Patterson Police Services (PPS) detectives recently conducted a sting that has netted four arrests over the past several days. They are still investigating the case, as they believe at least one other suspect may be involved.

Detective Talea Martin said late Wednesday that police had arrested a suspect they believe to be the ringleader. Robert Allen Bettencourt, 32, of Fremont, is in custody on charges of burglary and grand theft. Bail has been set at $50,000.

Martin, who has been assigned to Patterson since February, said that a number of thefts have occurred, at more than one warehouse, over the past few months. She said the suspects were placing will call orders for construction-related tools and supplies, including relatively inexpensive things like drills, but also more pricey items, such as generators, “on various corporate accounts.” The group picked up merchandise worth thousands of dollars “(at) multiple locations, multiple times a day,” Martin said.

They were gone with the merchandise long before the distribution centers’ customers received the invoices for the bogus orders – and, naturally, refused to pay.

When it happened at Grainger, the latest to be hit, employees alerted police.

A fraudulent will call order was again placed last Friday morning, and detectives did surveillance of the business, Martin said. They had been watching the distribution center for a couple of hours when the first suspects, whom police have identified as Matthew Allen Bellmer, 35, of Union City and Michael James Kean, 46, of Fremont, arrived. The officers waited while the items were loaded onto the suspects’ vehicle. Once all of the items were was placed on the vehicle, the suspects were arrested. Both were charged with grand theft and conspiracy, Martin said.

At the time of this writing, the Stanislaus County Jail custody list shows a Matthew Allen Bellmer, 35, of Hayward in custody on a charge of grand theft. (Editor’s note: such a discrepancy can occur when a person has moved but not updated their address with the DMV.) Bail has been set at $20,000. No Michael Kean was listed.

A second fraudulent order was placed Friday afternoon, and detectives, who were still at the distribution center working on paperwork, again set up surveillance. After watching the business for about three more hours, the team was preparing to leave when the third suspect, Carlo A. Benaducci, 44, of San Bruno, arrived to pick up the order.

Benaducci was also arrested after the merchandise was loaded into his vehicle. The jail custody list currently shows a Carlo Angello Benaducci, 44, of San Francisco, in custody on a number of charges, including possession of a controlled substance for sale, grand theft, a firearms-related charge, an enhancement for committing a crime while on probation and outstanding warrants. Bail, which was originally set at $110,000, is now listed at $220,000. Martin said the bail had been increased because Benaducci was out on bail in another county when he was arrested in connection with the thefts.

Detectives have linked these thefts to others, and believe there have been more. They are hoping these arrests will encourage other victims to come forward.

Martin said police were hopeful that the arrest of the alleged ringleader would lead them to the fraudulently-obtained merchandise, so it could be returned. “We were hoping to recover the stolen property, which did not occur today,” Martin said.

“Our goal is to make Patterson a family-safe community,” she said, echoing a message the department has been actively working to send: ‘If you commit crime in our community, we will find you and arrest you.’

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