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Alleged airport burglar caught with stolen golf cart; also reportedly stole tractor, twice rammed open gate

Posted: Tuesday, Nov 27th, 2012

Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian Santa Cruz County Sheriff's deputies Paul Nagamine (right) and Tim Doyle present Artemio Espindola in an in-field identification on Calabasas Road after they spotted him driving a golf cart that was reported stolen from Watsonville Municipal Airport.

WATSONVILLE — A Watsonville man was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with possession of stolen property after he was caught driving down Calabasas Road in a golf cart that was taken from Watsonville Municipal Airport.

Artemio Espindola, 28, allegedly broke into a garage on airport grounds Sunday and stole a Kubota tractor, using it to ram open a gate on Buena Vista Drive near Calabasas Road.

Espindola later allegedly took the golf cart from the same garage, but it was unclear Tuesday when he returned.

Dave Oldemeyer, who owns a business adjacent to the airport, said he caught Espindola in the garage when he first broke in, and confronted him.

“I came around the corner and saw him, and he told me he worked at the airport,” he said.

Espindola also told Oldemeyer he was taking the tractor home, claiming it was common practice among airport employees to prevent it being stolen, Oldemeyer said.

“He had a good enough story that I believed him at first,” he said.

Moreover, Espindola said his name was “Art” name when Oldemeyer asked.

“He was an honest man when it came to giving his name,” he said.

After the tractor and golf cart had been removed, Espindola allegedly returned with the tractor and rammed the gate where it had been repaired from the first time he rammed his way out.

Witnesses said they found graffiti at the garage, where the suspect had written “666,” and “your gates can’t keep me out,” said Airport Operating Supervisor Rob Robertson.

Airport employees later found the tractor on Bradford Road, Robertson said.

The tractor, valued at $45,000, sustained minor damage, he said.

The golf cart contained items such as construction equipment, electronics, a checkbook and a knife that Robertson said did not come from the airport.

In addition, a bottle of juice in a drink holder on the golf cart was purchased when Espindola reportedly stopped while driving it, police said.

Witnesses along Calabasas reported seeing Espindola driving up and down the road several times before he was arrested.

Witnesses on Bradford Road said they saw Espindola dump several items in a yard, and returned with the tractor and loaded them into a trailer when a neighbor asked him to remove them. It was unclear whether the items were stolen.

According to police, Espindola lives on Calabasas Road with his parents and does concrete work. Police said they have had numerous run-ins with Espindola, mostly involving drugs and theft. In one recent case he wrestled with a deputy who was trying to detain him, police said.

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