• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Tire thief's name, number caught on camera

February 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A suspected tire thief in Temecula made it easy for investigators to track him down. His phone number was in plain sight while a tire store was robbed.

The recent burglary at the Best For Less Tire Pros took Riverside County Sheriff's investigators less time to solve than most of their cases.

"If you are stealing something you don't advertise who you are," said the tire shop's owner, Rich Richardson.

But that is exactly what the thief allegedly did. On January 17, Richardson discovered a break-in at his tire shop. Naturally he went to see if his surveillance cameras caught something, which they did.

"Once we got the cameras and looked through all the cameras, we found there was somebody out there taking tires. And then we noticed that as he drove by it had his name and phone number right on the side of the van," said Richardson.

"Jeff Tires" was clearly painted across the van. That, along with a cell number, led police to Yancey Jeff Lewis. He also goes by the name of Jeff Lewis Yancey, a local tire salesman.

Investigators say he's the one that is seen tossing tires into the back of his trailer while his accomplice acts as a lookout.

Investigators say they set up a sting operation by calling Lewis on his phone. When he allegedly tried to sell stolen tires to undercover officers, they moved in to arrest him.

Lewis has pleaded not guilty.

Meanwhile, Richardson says he is out about $800 since only one of the tires has been returned.

"Supposed to be sent back to Michelin to be checked, then they will refund us the money after they check them, but they don't refund us the money unless we actually send them tires back," said Richardson.

He's not angry about it, but he is offering a bit of advice to the suspect.

"Stay out of Temecula because I think everybody's got his phone number now," said Richardson.