SONOMA COUNTY (CBS SF) – A Sonoma man has been arrested on suspicion of stealing hundreds of frost-prevention sprinklers from vineyards in Sonoma County, a Sonoma County sheriff’s sergeant said.

Eighteen Rain Bird sprinklers worth more than $50,000 have been stolen for their metal value over the past nine months, Sgt. Mike Raasch said.

Two thefts were reported in May. Witnesses saw a white GMC pickup truck with a California license plate 8M78455 on the property around the time of the theft, Raasch said.

When the registered owner of the truck, who lives in the Sonoma Valley, told sheriff’s investigators that he sold the truck to 48-year-old Thomas Barnick in January, Barnick became a suspect in the sprinkler thefts, Raasch said.

Detectives placed the truck under surveillance late Sunday night and saw Barnick drive to the River Rock Casino in Geyserville, Raasch said.

He left the casino around 2 a.m. Monday and drove south to a vineyard at Fanucchi Ranch on state Highway 128 in Geyserville, Raasch said.

Raasch said Barnick drove to the back of the vineyard and spent about three hours removing the sprinklers from the rows of vines.

He was stopped when he left, and was found to be in possession of 407 sprinklers, each worth $8, Raasch said.

He was arrested and booked into Sonoma County Jail for grand theft, possession of stolen property and driving with a suspended license. More charges against Barnick are likely, Raasch said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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