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Stolen loot discovered in Kern County lake

July 28, 2011 |  3:38 pm

Divers search in a Kern County lake.

An errant golf shot led to the latest discovery of loot from a theft ring that apparently dumped its booty into the murky shallows of a Kern County lake.

A suspect who may have ties to the thefts was arraigned on a separate charge of receiving stolen property.

Divers recovered a trove of pilfered goods July 20 from the floor of Four Island Lake in Bear Valley Springs, an unincorporated community west of Tehachapi.

The two dozen items included iPhones, iPods, GPS devices, a flat-screen television and power tools, such as sanders and chain saws. Also recovered was a 12-gauge shotgun.

While some items were in bags, the bags were not water tight.

Investigators suspect thieves were not planning a later salvage operation, but rather disposing of evidence, possibly out of fear investigators might be closing in.

For burglarized residents, investigators had good news and bad, said Sgt. David Watts of the Bear Valley Police Department: “The bad news is I don’t think it’s going to work anymore.”

“The only thing that would come in on that TV is Nemo,” and only if Nemo “swam in,” said Watts referring to the animated fish character in the film “Finding Nemo.”

The divers were supplied by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, whose divers frequently have the grim task of recovering human remains from oceans, lakes and rivers.

The recovered items may have been tossed from the shore.

Nothing was found further out than about 30 feet, but that area of the lake, with stagnant, black water was especially challenging, said Lt. Jack Ewell, who supervised the dive by the department’s special enforcement bureau.

“It was a very difficult dive because of the type of water,” he said. “You can’t even see more than a few inches.”

With depths up to 15 feet near that shore, 10 divers, working in teams of two, used scuba gear and combed the bottom inch by inch over several hours, Ewell said.

It was just bad aim that resulted in the latest find.

A duffer found a power tool “while looking for a golf ball in the shallow marsh ... apparently the result of a terrible shot along the first fairway on the Oak Tree Country Club golf course,” Watts said.

Police matched the tool to an item on its list of stolen property.

The last two or three months have witnessed a raft of thefts in Bear Valley from homes, garages and vehicles, said Watts.

Authorities consider the theft ring “partially broken,” Watts said.

Some juveniles were arrested in the course of the probe, as well as a 25-year-old man, Jeremy Lee Britt of Bear Valley, for receiving stolen property. Britt was arraigned in Kern County Superior Court.


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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Divers search in a Kern County lake. Credit: Bear Valley Police Department