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Suspected cattle rustlers arrested in Lancaster; bull euthanized

November 1, 2012 |  1:08 pm

This Black Angus bull suffered a broken back and had to be euthanized, authorities said. Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Three people suspected of stealing cattle from a rancher and a stock auction in Oklahoma were rounded up and arrested this week in Lancaster, authorities said.

A brand inspector from the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture contacted L.A. County sheriff's deputies in Lancaster on Oct. 19 with information about the livestock theft, sheriff's officials said.

Officials say the suspects -- Santos Zapata of Lancaster, Ryan Ross of Arkansas and Lucia Castillo of Missouri -- used a fraudulent check to purchase a Black Angus bull from a rancher in Oklahoma. The trio then used another fake check to buy an additional 14 head of cattle from a nearby stock auction, authorities said in statement.

“After loading all of the animals into a stock trailer, the suspects began their modern day 'Cattle Drive' back to California,” the statement said. 

The agriculture department inspector told sheriff’s deputies the suspects’ truck had been traced to a ranch in the 45300 block of 60th Street West in Lancaster, authorities said. 

Officers later detained the suspects as they tried to leave the ranch in a truck hauling a stock trailer, authorities said. An investigation revealed the suspects had sold the 14 head of cattle Monday at stock auctions in Riverside and Bakersfield, officials said.

The Black Angus bull was found inside a corral on the property and appeared to have suffered a broken back. A local veterinarian determined he would have to be euthanized and the bull was put down, authorities said. 

Further investigation revealed the trailer used to transport the stolen animals had been reported stolen in Arkansas and its license plate had been stolen from a vehicle in Kern County, authorities said. 

Zapata, Ross and Castillo face charges of animal cruelty and vehicle theft, according to sheriff’s officials. They are scheduled to appear in court Nov. 9 and will later be sent back to Oklahoma to face criminal charges, authorities said.

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-- Ann M. Simmons in Santa Clarita

Photo: This Black Angus bull suffered a broken back and had to be euthanized, authorities said. Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

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