Two brothers have been arrested on suspicion of stealing sheep from two ranches in Sonoma County this month, a Sonoma County sheriff's sergeant said.
The stolen sheep are part of a spike in livestock thefts in the county over the past few months, Sgt. Mike Raasch said.
A rancher reported three sheep were stolen from her property in the 3100 block of Adobe Road in Petaluma on Sept. 8, Raasch said.
The rancher said she saw a suspicious person trespassing on her property days before the theft. She saw the man leave in a black Mercedes and recorded the car's license plate, Raasch said.
Petaluma police stopped a green Ford Ranger pickup truck towing a utility trailer containing approximately 20 sheep on Sept. 16, Raasch said.
The driver, 28-year-old Luis Ortiz Orea, of Petaluma, was released after a traffic stop because the Petaluma officer could not determine where the sheep were from, Raasch said.
The officer took photos of the sheep and recorded the tag numbers attached to one of the sheep's ears, Raasch said.
Also on Sept. 16, a rancher reported approximately 20 sheep were stolen from his ranch in the 1700 block of Watmaugh Road in Sonoma, Raasch said. The rancher said sheep were also stolen from his ranch on Aug. 12, Raasch said.
Sheriff's investigators placed Orea under surveillance and determined some of the sheep stolen from the Watmaugh Road ranch were taken to a large piece of property in the 4300 block of Sunland Avenue in Santa Rosa, Raasch said.
Detectives recovered 17 sheep, including sheep stolen from the Adobe Road ranch in Petaluma, on the property, Raasch said.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Orea and his 30-year-old brother Pedro Ortiz Orea of Santa Rosa, who was living on the Sunland Avenue property, Raasch said.
Detectives learned the sheep stolen from the Watmaugh Road ranch were taken out of Sonoma County and sold to another person who sold them to various livestock auction yards, Raasch said.
Luis Ortiz Orea was booked into the Sonoma County jail on two counts of grand theft of livestock and two counts of possession of stolen livestock, Raasch said.
Pedro Ortiz Orea was booked into the county jail for possession of stolen livestock and conspiracy, Raasch said.