PD: 2 serial metal thieves arrested in Peoria

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Mark Villagomez (left) and Douglas Tongen By Jennifer Thomas Mark Villagomez (left) and Douglas Tongen By Jennifer Thomas
Mark Villagomez By Jennifer Thomas Mark Villagomez By Jennifer Thomas
Douglas Tongen By Jennifer Thomas Douglas Tongen By Jennifer Thomas

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Peoria police say a metal-scrapping database that will soon be put into effect helped them arrest two serial metal thieves.

On Dec. 14, officers from Peoria's Impact Team attended training on how to use a new state-mandated database to identify metal thieves and came across transactions that matched a recent pattern of thefts involving backflow valves in the city.

The Impact Team conducted surveillance and arrested Mark Villagomez, 20, whose name appeared in the database, and Douglas Tongen, 25, on Sunday.

Peoria police spokesman Jay Davies said the surveillance efforts will allow police to tie the men to at least three cases, but the suspects admitted to additional metal thefts in recent weeks.

Villagomez and Tongen said they received $100 for each valve and used the money to buy drugs, specifically heroin and meth, according to Davies.

The typical replacement cost of the valves can start at $1,100.

Villagomez and Tongen, both of Peoria, face multiple felony counts, including theft, trafficking in stolen property, burglary, possession of burglary tools, and possession of dangerous drugs.

Starting Jan. 1, all scrap metal businesses will be required to report their scrap metal transactions to the new AzDPS LeadsOnline system. The system will provide up-to-date information to allow officers to monitor and investigate scrappers who appear to be much more than recyclers, or whose scrapping transactions mirror crime data.