ST. GEORGE — Two men are being held without bail after thousands of dollars in construction materials were found in a lot a block from where the items were reportedly stolen from. After the owner noticed stolen items on the lot, detectives learned it was an inside job, police say.

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On Thursday, officers were dispatched to a business on South Warehouse Drive in Washington City to follow up on a theft reported several days prior, and according to charging documents filed with the court.

The incident involved the theft of wooden scaffolding planks valued at more than $11,000 — in addition to other construction-related items that reportedly went missing from the business.

The business owner told investigators that the stolen property had been spotted in a lot located about a block from where it was reportedly taken from. 

The lot, the report states, is surrounded by a six-foot block wall, with one area near the rear of the property where the elevated sidewalk shortened the height of the wall by about 3 feet, providing a clear view of the items stored inside of the fenced-in area.

Inside of the lot, investigators found tri-color planks that appeared to have been repainted with a different color, allegedly as a means to conceal the unique identity markings implemented by the owner.

Several other items also found in the yard were custom made for the company reporting the loss, in addition to several construction-related items that had gone missing from the company over the course of several months, including items that were unique to the business affected.

The Washington City Police Department recently became the fourth department in Southern Utah to earn accreditation from the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, Washington City, Utah, Nov. 11, 2023 | Photo by Haven Scott, St. George News

Investigators obtained information on the two men that were leasing the lot, one of whom was 57-year-old Jose Maria Soto-Carrasco, who ran a business out of the lot with a relative and co-owner who has not been charged in the case.

When officers responded to the addresses listed for both owners, they confirmed that the men lived in St. George, and also learned they kept their work supplies in a yard on Warehouse Drive in Washington City.

Officers then reached out to the owner who reported the incident and advised him to come to the lot to retrieve the property belonging to his business. The owner showed up with his crew and began the process of claiming all the property that had reportedly gone missing from his business, the report alleges. 

Officers spoke to Carrasco, the co-owner of the recipient business, who said it was his business partner who had purchased all of the planks, concrete and metal scaffolding from “a guy,” Carrasco said.

He went on to say that he became suspicious that the boards might be stolen when he realized that the planks appeared to be “brand new,” and said he never touched the property, the officer noted in the report.

The co-owner told officers he had met a man named “Pablo” who offered to sell a relative several planks and other materials that were left over from a previous job site. He also said that later, he had asked another relative to come to the lot to help him paint the scaffolding blue and orange — the same color marked on the empty spray paint cans found in the yard near the planks by investigators.

The co-owner then pointed to one of the complainant’s employees — who was in the yard retrieving the alleged stolen property — as the man whom he had purchased the property from. The man was later identified as 33-year-old Pablo Munoz-Reyes, of St. George, an employee of the complainant who had filed the report with the police.

Detectives spoke with Reyes, who reportedly admitted to stealing the planks from the company he worked for, and said that sometime last week, Carrasco had asked him to sell him some planks when the two met up at a job site. Carrasco also said he would leave the gate to the lot unlocked, and the keys to the forklift in the ignition, as noted from Reyes’s statement to detectives.

A day or so later, Reyes said, he went into work an hour or so before his shift and reportedly started moving the materials from his employer’s property to the lot down the street. He also told investigators that Carrasco had not agreed on a price, nor had the suspect been paid anything for the materials that he dropped off days before.

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Reyes went on to tell investigators he had stolen the planks because he needed extra money for family medical expenses in Mexico, but denied stealing any other materials other than the scaffolding planks.

The suspect was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility after speaking to police.  

During a second interview with Carrasco, the suspect “began to laugh, calling [Reyes] a liar,” the officer noted, and when detectives advised the suspect of the seriousness of the matter, with “thousands of dollars in property” that was stolen, the suspect responded by saying that Reyes had offered to sell him leftover materials.

He also said he had not paid anything for materials, nor did the two ever agree on a price. When detectives outlined their suspicions that Carrasco knew the planks were stolen by his attempts to modify the items by painting them a different color, the suspect told officers that he never touched the planks because he thought they may have been stolen.

Carrasco was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility and was booked into jail on second-degree felony theft. Reyes was also booked into jail facing second-degree felony theft and third-degree felony burglary. Both suspects are being held without bail.

The charges are currently under review by the Washington County Attorney’s Office and on Thursday, Reyes was placed on a hold by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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