In a crime that's topping headlines across the nation this week, authorities have announced the arrests of two men in connection with the theft of three iconic bright orange Tillamook cheese vans that were stolen over the weekend in Central California. The Tillamook cheese vans were found undamaged, police said on Tuesday. As reported by Tillamook Headlight Herald on July 15, Brian Michael Lancaster, 32, and Ryan Anthony Monaco, 38, are charged with stealing the vans, along with the truck and trailer that accompanied them, from a hotel parking lot.
The restored Tillamook cheese vans, which are reportedly worth $100,000 each, were found in a rented storage locker in Copperopolis Monday night. They were stolen from a hotel about 50 miles away in Manteca, where they had stopped on a tour promoting the Oregon-based Tillamook County Creamery Association's dairy products.
A statement from the Oregon cheesemaker regarding the issue read:
"Late on Monday night, July 14, we were notified by the authorities working the investigation that our three Tillamook VW mini cheese sampling buses had been found by police in near original condition. We are thrilled with this news and extremely pleased to be able to recover our beloved cheese buses. At this point, the police are still working toward any arrests tied to this case, and the logistics and timeline for returning the recovered buses to Tillamook are still being worked out."
"These are very specific vehicles. It wasn't a random theft," said Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion."It is my belief that it was a targeted theft. They had seen these vehicles."
Investigators say if it wasn't for an anonymous tip they received, the Tillamook cheese vans wouldn't have been found as quickly as they were. The two suspects, Lancaster and Monaco, are being charged with auto theft, possession of stolen vehicles, conspiracy and arson.