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Business owner arrested in food truck scam investigation in Stanislaus County

Alleged serial scammer arrested in Stanislaus County
Alleged serial scammer arrested in Stanislaus County 03:16

STANISLAUS COUNTY - An investigation into an alleged food truck construction business ends with the owner behind bars, and at least 28 victims losing nearly $1 million in cash.

Investigators tell me it took them close to a year to build this case against 28-year-old Fernando Ochoa, the suspect who allegedly scammed over two dozen people.

Investigators say they wouldn't put this case in front of a judge unless they felt certain about it.

"We gave him $20,000," said Adriana and Nika Nicaron. "It was hard for us."

The Nicarons make their living through their food business, Kaji Teppenyaki. 

They're based in Fresno County but saw Ochoa's business, 8A Food Trucks online.

"We decided to go with him, to get our dream food truck," said Nika.

They paid him in cash, and Ochoa promised a two-month turnaround, but they never got anything in return.

"It took a lot of stress because we borrowed that money from my brother," said Nika. "Who has that kind of money you know? We work almost every day."

The Nicarons say this almost destroyed their business, so they started commenting on his social media and found out they weren't alone.

"We're not the only ones," said Adriana. "We have more people that he scammed already. We have to do something you know we have to get a lawyer because he's not going to do our project."

"The victims came to our office, they came forward," said Lt. District Attorney Froilan Mariscal. "This was their life saving they had been giving up."    

Lt. Mariscal is spearheading the investigation. He says the number of victims quickly grew from just Adriana and Nika to 28. With over $992,000 total stolen, so far.

"The investigation is still ongoing so it could be potentially well over a million dollars," he said.

Most of the victims in this complaint are Hispanic, or Spanish-speaking. Some of them are in the country illegally, and Mariscal says, that could've been a reason he targeted them.

"People have to be careful who they get involved with. I think Mr. Ochoa knew who he could scam and defraud," he said.

Ochoa pled not guilty on Thursday morning to all 28 counts against him. Prosecutors had his bail raised to half a million dollars.

If Ochoa is convicted, those in the complaint could potentially get their money back, if a judge orders restitution for the victims.

"We just hope he never does this to anyone again," said Adriana.

As for where the money is? Investigators say they are still following the paper trail. 

CBS13 spoke with another victim in this case who says, every time he saw Ochoa, he was wearing nice clothes and jewelry and was posting on social media his travels.

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