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Three men arrested on suspicion of auto theft

Three men were arrested on suspicion of auto theft Wednesday, after a Merced police officer allegedly spotted the suspects in possession of two stolen cars.

Police arrested Merced residents Pheng Moua, 21, Pao Choua Vang, 26, and Joshua Lee Goodman, 18.

The men were taken into custody shortly before 4:30 a.m., not long after an officer came across a black Honda Civic and a white Honda Civic stopped next to each other in the 3500 block of Sepulveda Avenue, according to Cmdr. Floyd Higdon.

Police watched the black Honda Civic drive away, while the person in the white Honda got out and tried to walk away, Higdon said.

After the black Honda was stopped on Sepulveda Avenue, police identified the driver as Moua, and Vang as the passenger. Police noticed that the steering column was partially damaged and that the ignition switch was torn out, Higdon said. The officer asked Moua if the car was stolen, and he acknowledged that it was, police said.

Another officer located the person who fled the scene, and identified him as Goodman. After checking the registration of the white Honda, police confirmed that it too had been stolen. Police also located two video monitors inside the car, which the car's owner didn't recognize.

Under questioning, Moua admitted stealing the black Honda, saying that he used a screwdriver to gain entry and hotwire it, Higdon said. After stealing the car, police said he picked up Vang and two others. Moua said they broke into another car near Sixth and T streets, and stole the video monitors, according to Higdon.

Moua said the group located the white Honda Civic parked on Sepulveda Avenue, which Goodman broke into. After police stopped the alleged thieves, Higdon said a fourth person also fled on-foot.

Vang told police that although he knew they were breaking into vehicles and taking property, he didn't participate in the crimes, Higdon said.

Goodman told Officer Lee that he knew that the black Honda Civic that he was riding in was stolen. He also admitted to breaking into the white Honda Civic, in order to steal something to sell.

Moua was booked on suspicion of auto theft, burglary, possession of stolen property and attempted burglary. His bail was set at $60,000. Vang was booked on suspicion of burglary, attempted burglary, possession of stolen property, and theft with a prior theft conviction. His bail was set at $70,000.

Goodman was booked on suspicion of burglary, attempted burglary and possession of stolen property. His bail was set at $55,000.

Police are asking anyone with information about this incident is requested to call Detective Luis Solis at (209) 385-4703 or the department's tip line at (209) 385-4725. Callers can remain anonymous.