Stolen Tillamook Cheese Buses Found at CA Self-Storage Facility, Suspects Arrested

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Three vintage Volkswagen microbuses that were stolen from the Tillamook cheese company during a promotional tour last weekend were found Monday in a self-storage unit in Copperopolis, Calif. A tip led an auto-theft task force to serve a search warrant at 8 B Secured Self Storage, according to the source. Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion told the “Statesman Journal” that one of the suspects rented a unit at the facility. In addition to the stolen buses, police uncovered other Tillamook items in the unit.

Police arrested Sacramento residents Brian Lancaster, 32, and Ryan Monaco, 38, in Rocklin, Calif., on Tuesday following a traffic stop. The men could face charges of auto theft, possession of stolen vehicles, conspiracy and arson, the source reported.

The bright orange buses, along with a Ford F-350 truck and a trailer used to transport the vehicles, were in Sacramento on a tour to promote the Oregon company’s brand of cheese, according to Tori Harms, a Tillamook spokeswoman. The buses, which are 1959, 1964 and 1966 models, have all been shortened to look like blocks of cheese and include Tillamook’s custom colors and branding.

All of the vehicles were stolen on Saturday from a Hampton Inn parking lot between 12:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., according to Sgt. Rob Armosino of the Manteca Police Department. The microbuses were inside the trailer at the time of the theft. The truck and trailer were found on Sunday around 12:30 a.m., engulfed in flames about 50 miles from the Hampton Inn. Tillamook then offered a $10,000 reward for the safe recovery of its specialty vehicles.

The task force to recover the vehicles included personnel from the Lodi, Manteca and Stockton police agencies, the California Highway Patrol, the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office and the San Joaquin County Probation Department.

Obligacion told KGW the buses were not damaged. He estimated their value at $300,000. Tillamook declined to comment on the buses’ worth.

Tillamook is an award-winning, farmer-owned dairy co-op based in Tillamook, Ore. In addition to cheese, the company makes ice-cream, sour cream, yogurt and butter.

The Tillamook Cheese Factory is the Tillamook County Creamery Association's original cheese production facility. It also serves as a visitor center and hosts more than 1 million tourists each year. Visitors can learn about the cheese-making and -packaging process, and the ice cream-making process.

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