Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Man charged in Hailey auto heists

Eighteen-year-old suspect faces 13 criminal charges

Express Staff Writer

Bruce A. Lopez

An 18-year-old Hailey man has been charged with 13 crimes—seven of them felonies—for allegedly stealing and burglarizing vehicles during an auto theft spree in October and November in Hailey.

Bruce A. Lopez was formally charged with the crimes on Nov. 26 in Blaine County Magistrate Court. He remained incarcerated Tuesday in Blaine County jail on $10,000 bond.

Hailey police arrested Lopez and a 17-year-old Hailey boy on Nov. 24 after they were allegedly spotted in a 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe stolen on Nov. 22 from the Balmoral apartments. Court records are not publicly available on the juvenile, but Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said the boy faces similar charges to those against Lopez.

Gunter said police believe the arrests will put an end to a theft spree that involved seven stolen vehicles in Hailey during the past two months. In each case, the vehicles had been left unlocked with the keys inside.

Gunter said police also recovered some $1,500 worth of merchandise allegedly stolen by Lopez and the juvenile from the vehicles. Gunter said all seven of the vehicles have now been recovered. One of them was a Senior Connection van used to shuttle senior citizens to doctor, hospital and hair appointments, stolen Nov. 17 and found wrecked the following day in Colorado Gulch west of Hailey.

Most of the other vehicles were found unattended in the Woodside area of southeast Hailey, where Gunter said both of the suspects live.

Lopez has been charged with one count of felony grand theft, six counts of felony burglary and six counts of the misdemeanor charge of "driving vehicle without owner's consent."

Public defender Douglas Werth was appointed to represent Lopez. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Dec. 10 at 9 a.m.

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