Authorities “squash” thief’s efforts while investigating ongoing agricultural thefts

THERMAL — Authorities investigating ongoing agricultural thefts in the farming communities of Thermal, Mecca, and Oasis arrested a man they allege stole a significant amount of produce from at least one Thermal area farm.

Southern Coachella Valley Community Services District Team deputies seized more than 800 pounds of stolen squash and arrested the man found to be in possession of the popular fruit, which can be used in countless meals and recipes.


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Jose Castellanos was arrested after deputies found him in possession of 800 pounds of spaghetti squash they allege the Thermal resident stole from Thermal area farms. RSO photo

After being questioned, Jose Castellanos, 55, of Thermal, was arrested and later booked at the Indio Jail on suspicion of grand theft of fruit as well as speeding and driving without a valid license or insurance.

Jail records indicated Castellanos was released the day after his arrest after posting $10,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned at Indio’s Larson Justice Center, May 18.

On Wednesday, May 23, Thermal Station Deputies assigned to the SoCoVal CSD were continuing their investigation into recent theft of agricultural products, Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant Chris Frederick explained after Castellanos’ arrest.

SoCoVal CSD team members conducted a traffic stop about 3:45 p.m., at the intersection of Avenue 70 and Pierce Street, northeast of the Salton Sea, in the unincorporated community of Thermal.

During the stop deputies located “approximately 800 pounds of Spaghetti Squash in the vehicle,” Frederick explained.

“The squash had been stolen from a nearby farm,” and was confiscated by deputies, according to Frederick, who continued, “The deputies are continuing their investigation into reports of recent agricultural thefts in the area.”

Anyone with information about this ongoing investigation is encouraged to contact SoCoVal CSD team members at the Thermal Sheriff’s Station at (760) 396-1014. Callers can refer to incident file number C181430029 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.

Deputies seized about 800 pounds of spaghetti squash they say was pilfered from area farms. RSO photo

Writer’s note: Before anyone else takes the time to write me about squash being a vegetable and not a fruit – yes, squash most certainly is a fruit and not a vegetable.

Just remember, if it has seeds it is scientifically and properly designated as a fruit.



Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 46, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 – soon to be 15 – grandchildren.

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