Trio accused of stealing vehicles, tools from Elm Mott auto parts shop

Suspect assaulted shop owner who tracked stolen property to residence: affidavit
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 11:26 AM CDT
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McLENNAN COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) - Steven James Perez, 32; John Cano, 42; and Amber Castañeda, 26, are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity after they broke into an auto parts shop, and stole several vehicles and thousands of dollars in tools, a criminal complaint states.

Perez is also charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly crashed one of the stolen vehicles into the victim’s vehicle when the victim showed up at the home of Perez’s sister to ask about his stolen property. Furthermore, Perez was also charged with burglary of a building and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

On June 27, the trio allegedly broke into the BYOT Auto Parts located at 14401 N. Interstate 35 in Elm Mott. Once inside the building, they stole tools and auto parts valued at $7,800, a criminal complaint states.

They allegedly placed the stolen property inside a Ford E-350 van belonging to the shop. From inside the property, the trio cut the chain to an electric fence and opened it manually, detectives said. The suspects drove away with the E-350 van carrying the stolen tools and parts, a Mercedes valued at $5,100, and a Chevrolet Malibu valued at $4,500, the complaint states. The E-350 van was valued at $18,500, per the court document.

Deputies said the burglary was captured on surveillance footage and allowed detectives to identify Perez as one of the suspects.

On June 28, the owner of BYOT Auto Parts located the stolen Ford E-350 van and the Mercedes parked at the residence located in the 100 block of Hazelwood Drive in Chalk Bluff, a community in McLennan County. The residence reportedly belongs to Perez’s sister, deputies said.

While there, the victim spoke with Perez and asked about the stolen vehicles and several other stolen items seen in the yard.

Investigators did not reveal the exact details of the conversation, but wrote in the criminal complaint that the owner of the stolen property entered his vehicle and parked down the street from the residence while he called the sheriff’s office for help.

Moments later, Perez left the home in the stolen E-350 van and “blocked the road in front of the victim’s vehicle to allow someone driving the stolen Mercedes to pass,” detectives wrote in the criminal complaint. Perez then backed up the E-350 van and rammed it into the victim’s vehicle, according to the court document.

His actions caused damage to both vehicles, investigators said. Perez fled the scene soon after the wreck.

Back at the sheriff’s office, the victim was shown a photo lineup and pointed to a photo of Perez as he identified the man who rammed the stolen E-350 van into his vehicle.

Investigators later arrested Perez, and under interrogation, the man admitted that his girlfriend, Castañeda, and Cano were involved in the robbery of BYOT Auto Parts.

When detectives spoke with Castañeda and Cano, both allegedly admitted to participating in the break in.

Castañeda is facing a slew of other charges, including burglary of a building, possession of a controlled substance, tampering or fabricating physical evidence with the intent to impair an investigation, and parole violation. Cano was also charged with parole violation.

All three suspects are being held at the McLennan County Jail without bond, jail records show.