Suspect arrested in donation jug heist
A man jailed on Friday for alleged traffic violations has been linked to the theft of charity donation cash at a local liquor store earlier this month, according to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.
Bobby Lloyd Mestas, 42, 2101 Chipeta Ave., was arrested Friday on suspicion of several charges, including second-degree burglary, complicity and misdemeanor theft, after deputies found Mestas’ van abandoned on the side of a road. He’d apparently run out of gas.
Mestas is accused of involvement in a Dec. 4 theft of donated cash at Enterprise Liquor, 2923 North Ave. The store had a 5-gallon plastic water jug on the front counter where staff was collecting donations for a local high student toward financing a study abroad trip. The jug was believed to have $500 to $800, according to Mestas’ arrest affidavit.
Store clerk Lori Popick told deputies she caught a glimpse of a man running out of the store with the jug, then ran after him. A bystander pointed out a white van the suspect fled in. Popick was offered a ride by the bystander and they pursued the van east on the Interstate 70 Business Loop, eventually pulling up along side of the van at a stoplight, according to the affidavit.
Popick said she recognized the passenger as the man who’d just stolen the jug.
She said she yelled at him to return the money.
“Lori said the male asked something to the effect of, ‘What money?’ the affidavit said. “Lori said she answered to the male, ‘The money you were just counting,’ as Lori witnessed the driver and passenger counting.’ “
Popick got the van’s license plate number, the affidavit said. The plate was found to be missing from the true owner.
The case went cold until Dec. 13, when an anonymous tipster claimed Mestas and another unknown man were involved in the theft. Mestas was supposedly bragging about it.
“The caller had heard Bobby make mention that he had license plates on the van that were not registered to him, and that he could not be found due to having done this,” the affidavit said.
The van and license plate didn’t turn up until Friday when a deputy stopped to assist a motorist who was out of gas.
“I did not immediately recognize the driver, as he exited the driver’s seat with a gas can in hand and motioned to a gas station just up the street, signifying he was out of gas,” a deputy wrote in the affidavit. By the time the deputy realized the driver was Mestas, the suspect had already abandoned the van after calling for a ride.
Mestas was arrested later that day after a warrant issued for a series of traffic violations, including driving with a revoked license as a habitual traffic offender and displaying fictitious plates. Mestas refused to be interviewed about the liquor store theft, the affidavit said.
In a photo lineup, Popick, and the bystander who gave her a ride on Dec. 4, identified Mestas as the suspect in the theft.