A Sahuarita man was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty in three separate felony cases in Pima County Superior Court.

According to court documents, two men stole a 300-pound diesel generator radiator and motion trail cameras from Vulcan Materials on South Old Nogales Highway on Jan. 22, 2019. Sahuarita Police officers found one of the cameras and it had taken a picture of one of the suspects.

Detectives released the photo to the media and Gabrial Arce, 29, was identified as the man in the picture. He was arrested Feb. 1, 2019, after authorities said his accomplice also implicated him in the crime. He was released from jail the following day.

The next month, deputies spotted a stolen Jeep and followed it into an apartment complex. The driver fled when the deputies approached it, but they later found Arce hiding nearby. In and around the Jeep, deputies found baggies filled with methamphetamine and heroin, a handgun, four handheld radios, marijuana and pliers Arce admitted to using to start the Jeep, which had a broken steering column.

On May 16, 2019, a lab informed authorities that DNA found after a series of incidents at B&C Towing in Tucson matched Arce's DNA. He was served with an arrested warrant in July 2019 while sitting in jail in the earlier cases.

In the towing case, two women reported their purses were stolen out of a car that had been towed to B&C towing on Dec. 24, 2018. When deputies went to investigate, the manager informed them she'd found a severely damaged tow truck still running near a fence that had been cut. She reported the tow truck had struck another vehicle on the lot. She also reported other vehicles had been moved and a stack of tires and wheels had been placed near the cut fence.

Arce pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary in the B&C Towing case, trafficking in stolen property in the Vulcan Materials case and possession of narcotic drugs for sale (heroin) in the stolen Jeep case. Twenty other charges he was facing were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

He received four years in the Vulcan Materials case and a consecutive sentence of 18 months in the B&C Towing case. He received a four-year term in the stolen Jeep case, to be served concurrently, or at the same time, with the other two cases. He was sentenced Jan. 29 by Judge Kim Ortiz.

Prosecutors are still working to determine the restitution owed, but court documents state it could reach as much as $160,000. 

The manager of B&C Towing told a presentence report writer that because the tow truck was totaled as a result of the damage, they struggled for months and lost employees because they couldn't pay them. 

"He stole items from cars on the lot we didn't own. It affected our reputation. We had to install cameras. In over 20 years of business, we've never been so close to failing as a business," she said.

The case against his co-defendant, Daniel Valdez-Torres, in the Vulcan Materials case is ongoing.

Kim Smith | 520-547-9740

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