Probe continues into alleged Covina-area burglary ring

COVINA — Information continued to emerge Wednesday in the case of an alleged burglary ring that used police scanners and targeted victims including public officials in at least 20 residential burglaries in Covina, San Dimas and Glendora.
Only two of the five suspects arrested last week in connection with the investigation are suspected of being being connected to the break-ins, authorities clarified Wednesday.
Thomas Dandurand, 32, of Pomona, was charged Tuesday with five counts of residential burglary and one count of receiving stolen property, police said.
His common-law wife, Susana Chaidez, 28, of Pomona, was charged with possession of stolen property and has since been released on bail, according to police.
In police searches carried out during the investigation, investigators recovered allegedly stolen property, as well a list of what police described as potential victims. The list included names, addresses, home photographs and work information for for people including a judge and several public officials.
In addition to valuables, items that were not worth money, but “very sentimental,” Marquez said. Such items included non-precious jewelry and family heirlooms.
In one of the crimes, a couple in their 80s had their home ransacked after the husband suffered a heart attack and both went to a hospital in an ambulance, Marquez said.
Police said it was unclear if the burglars used their police scanner to determine the home had been left vacant due to the medical emergency.
Among the items stolen were a prized silverware set that had belonged to the woman’s grandmother, and a Luger pistol the elderly man had taken as a war trophy in Germany during World War II, officials said.
The silverware set was recovered following the arrests of Thomas Dandurand and Chaidez, Marquez added.
During the arrests, authorities recovered a list of what they are calling potential victims. The list, found in a suspect’s home, includes names, addresses, pictures of houses and employment information for potential victims, including the information of a judge and multiple public officials.
Three other suspects were arrested during the investigation, but have not been linked to the burglaries, Sgt. Ray Marquez said.
Henry Arce, 21, of Baldwin Park was arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen property, however his attorney, Justin Rodriguez, as well as Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said Wednesday the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor count of driving without a valid license.
Thomas Arce, 42, of Baldwin Park, was arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine.
Phillip Gordon Dandurand, 18, of Pomona was initially arrested on suspicion of assisting in the burglaries, however the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office declined to file charges against him due to insufficient evidence, police said.
Police are continuing to seek another suspect, 27-year-old Anthony Ray Arce of Baldwin Park, on suspicion of assisting Thomas Dandurand and Susana Chaidez in the break-ins, Marquez said.

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Man jailed on suspicion of Walnut bank robbery

WALNUT — Detectives arrested a remorseful robbery suspect Wednesday on suspicion of carrying out a heist the day before at a Walnut bank branch, authorities said.

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Jaimes Lawler, 27, is described as a transient with ties to the Walnut area, Sgt. Michael Maher of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Major Crime’s Bureau said. He was booked on suspicion of armed bank robbery.
Lawler, who did not initially appear to have any significant criminal record, said he committed the crime out of financial desperation.
“He sounds somewhat sorry for his actions, more than most,” Maher said.
He was arrested about 9:30 a.m. as he was leaving an apartment building in Los Angeles, the sergeant said.
The robbery took place about 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Bank of America, 200 S. Lemon Ave., sheriff’s officials said.
Lawler entered the bank, handed a teller a note demanding money and brandished a handgun, Maher said. He fled with about $1,700.
A set of hair clippers Lawler used to shave his head and beard following the robbery were also found during his arrest, Lt. Kent Wegener said.
Both sheriff’s and FBI investigators soon identified the suspect as Lawler, partly due to surveillance images obtained from the bank, officials said. He was tracked to an apartment building in the 400 block of South Bixel Avenue in Los Angeles where he was arrested without a struggle.

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Officials recovered nearly $1,600 of the loot, as well as a red bag and the hand-written note used in the robbery, Maher said. The gun used in the crime was not found.
“Subsequently, during an interview, (Lawler) confessed to the bank robbery,” Maher said.
According to county booking records, Lawler was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail and was due for arraignment Friday in Pomona Superior Court.

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South Pasadena man taken for ride by motorcycle thieves

SOUTH PASADENA — A South Pasadena man went for a wild ride early Wednesday after he spotted three men stealing his motorcycle and jumped into their van as it fled, police said.
The incident was reported about 4:30 a.m. in the 300 block of Pasadena Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Robert Bartle said.
A 32-year-old man came outside and noticed his motorcycle had been loaded into a white van, the lieutenant said.
As the van pulled away, the motorcycle owner jumped in through the open rear cargo doors, Bartle said.
The driver apparently attempted to shake the man out of the van by quickly slowing and stopping, but the man held on, Bartle said, “Until he heard one of them say ‘just shoot him.’”
At that point, the man jumped out of the van, which was traveling at a very low speed, he said.
The man did not report seeing a gun, and could only described the thieves as three Latino men.
South Pasadena police tracked the motorcycle via a LoJack anti-theft system and found it abandoned and undamaged in Los Angeles, not far from the South Pasadena border, Bartle said.

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Trial set for second suspect in South Whittier triple-slaying

NORWALK — Trial for the second of two men accused of luring three men to a South Whittier home under the pretense of buying a car and then murdering them for their money has been set for January, officials said.
Briaell Lee, 29, of Los Angeles is charged with the Jan. 27, 2004 murders of Mario Larios, 23, of West Covina, Edgar Valles, 22, of La Puente and Fernando Pina, 25, of Mexico.
A trial date has been set for Jan. 18 in Norwalk Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.
A second man charged with the three calculated killings as well as a fourth unrelated slaying — 37-year-old Cimarron Bell of South Whittier — has already been convicted of four murders and was sentenced to death in August.
Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee, who persecuted the case with Deputy District Attorney Todd Hicks, said Bell remained remorseless right through sentencing.
In the triple-slaying, Bell, and allegedly Lee, met with the three victims on the premise of wanting to sell a Chevrolet Monte Carlo for $8,500, though the car was worth significantly more, according to Hicks.
Larios was a potential buyer who went to Bell’s South Whittier home with his cousin, Pina, and his friend, Valles, where they were robbed and shot to death.
A Mercedes-Benz Larios’ was leasing was found abandoned in a La Mirada parking lot three days later. The three men’s bodies were discovered inside.
In addition to the three men killed while trying to buy a car, Bell was also found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, 22-year-old Ineka Edmondson of Compton, on Nov. 11, 2003.
Prosecutors argued that he shot the woman in a La Habra industrial park, where Bell worked as a janitor, because the two were involved in a stolen check-cashing scheme and he believed she was stealing money from him.
Lee also faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted as charged.

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Monterey Park break in nets defective toy parts for burglar

Probably not the big score this burglar was hoping for:

MONTEREY PARK — A burglar broke into a hobby shop early Wednesday, but escaped with only a broken toy airplane and a box of defective toy parts in the felony, police said.
Police responded to a burglary alarm just after 1:20 a.m. at Banana Hobby, 602 Monterey Pass Road, Monterey Park police Sgt. Dave Elliott said. They found the door to the business was open.
Investigation revealed that a man was captured on surveillance video breaking into the store and stealing two boxes from the lobby, authorities said.
It was determined one of the boxes contained a broken toy airplane, and the other defective toy parts, the sergeant said.
A description of the burglar was not available, officials said, however detectives were using the video tape in an attempt to identify him.

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Covina police run holiday toy drive

COVINA — Police are gearing up again for their annual Covina Cops for Kids Toy Drive, officials said.
Our annual program intends to bring out community together by joining generous community members and families who are in need during the holidays,” Covina police Sgt. Ray Marquez said in a written statement.
New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the Covina Police Department, 444 N. Citrus Ave., through Christmas Day, the sergeant said.
“Every day, our police officers are out in the community encountering families that are struggling throughout the year,” Marquez said. With your donation of an unwrapped gift, these same officers can deliver your Christmas cheer to those families who are struggling during the holiday season.”
For more information, contact the Covina Police Department’s Crime Prevention Office at 626-331-3391, ext. 5199.

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Bank robbery reported in Walnut

WALNUT — An armed robber fled with an unknown amount of cash Tuesday after a robbery at a Bank of America branch, authorities said.
The crime took place about 11 a.m. at the bank, 200 S. Lemon Ave., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Angela Becerra said.
No one was hurt in the robbery, she added.
According to initial reports from the scene, the robber was a black man in his 20s or 30s, of medium build, wearing a green plaid shirt and black-framed glasses. He brandished a handgun during the crime.
The robber was last seen fleeing the area on foot, authorities said.

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UPDATE: Alhambra man accused of molesting boys he babysat

GLENDALE — A young Alhambra man has pleaded not guilty to allegations of molesting 8-year-old and 3-year-old Glendale brothers he babysat over the course of eight months, authorities said.
Jordan Liu, 19, appeared in Glendale Superior Court Monday to answer to eight charges of child molestation, court officials said.
The allegations came forward as the children’s mother was discussing the ongoing child molestation investigation at Pennsylvania State University, police said.
He was arrested Nov. 22 after the older boy told his mother 11 days earlier that he’s been sexually assaulted by Liu, who the family had hired as a babysitter through the Website “Sittercity.com,” Glendale police officials said in a written statement. “The suspect provided babysitting services and took the child on outings at least once a month for the past eight months.”
The boys’ mother did not suspect any inappropriateness involving Liu when she began discussing a news story about the ongoing child molestation investigation at Pennsylvania State University as a form of educating her 8-year-old son and raising his awareness, according to the police statement.
“The mother soon learned that her 8-year-old son had been victimized by the babysitter,” the statement said.
After launching an extensive investigation, detectives found evidence of sexual abuse of both the 8-year-old boy and his 3-year-old brother.
Sittercity.com has been cooperating with detectives, officials added. In addition to Sittercity.com, Liu also advertised his services on another similar Website, “Care.com,” according to Glendale police.
Sittercity.com’s Website features the slogan, “We focus on safety, so you can focus on finding the right fit.”
“Sittercity was deeply saddened to learn of this situation,” Sittercity spokeswoman Mary Schwartz said in a written statement. “As soon as it was brought to our attention, we terminated Mr. Liu’s account and notified anyone who may have had contact with him about the termination.”
“Sittercity takes safety very seriously,” Schwartz said. “Each caregiver who registers on Sittercity is pre-screened to verify his (or) her identity and the caregiver’s information is checked against state sex offender registries. “In addition, we allow members to run background checks on the site through LexisNexis. Background checks include identification verification and a national criminal search of local, state and federal criminal records.”
Before advertising with Sittercity.com, sitters must acknowledge a pledge to “put safety first,” and “be professional and uphold my commitments,” according to the Website.
Because of the ongoing investigating, Schwartz said, Sittercity.com deferred all further comments to police investigators.
While police were unaware of any additional victims tied to Liu, “the investigation indicates he may have conversed with over 100 parents through the web service, but it is unknown how many actually may have hired him as a babysitter,” the police statement said.
After pleading not guilty Monday, Liu was ordered held in lieu of $2.7 million bail, police said.
He’s due in Burbank Superior Court Jan. 5, when a date for his preliminary hearing will be selected, court officials said.
Liu faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted as charged.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Glendale police at 818-548-3106.

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Driver killed in Whittier crash

WHITTIER — A man died Tuesday after his Jeep collided with a tree on Slauson Avenue, police said.
The crash took place about 11:30 a.m. in the 12300 block of Slauson Avenue, near the Santa Fe Springs border, Whittier police Lt. Randy Inman said.
The investigation remained in its early stages, however the lieutenant said it initially appeared the driver was the only person inside the Jeep when it crashed into a tree.
Firefighters worked to free the man from the wreckage, but he was ultimately pronounced dead at the scene, Inman said.
No further details were immediately available as the investigation continued Tuesday afternoon.

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Brass thieves destroy Montebello monument

MONTEBELLO — A thief or thieves have destroyed the 24-year-old Constitution Bicentennial Monument at City Park, apparently in order to steal and recycle the brass plaques that adorned it, authorities said.
The theft was discovered by a city employee early Saturday at the park, 1301 W. Whittier Blvd., Montebello police officials said, Montebello police officials said.
The stolen plaques measure about four feet by two feet and bear the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and its articles is on one of the metal plates. It was installed to commemorate the bicentennial of the Constitution in 1987.
“This crime is senseless and disrespectful, Montebello police Lt. Andy Vuncanon said.
The suspect or suspects also caused damage to the marble fixture that held the plaques, Vuncanon added.
“The whole memorial is ruined because of that,” Lt. Michael Bergman added. “It’s just a shame that they would steal and vandalize the property that belongs to the citizens of Montebello just for the purpose of financial gain. There’s quite a bit of meaning in those plaques that’s disrespected the the theft and damage to city property.”
Authorities believed the plaques were taken in order to recycle their brass for cash.
No one has reported seeing or hearing the theft, investigators said.
Detectives are “actively seeking any leads,” Bergman said. Officials are checking nearby surveillance cameras for any indications of the theft.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Montebello Police Detective Bureau at 323-887-1262.

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