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3 held in Ventura County farm equipment thefts

December 16, 2011 |  6:47 pm

Ventura County investigators have arrested three men suspected of sneaking onto farm fields late at night and stealing costly metal posts and shades used to grow specialty crops.

Sheriff's detectives this week arrested Rudy Martin Padilla, 45; Stephen Jones, 39; and Armando Serna, 37, on suspicion of grand theft and possession of stolen property. All three reside in Oxnard.

A special farm-crime unit of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department had been tracking the suspects over several weeks as multiple thefts took place on several farms in the unincorporated agricultural lands near Camarillo, authorities said.

Stolen were steel poles and steel stakes used to construct hoop houses that shade raspberries during the growing season. The estimated loss to the ranches was nearly $100,000, authorities said.

Farm thefts are a big problem in Ventura County, where agriculture is still a vibrant industry with crops valued at $1.8 billion. 

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-- Catherine Saillant in Ventura

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