By Carlos Padilla
Officials with the Truth or Consequences Police Department have arrested two people on charges of stealing a vehicle. According to statements of probable cause filed in Sierra County Magistrate Court, 35-year-old Tina M. Villa-Mercado and then-19-year-old Anthony Casaus have each been charged with receiving or transferring a stolen motor vehicle and possession of a controlled substance or paraphernalia.
Just before 10 p.m., Wednesday, March 14, TCPD Sgt. Ted Ontiveros conducted a traffic stop on East Riverside Drive, stopping a black 1995 Jeep Cherokee that did not have taillights.
The driver, Ms. Villa-Mercado, told Sgt. Ontiveros that they were at the lake and had got stuck. She went on to tell the officer that someone had pushed them, and it could have damaged the taillights.
When Sgt. Ontiveros asked her for driver’s license, Ms. Villa-Mercado stated that she did not have it with her.
Sgt. Ontiveros was advised by Dispatch that the vehicle Ms. Villa-Mercado was driving had been reported stolen, and that Ms. Villa-Mercado had an active warrant.
TCPD Officer Erica Baker arrived on scene, and the officials conducted a felony traffic stop, placed Ms. Villa-Mercado under arrest and placed her passenger, later identified as Anthony Casaus, into custody.
Sierra County Sheriff’s Department Corporal Paul Montoya and Deputy Stewart Johnson arrived at the scene and assisted the TCPD officials.
The male passenger denied having a driver’s license, and when asked for his name and date of birth, he provided Sgt. Ontiveros with his correct name, but provided a birth date one day off from his actual date of birth. Dispatch operators told Sgt. Ontiveros that there was no record of Mr. Casaus. Sgt. Ontiveros then asked Casaus for his Social Security number, and was again advised that there was no record for Mr. Casaus.
While Deputy Johnson transported Mr. Casaus to the U.S. Border Patrol station north of the city to run his prints through the Automated Finger Print System, Ms. Villa-Mercado told Officer Baker that a glass pipe and hypodermic needles were located in the vehicle’s console.
When TCPD K9 Officer Leonard Stufflebean arrived at the scene with the department’s drug dog, Officer Baker obtained Ms. Villa-Mercado’s consent for a search of the vehicle. That search produced several items of drug paraphernalia inside the vehicle and luggage belonging to the occupants.
Officials transported Ms. Villa-Mercado to the Sierra County Detention Facility after she stated that she is pregnant and complained that she was cold.
TCPD Detective Joshua Baker arrived at the scene and conducted a field interview with Mr. Casaus before going to the jail and interviewing Ms. Villa-Mercado.
The suspects were then formally charged and taken into custody.