burglary, grand theft, possession of burglary tools and receiving stolen property.
If anyone has any information regarding agricultural-related thefts in Butte County, please contact Sgt. Josh Brazzi at (530) 990-6852 or by email at email@example.com