California man arrested in stolen U-Haul after off-duty officer spots truck in St. George

2020 file photo of police vehicles at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 15 near Exit 40, Washington County, Utah, Nov. 2, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News/ Cedar City News

ST. GEORGE — A Northern California man is in jail after an off-duty police officer in St. George initiated a traffic stop on a U-Haul truck that was believed to be involved in a series of thefts reported Christmas Day, during which authorities recovered a treasure trove of burglary tools, credit and identification cards and other items allegedly related to crimes committed across Washington County.

Kevin Joseph Larrea, 38, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Dec. 29, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Kevin Joseph Larrea, 38, of Sanger, California, a town less than 13 miles east of Fresno in Northern California, was arrested on Dec. 29 in St. George and booked into jail with nine felony charges, including three counts of possession of another’s identifying documents, four counts of unlawful acquisition of a financial card, one count of identity fraud and one count of possession of a controlled substance.

The suspect also faces one count each of false personal information with intent to be another actual person, failure to disclose identity, possession of burglary tools and driving on a revoked license.

The arrest stems from an investigation that began with a traffic stop on Dec. 29 after an off-duty St. George Police officer observed a U-Haul truck with Arizona plates that possibly matched the truck reportedly used in a series of burglaries reported on Christmas Day.

According to the report, the officer began following the U-Haul and noticed the driver seemingly driving in circles, purportedly as if he was being followed. A second on-duty officer was called in to assist and the plates were reported to emergency dispatch, according to charging documents filed in support of the arrest.

Officers activated their emergency lights and sirens as they attempted to stop the vehicle near 700 East, but instead of pulling over, the U-Haul continued another few blocks before the driver pulled the truck over.

Officers approached the vehicle and the driver, later identified as Larrea, handed over his California driver’s license that listed a driver description that did not match the suspect they were talking to in the U-Haul. The report also states that while asking the driver about the rental truck, the officer noted the suspect’s answers “appeared very suspicious.”

The driver told police he rented the moving truck roughly one week prior but did not have the rental agreement. He went on to explain that he was not required to return the truck on any particular date, saying that he thought “he could return it whenever he was done using it.”

The officer then learned from dispatch that the driver’s license provided to police actually belonged to the victim of a vehicle theft. When questioned further, the suspect was unable to provide an accurate recollection of the descriptors and other identifying information listed on the license, which led the officer to believe, according to the report, the license was stolen and that the suspect was providing false information to police.

When authorities contacted U-Haul, the agent confirmed that a man using the same driver’s license rented the U-Haul on Dec. 21, and that the truck was supposed to be returned the following day. At the time of the traffic stop, the suspect had been in possession of the truck for more than a week.

Kevin Joseph Larrea, 25 at time of booking photo taken in Lake County, Calif., Sept. 27, 2007 after an arrest for felony possession of a stun gun and a bench warrant | Photo courtesy of California Mugshots, St. George News

As officers attempted to question the suspect further, Larrea asked for an attorney and all questions ceased while the suspect was taken into custody.

During a search prior to transport, officers recovered two more ID cards that did not belong to the suspect, along with four credit cards in other individuals’ names.  In a backpack officers found “burglary tools,” the report states, consisting of a pair of gloves, a head lamp, screw drivers, wrenches, a two way communication radio, as well as specialty keys used to access vending machines.

In another bag officers allegedly recovered multiple electronic devices and a small clear bag containing a white crystal substance consistent with methamphetamine.

The suspect was then transported to the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility; and shortly thereafter, the suspect provided police with his name and date of birth, and police later learned that Larrea had an extensive criminal history in California that included numerous convictions for burglary, theft of vehicles, possession of stolen government documents and drug offenses. The suspect also had a suspended driver’s license out of California.

The report also states that prior to the stop in St. George, Larrea had several run-ins with officers in Hurricane and Washington City, during which he used the stolen identification card that was presented to police during the traffic stop on Dec. 29.

One such incident reported in Washington City two weeks prior involved a theft reported at Walmart on Telegraph Road. When officers arrived, they learned that a suspect made several trips to the store over the course of two weeks. Each time, the suspect scanned several items at the self-checkout, the report states, but when he scanned his credit card, it was declined. The suspect proceeded to exit the store each time without paying for the items. More than $700 in merchandise in total was taken during the crimes.

Officers spoke to the suspect who was later cited by officers using the name listed on the same driver’s license that was confiscated by police in St. George last week.

The report also states that several days later, officers were advised by the Washington City Justice Court that the name listed on the citations matched an individual who reported his vehicle as stolen out of California prior to the suspect arriving in Utah.

Once Larrea was arrested in St. George and booked into jail in Washington County, police in Washington City re-submitted the charges using the suspect’s accurate name and information, including three misdemeanor counts of retail theft and one count of providing false information to a peace officer.

A search of court records from California revealed that Larrea has several convictions and cases filed in multiple counties throughout the state, including Lake County, Fresno County, San Mateo County and several others.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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