2 arrested in vehicle theft operation targeting Tempe, Mesa

Benjamin Jaco Appell and Mario Esteban Jimenez

Credit: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

Benjamin Jaco Appell (left) and Mario Esteban Jimenez


by Jennifer Thomas


Posted on January 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 16 at 1:23 PM

MESA, Ariz. – Two men have been arrested in connection with the theft of more than 50 import vehicles in Tempe and Mesa over two months.

In December, detectives with the AATA Task Force and DPS identified Benjamin Jaco Appell, 38, as a "key player" during an investigation of a significant number of Honda and Nissan vehicle thefts in the area of the Mesa/Tempe border.

DPS later learned that Mesa detectives were investigating Appell for organized vehicle theft activity. The three agencies teamed up and Appell was arrested on Jan. 3.

Detectives linked Mario Esteban Jimenez, 28, to Appell and began surveillance operations on him.

Authorities said Jimenez was seen driving a stolen vehicle through the parking lot of an apartment complex near Dobson Road and Isabella Avenue in Mesa.

Detectives moved in to arrest Jimenez and he attempted to flee the area while smashing into a light post then ramming a detective's vehicle. Jimenez abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot but was quickly taken into custody.

Appell and Jimenez were booked into the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail for several counts of theft of a means of transportation, conspiracy, trafficking in stolen property and drug charges.