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Sheriff's department: Farmer's pig pens stolen for scrap metal

Instead of the familiar chant “Who let the dogs out?”, a Ballico farmer had to be wondering who stole his pig pens. Nobody squealed but patrol deputies ultimately provided the sizzle that may have solved the porcine case.

Short answer: It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for two men arrested in connection with the theft of pig pens from a 14-acre turkey ranch at Turlock and Lee roads in the Ballico area.

David Floth, 56, of Merced and Manuel Hernandez, 41, of Planada were arrested by Merced County Sheriff’s Department deputies Pat Dayton and Tarlochao Sohal on charges of grand theft, burglary and vandalism charges. Floth and Hernandez remained in Merced County Jail Thursday in lieu of $75,000 bail each.

Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff’s department spokesman, said the men were arrested about 2 p.m. Wednesday. The deputies were checking outbuildings on the ranch when they saw a pickup truck with the two men leaving a barn, pulling a trailer full of dismantled pig pens. The pens were to be sold for scrap metal.

MacKenzie said several thefts have been reported over the past couple weeks. Investigation is ongoing as to whether or not this was Floth and Hernandez’ first trip or if there are linked to previous thefts.

Dayton said that well over $30,000 worth of theft and damage had been done to the property on prior occasions. Among the missing materials were approximately 300 feet of roofing for the turkey pens, which is made out of aluminum, hundreds of feet of copper wire, pieces of metal from different parts of the ranch, all to be sold as scrap metal for cash.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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