Fresno, Calif. - A vintage Chevy pickup vanishes from a man's driveway. Now, less than a day later the truck has returned home and a suspect is behind bars. It was a case of auto theft that had people across the Valley in search of the precious truck. Officers cracked the case Thursday afternoon.
Thursday 46-year-old Varlee Moberg was arrested. Investigators say they saw him driving the classic truck across town.
Moberg was behind bars Thursday night. Investigators tell me he has been arrested several times for stealing cars, but continues to make his way back out on the streets because of Prop 47. His latest arrest comes after an emotional 24 hours for the man he's accused of stealing from.
"I actually started having heart and chest pains yesterday. When I came home this truck was gone," said longtime Fresno resident Jim Crowder.
Wednesday Crowder was suffering from a broken heart after noticing his 1962 Chevy pickup, his pride and joy for more than 40 years had been stolen.
"I really couldn't sleep very good last night. I was trying to think why would anyone take the truck and where would it go?," said Crowder.
But a day later, investigators with the multi-agency HEAT team spotted the truck at Maple and Gettysburg.
"They keep eyes on the vehicle, then they start to see it drive off. They start to follow the truck and next thing you know the suspect is taking them right back to the neighborhood where the truck disappeared from," said Fresno County Sheriff's spokeman Tony Botti.
"You've got to be kidding me. How often does an auto theft thief bring the car back from where he took it?," said Crowder.
"He pulls up in front of the victim's house parks it like it's no big deal and gets out and walks away," said Botti.
46-year-old Varlee Moberg was arrested. Investigators describe him as a career car thief. Crowder's truck looks a little different.
"There's some damage here. This is something they hit," Crowder said as he showed us.
But he's thankful to be back in the driver's seat.
"These officers. They went out of their way. They're super," said Crowder.
For Mr. Crowder this old truck is about more than just a ride. It's a reflection of his past.
"It's memories. It's my truck. I see that and I think of my dad, my brother, and they're all gone. I couldn't bare missing it. I don't mean to get emotional, but that's what it is to me," said Crowder.
The crackdown on auto theft in the Fresno area is producing results. Since the start of the year the multi agency heat unit has recovered 300 stolen vehicles and have made more than 80 arrests.