Man allegedly steals rare train parts from Santa Margarita ranch

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

A rural Paso Robles man allegedly stole $30,000 worth of property, including rare train parts, from the Santa Margarita Ranch earlier this month. 

Detectives eventually traced some of the stolen items to recycling centers in Santa Maria and Nevada and recovered most of the property. Deputies arrested the suspect last week.

On Oct. 11, a representative reported vandalism and theft at Santa Margarita Ranch in the 9000 block of Yerba Buena Avenue in Santa Margarita. Numerous items had been stolen, including multiple pieces of a steam locomotive train that were made of solid bronze and valued at more than $10,000, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

The train parts are extremely rare, with only eight sets of them in existence. One set is in New York, while the other seven are in California, with including the set taken from Santa Margarita Ranch. 

Additionally, the thief stole two generators, drones and other equipment with a combined value of about $20,000, sheriff’s officials said.

Investigators from the Sheriff’s North Station and Rural Crimes Unit discovered evidence leading deputies to a suspect. On Oct. 20, detectives served a warrant at a home in the 300 block of Bridle Trail Lane in rural Paso Robles. Detectives found some items inside the home that were thought to be stolen, but none were related to the Santa Margarita theft. 

But, investigators also found receipts for recycling centers in Santa Maria and Nevada. Most of the train parts, amounting to about 800 pounds of bronze, were then discovered at the Santa Maria recycling center. Several other stolen items were found at the recycling center in Nevada.

In all, authorities recovered about $20,000 worth of stolen property and returned the items to the rightful owners.

Deputies arrested Jacob Johnsen, 33, and booked him in the San Luis Obispo County Jail on charges of grand theft and receiving stolen property. Johnsen remains in custody with an undisclosed bail amount.

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