Originally Published: March 8, 2018 4:36 p.m.
Updated as of Friday, March 9, 2018 8:21 AM
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) students Achyut Nair, 23, who is on active probation, and David Leya, 27, were arrested on Sunday, March 4, for several charges, including vehicle theft, theft of property from motor vehicle and theft, according to a Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) news release.
On Saturday, March 3, the suspects befriended a 42-year-old woman they met at a club on Whiskey Row in Prescott, the release states. They later returned to a Prescott-area home for a party with the woman and others. Shortly after getting to the party, the suspects entered an area of the home where the woman and her friends had stored their personal belongings. The suspects stole purses containing credit and debit cards, cash, driver’s licenses, cell phones and two handguns, the release states. They also took the 42-year-old woman’s keys and used them to steal her car, a 2013 blue Subaru sedan. The woman told deputies she discovered the theft after realizing both suspects had not been seen for a while at the party.
During an investigation, YCSO deputies were told by the victim that she and the suspects had purchased food from a local fast food restaurant shortly after 2 a.m. before attending the party. Deputies said they eventually located the correct restaurant and were able to verify a transaction by one of the suspect’s based on the victim’s description of the food ordered. The food had been purchased by Leya, the release states.
The victim also told deputies that both suspects claimed they were currently enrolled at ERAU in Prescott. Security at ERAU was contacted and verified their enrollment at the school. Both suspects could not be located on the campus at that time. When driver’s license photos of each suspect were shown to the victim, she positively identified both Nair and Leya, the release states.
In the late afternoon the next day, Sunday, March 4, deputies searched Prescott and surrounding areas for the stolen vehicle and suspects. While the lead investigating deputy was servicing his car at the County facility on Commerce Drive in Prescott, he noticed a blue Subaru sedan parked in the lot of Pioneer Park. He drove over to the vehicle and confirmed it was the victim’s stolen car, the release states. Some of the personal property was found in the vehicle, but the two stolen handguns were still missing. Deputies checked the adjoining property around the parking lot and recovered additional stolen items, but not the handguns.
“It was imperative to locate the firearms quickly,” said Dwight D’Evelyn, YCSO spokesperson.
Deputies said they returned to the school campus and found suspect Nair in his dorm room. Nair initially denied any involvement in the incident. After he was arrested, Nair admitted to the theft of the victim’s vehicle, personal property and handguns. Leya was also found in his dorm room and arrested while denying any participation. It appeared the suspects had driven the victim’s car to Las Vegas overnight, deputies said.
"One of the suspects admitted to the trip and there is a paper trail being established by deputies - credit card, etc," D'Evelyn said.
As the investigation remained active, deputies learned from a friend of the suspects’ who was privy to the incident that the firearms had been stashed in a remote area of Mingus Mountain, the release states. Both handguns and additional personal property were recovered near a Mingus Mountain forest road.
Nair was released on a $10,000 bond. Leya was released on a promise to appear. Both students are on an interim suspension until their cases are resolved, ERAU officials said.
“YCSO would like to thank Embry Riddle school officials for their assistance with the investigation,” D’Evelyn said. “Sheriff Mascher appreciates the diligent and focused work of deputies which led to the identification and arrest of suspects and quick recovery of stolen handguns.”