Weld County, Colo., deputies arrest second man in investigation into cattle panel thefts
for the Greeley Tribune
The Weld District Attorney’s office has until 3:30 p.m. to file a charge against Sergio Rocha-Rodriguez. Steven Herrera, who deputies say is also involved in the cattle panel thefts, is scheduled to appear in court 9 a.m. Friday.
Charges were filed Dec. 11 against a second man Weld County Sheriff’s Office deputies say was involved in a series of cattle panel thefts that cost an energy company thousands of dollars.
According to affidavits for their arrest, deputies believe Sergio Rocha-Rodriguez, 36, aided Steven Herrera, 42, in stealing 21 of the panels from a PDC Energy site near Weld County roads 18 and 55, about 10 miles northeast of Hudson, Colo. Police say the thefts took place in late November and early December, with the total amount of stolen property worth about $4,200. The panels, which are a type of ranching equipment made from metal piping, bear resemblance to a fence or gate and are about 5 feet high and 10 feet long, typically painted red.
Herrera’s arrest came in the evening of Dec. 4, when deputies pulled him over near the intersection of U.S. 85 and Weld 6, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. When they pulled him over, he had six cattle panels loaded in the back of his pickup, and Rodriguez was in the passenger seat. Herrera later told police he was on his way back from the PDC Energy site and admitted he and Rodriguez loaded the stolen property into the truck earlier that day and they were on their way to sell them illegally when officers stopped him.
The case against Rodriguez took a few more days to build. Deputies spoke with him Dec. 7 in Fort Lupton, where he agreed to hand over the shoes he’d been wearing so deputies could compare the prints to those found at the scene of the theft. Rodriguez also told them he helped “scope” out the scene with Herrera and confirmed when the two men were pulled over that they were on their way back to Herrera’s house to unload the panels and sell them. It was enough for deputies to book him into the Weld County Jail on suspicion of theft. And later charged him with theft, a class six felony.
The thefts may be part of a larger picture, according to law enforcement. Since May, about 350 such panels have disappeared throughout the county, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. In total, the stolen property is worth about $70,000.
Deputies believe other people are involved in the string of thefts, though, and are asking for the public’s help in finding them. Anyone with information can contact the Weld County Sheriff’s Office at (970) 356-4015 or Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.