YERMO Members of the San Bernardino County Auto Theft Task Force arrested two Yermo men on suspicion of stealing a Jeep after leading officers and deputies on a high speed chase Monday afternoon.


Billy Mason, 45, and Robert Craig, 27, were arrested in connection with the theft of a Jeep from Primm, Nev. on Monday. The pair were both charged with possession of a stolen vehicle and grand theft auto. Craig, whom deputies accuse of driving the Jeep, also faces a charge of reckless evading. The task force that arrested the men is comprised of members of the California Highway Patrol, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, San Bernardino Police Department, Fontana Police Department and various district attorney's, according to CHP Det. Heath Kohlmann.


Deputy Christopher Mejia was patrolling the area near Fort Irwin Road and Interstate 15 on Monday due to a recent increase in reported vehicle burglaries in that area, according to Kohlmann. Mejia spotted a Jeep driving suspiciously during his patrol and attempted a traffic stop, according to Kohlman. The Jeep didn't stop and led Mejia on a chase from Outer Interstate 15 through the desert towards Yermo that reached speeds of up to 100 mph Kohlman said.


Mason and Craig fled the Jeep on foot when it became stuck in the dry Mojave River bed. CHP officers and sheriff's deputies set up a perimeter and were able to apprehend the suspects within 15 minutes with the help of the sheriff's helicopter. Mason and Craig were attempting to bury themselves in sand to hide when they were found, according to Kohlman.


Craig and Mason are being held at the West Valley Detention Center. Craig's bail is set at $100,000, while Mason's is at $50,000.


Kohlman said the task force is always looking for information about stolen cars, motorcycles and related items. Anyone with information about stolen items can call the task force at (909) 388-4898 or the Barstow Sheriff's station at (760) 256-4838. To remain anonymous, call WeTip at 1-(800)-78-CRIME or leave information on the WeTip Web site at www.wetip.com.