A truck matching a description of one belonging to a suspected fuel thief was spotted near Coalinga. Photos by Fresno County Sheriffs Office.

published on September 23, 2021 - 2:10 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Fresno County Sheriffs arrested a Lemoore man they suspect of stealing “substantial amounts of diesel fuel” from farms and reselling it.

Detectives booked 38-year-old Juan Martinez-Barajas in jail Wednesday on charges of grand theft, evading police, illegal possession of a firearm, possession of armor-piercing ammunition, driving on a suspended license and probation violation, according to a press release. Martinez-Barajas also had an active warrant for domestic battery. Bail is set at $185,000.

Juan Martinez-Barajas


Detectives spotted a truck matching a description near West Phelps and South El Dorado avenues in Coalinga. When they — along with patrol deputies — attempted to stop the truck, the driver sped away.

Using drone and K-9 units, authorities found Martinez-Barajas hiding under a tree, the release stated. In the vehicle, they found an AR-15-style rifle without serial numbers.

In the suspected vehicle, deputies found an AR-15-style rifle without serial numbers.


The Fresno County Sheriff’s Ag Task Force suspected Martinez-Barajas of siphoning red-dye diesel fuel from farm equipment, driving either a pickup truck or a quad throughout western Fresno County.

Red-dye diesel is specifically used for off-road vehicles, such as farming equipment. It is not taxed like clear diesel. Sheriff’s suspect Martinez-Barajas of selling the stolen diesel to truckers for half the price one would pay at a fuel station. They estimate Martinez-Barajas had been stealing the fuel for the past six months at a rate of about 800 gallons per week, totaling $60,000.

Sheriff’s say he was known to also known to carry an AR-15-style rifle.

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