Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said his detectives arrested the suspect who ripped off Fiesta Foods for “tens of thousands of dollars.”
Key to the investigation, Edmiston said, was video evidence from an Oregon State Police traffic stop linking Daniel Lee Wood III, 27, with the Hermiston theft.
Hermiston police on Aug. 4 at about 7 p.m. responded to Fiesta Foods, 1875 N. First St., on a report of the theft of a bank bag containing a significant amount of recently cashed payroll checks. The theft occurred about two hours earlier, Edmiston said, and officers took the initial information, including witness/employee statements and secured surveillance video. He said video showed the bank bag was in arm’s reach of the suspect.
Detectives began working the investigation on Monday and two days later interviewed several people, including Wood at his home at 800 E. 14th St., The Dalles.
Wood has relatives in the Hermiston area but claimed he was never at Fiesta Foods, Edmiston said. That story started to crumble when detectives learned about Wood’s traffic stop.
An Oregon State Police trooper at 7:10 p.m. on the day of the theft stopped Wood on the westbound side of Intestate 84 near milepost 97 for driving while suspended, according to a digital copy of the citation. The time of the stop fit the timeline for the theft, Edmiston said, and the police video showed Wood wore the same clothes as the suspect in the Fiesta Foods video.
“Sometimes you just hit a streak of luck,” Edmiston said.
Police were able to obtain a search warrant for Wood’s vehicle, which Edmiston said led to recovering evidence that “blew a giant hole” in Wood’s story and linked him to Fiesta Foods. Edmiston said he could not specify what the evidence is due to the ongoing investigation.
The Dalles Police Department later that evening assisted the detectives in Wood’s arrest and booked him in jail there. The search, however, was not a total success.
“We have not located the bag with the checks,” Edmiston said. “That’s really what we were hoping to find.”
He speculated Wood tossed the bag because there was no hard cash inside.
Hermiston police on Thursday drove to The Dalles and brought Wood to the Umatilla County Jail, Pendleton. The district attorney’s office on Friday charged Wood with first-degree aggravated theft, accusing him of stealing third-party checks from Fiesta Foods worth more than $10,000 and creating a loss for the business exceeding $50,000.
Circuit court records also show Wood has charges pending in Wasco County for endangering the welfare of a minor, furnishing alcohol to a minor and permitting the unlawful operation of a vehicle, all stemming from a car crash and fight on May 26 in The Dalles. Police reports indicated he provided alcohol to a girl younger than 18 and allowed her to drink and use marijuana at his home before the crash.