SAHUARITA--Local police this week announced a major breakthrough in the investigation of a theft ring allegedly targeting construction companies building in Rancho Sahuarita.

Sahuarita Police Detective Mike Linehan said he believes a highly organized, sometimes violent gang of thieves has stolen some $60,000 to $70,000 in lumber from various construction sites to sell in Agua Prieta, Mexico, and elsewhere.

In early March, Tucson police arrested 24-year-old Hector Hernandez of Tucson with a load of allegedly stolen lumber.

Hernandez, who Linehan believes is the "brains of the operation," has since been released from custody.

The Pima County Attorney's office is currently reviewing the case against Hernandez, and Linehan said he hopes to take the case to a grand jury soon.

"The investigation is ongoing, and we expect there will be more arrests," Linehan said Wednesday.

Linehan said he believes the theft ring has targeted the booming Rancho Sahuarita development for more than a year, stealing lumber during off hours and storing it at a safe house on this side of the border.

The lumber is then moved across the Line to Agua Prieta, where it's sold in Mexico hardware stores, Linehan believes. | 547-9732