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Man faces 12 years in prison

Aspen Times staff report

A man who stole one of Aspen Caterers’ familiar mobile catering trucks on Monday night is facing a possible 12-year prison term as well as deportation by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Juan Carlos Mejia-Garcia, who turns 22 next week, was arrested by officers of the Colorado State Patrol, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Police Department at about midnight on Monday.

Police say he stole the truck from its parking place behind the Aspen Caterers’ offices at the Aspen Airport Business Center and then rolled it while driving east along Colorado Highway 82.

According to a report filed by State Trooper Eric Westphal, he was called to a car wreck along Highway 82 and found the familiar blue-and-silver truck overturned beside the highway.

At about the same time, Deputy Anne Stephenson and APD Officer Linda Consuegra came upon Mejia-Garcia walking along the highway away from the accident scene.

According to Westphal’s report, Mejia-Garcia admitted he had been driving the truck when it veered out of control, hit a highway sign and rolled into a drainage alongside the highway. He spoke no English, but Officer Consuegra acted as translator during the roadside conversation.

But, Westphal reported, Mejia-Garcia said the truck “belongs to his neighbor and that he knew where the key was.”

When asked if he had permission to take the truck, Mejia-Garcia replied, “No,” according to the report.

The trooper said he smelled alcohol on Mejia-Garcia’s breath, and that after he failed the standard “roadside sobriety test” he was arrested.

After a breath test at the Pitkin County Jail showed a blood-alcohol level of .069 percent, he was charged with driving while ability impaired, careless driving, auto theft, driving without a valid license and failure to notify police of an accident.

The most serious charge against Mejia-Garcia is aggravated car theft, which carries a possible penalty of 12 years in prison.

He remains in the Pitkin County Jail in lieu of $11,000 bond.

Mejia-Garcia is a Mexican native, and although he was carrying a “resident alien” card at the time of his arrest, he also is being held for the INS and may be deported, authorities said.

According to an Aspen Caterers employee, who identified himself simply as “Augie,” the truck is valued at more than $40,000. He said the truck wrecked on Monday was stolen from behind the company’s offices and is one of three that the company operates in the Aspen-Snowmass area.

He said the company expects to get a new truck within a few months, but that in the meantime they will be stretched thin in running their routes to various construction sites.

“That guy screwed us up pretty good,” Augie remarked, adding that company owner John Swim was out of town for the week.


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