COLTON — Authorities jailed a Whittier man and a Mexican man Thursday after they met undercover investigators with more than 40 pounds of cocaine, officials announced Friday.
Jose Vega Diaz, 47, of Whittier, and Juan More Flores, 40, of Tecate, Mexico, were being held in lieu of $1 million each at the Riverside County Jail, California Attorney General’s officials said in a written statement.
The seized drugs are valued at $1.85 million, officials said.
Department of Justice Special Agents made the bust as part of an ongoing crackdown against a Baja California-based drug cartel that distributed cocaine throughout Southern California, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
“Working with a confidential informant, an undercover agent arranged to purchase cocaine from an individual associated with (the cartel),” the statement said. “At a prearranged meeting in a hotel parking lot in Colton, agents arrested (Diaz and Flores) and seized 18.5 kilos of cocaine.”
WHITTIER — A failed robbery at a Chase bank branch in Uptown Whittier Wednesday is believed to be the work of a serial robber dubbed the “Black and Blue Bandit,” according to the FBI.
He’s been linked to robberies and attempted robberies at banks in Whittier, Montebello and Downey. He was given his moniker because he wears arm slings, knee and arm braces and Band-Aids during the crimes, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
Wednesday’s robbery was reported at 5:01 p.m. at the bank, 13103 E. Philadelphia Street, Whittier police officials confirmed Friday.
The suspect entered the bank and passed a note to a teller demanding money, Whittier police Sgt. Jim De Masi said.
He fled the bank on foot without receiving any money, the sergeant said. “No weapon was seen.”
Whittier police said the robber wore a Band-Aid on his right cheek during the crime.
The Black and Blue Bandit has also been linked to a Nov. 12 robbery at a Chase bank branch at 896 Beverly Blvd., Eimiller said.
In that case, the robber pretended to have a weapon as he handed a teller a note demanding $4,000, Montebello police Lt. Rick Rojas said shortly after the heist.
The teller went to a back room, claiming he was going to retrieve the money for the bandit, Rojas said. The teller activated a silent alarm instead.
The robber apparently became nervous and ran from the bank without any cash, police said.
He was last seen headed east from the bank.
Witnesses told police the bandit was dressed in blue medical scrubs and wore a blue baseball cap and kept one of his arms in a blue sling, Rojas said. He also has blue eyes.
FBI officials said the Black and Blue Bandit had previously made an Oct. 20 visit to the Bank of America branch, 10010 Paramount Blvd. in Downey.
In that robbery, a handgun was seen tucked into his waistband, and the robber fled with about $3,300, Downey police Detective Maria Villegas said.
The FBI described the bandit as a white man in his 40s, about 5-feet 9-inches tall, 175 pounds, with acne scars on his face.
Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI’s Los Angeles 24-hour line at 800-226-8883.
SURVEILLANCE photos courtesy of the FBI
POMONA — A single-engine airplane en route to Brackett Field in La Verne crashed at the Pomona Fairplex Friday, killing the pilot, authorities said.
The airplane, identified by Federal Aviation Administration officials as a Mooney M20M, “crashed under unknown circumstances around 2:15 p.m. approximately 1 mile southeast of Brackett Field, near the Pomona Fairgrounds,” FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in a written statement.
One person was pronounced dead at the scene, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said. No other injuries were reported.
The airplane crashed near the southeast corner of the grandstands at the Fairplex’s racetrack, officials added. The crash did not ignite a fire.
The aircraft’s marking indicated it was registered to a Pasadena law firm.
Friday’s incident was the second fatal small plane crash near Brackett Field in recent years.
Husband and wife Charles and Renee Shaffer of La Verne died March 14, 2009, when their Piper Dakota suddenly lost altitude and went down in Pomona shortly after take-off from Brackett Field.
The couple’s plane crashed into a hillside near the 2600 block of Pomona Boulevard, about 2 miles from the scene of Friday’s crash.
SANTA ANA — A mental competency hearing was postponed Friday for a La Habra woman accused of killing her infant son by throwing him from the fourth floor of an Orange County hospital parking structure in August.
The hearing, which will determine whether 31-year-old Sonia Hermosillo is mentally competent to stand trial, was rescheduled for Jan. 6 in the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana, Orange County District Attorney’s officials said.
Hermosillo is charged with murder and child abuse for the Aug. 22 death of her 7-month-old son, Noe Medina Jr.
She is accused of taking her son up to the fourth floor of a parking structure at Children’s Hospital Orange County, removing a helmet he wore because of a medical condition and throwing him off.
Hermosillo is yet to enter a plea in the case pending a ruling on her mental state. At a previous hearing, defense attorney’s argues that she was not mentally capable of assisting in her own defense.
Hermosillo validated her parking before driving away from the hospital, then was arrested later in the day when investigating officers spotted her driving past the scene, officials said.
Noe Medina of La Habra, father of Noe Medina Jr. and husband of Hermosillo, has said his son suffered from two treatable medical conditions. The infant was being treated for plagiocephaly, also known as flat-head syndrome, as well as toricollis — a condition which causes a twisting of the neck.
Hermosillo, who suffered from postpartum depression, never seemed to accept her son because of the medical problems, Noe Medina has said.
No official motive in the alleged murder has been released.
VALINDA — Authorities placed an elementary school on lockdown Thursday as they hunted for a burglary suspect.
The sheriff’s Industry Station received a call reporting a burglary in progress about 1:40 p.m. in the 15600 block of Doublegrove Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Victor Sotelo said.
Responding deputies spotted an intruder, described only as a Latino man, exiting the garage of a home, the lieutenant said. He ran from the deputies, initiating a search of the neighborhood.
As a precaution, officials placed nearby Baldwin Academy on lockdown as they conducted their search, Sotelo said.
Ultimately, the fleeing man was not found, he said. It was unclear if anything had been stolen from the home where the man was seen running from.
WHITTIER — Sheriff’s detectives are investigating the death of a man found fatally shot in a commercial area in an unincorporated county area near Whittier as an apparent suicide, authorities said.
Deputies were summoned to the 8600 block of Norwalk Boulevard just after 7:50 a.m. Friday after someone reported finding a body lying between two buildings, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Smith said.
The body was initially described only as that of a man.
Deputies noted the man appeared to have been shot in the head, and a gun was found near the body, Smith said.
The investigation was ongoing, however foul play was not initially suspected.
WHITTIER — One young Whittier man is dead and another is badly injured and in custody at a hospital on suspicion of drunken driving and gross vehicular manslaughter after a solo-car crash earlier this week, authorities said.
Dennis Avila, 20, of Whittier, died in Tuesday’s 11:15 p.m. crash on Gretna Avenue, just south of Rose Hedge Drive, in an unincorporated county area near Whittier, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s Lt. Larry Dietz said.
He was a passenger in a 2000 Volkswagon sedan being driven by Steve Rangel Jr., 20, of Whittier, who was allegedly drunk, California Highway Patrol Officer Jeremy Tolen said in a written statement.
Rangel was southbound on Gretna Avenue prior to the crash, traveling at “an undetermined high rate of speed,” Tolen said. “For reasons unknown, Rangel lost control of the Volkswagon, and the the vehicle subsequently struck a tree, a sedan parked on the street and a sedan parked on a residential driveway.”
Neither Rangel nor Avila were wearing seat belts, officials added.
“The engine compartment separated from the passenger compartment and came to rest in a front yard across the street from the passenger compartment,” Tolen said.
Rangel remained hospitalized Friday, officials said. His exact condition was not available, but he was expected to survive.
WEST COVINA — Police Thursday released a surveillance photo of a man who robbed a bank earlier this week while clutching an envelope he claimed contained a bomb.
The crime took place about 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Bank of America, 2901 E. Eastland Center Drive, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez said in a written statement.
The robber “presented a note to a teller demanding money and that he had a bomb,” the corporal said. He fled the bank with an unknown amount of cash.
After the robber left, he said, employees noticed the man had left a bulky manila envelope with wires protruding from it on the counter near the teller’s window.
“Bank employees evacuated the building and notified West Covina Police,” Lopez said.
Police and a bomb squad from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded, and the bomb squad ultimately determined the envelope contained no bomb, officials said.
The surrounding area was cordoned off during the investigation.
Police described the robber as a white man, 30 to 35 years old, 160 to 180 pounds and 5 feet 10 inches to six feet tall.
Anyone with information is asked to call West Covina police at 626-939-8557. Tips can also be left anonymously by calling 626-939-8688, or by texting “TIPWCPD” and your tip to 847411.
SURVEILLANCE photo courtesy of the West Covina Police Department
BALDWIN PARK — Police Thursday sought the public’s help in tracking down a Baldwin Park man who accused of shooting a pregnant woman in the head after getting into a fight with her husband at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Omar Martinez, 19, is wanted for attempted murder, Baldwin Park police Lt. David Reynoso said. He’s believed to be hiding in the West Covina or Los Angeles areas.
Martinez was attending a court-ordered AA meeting about 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at a church at Los Angeles Street and Stewart Avenue when he got into a fight with another man in his 20s who was attending the meeting, police said.
The fight was broken up and the men separated and left, Reynoso said.
“The intended victim left the meeting and entered a vehicle driven by his pregnant wife,” Baldwin Park police said in a written statement. “Suspect Martinez followed the intended victim and shot twice at the vehicle as it left.”
The woman driving the car was struck in the back of the head, Reynoso said. She was initially hospitalized in critical condition, however she’s since been updated to stable condition.
Police have learned the woman was several weeks into a pregnancy at the time she was shot, and has since miscarried.
“At this time, we haven’t been able to determine if the miscarriage is related to the crime,” Reynoso said.
Martinez fled after the shooting and hasn’t been seen since, Reynoso said.
He was immediately identified as the shooter by witnesses who knew him from the AA group, and he left his AA membership card behind when he fled the scene, the lieutenant said.
Authorities released a photo of Martinez Thursday in hopes a member of the public may be able to help them identify the man wanted for the “cowardly” attack, Reynoso said.
Martinez is described by police as a Latino man, 5 feet 11 inches tall, 180 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He has a tattoo of the word “pride” on his right elbow.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Baldwin Park Police Department at 626-960-1955.
PHOTO of Omar Marintez courtesy of the Baldwin Park Police Department
LOS ANGELES COUNTY — Authorities Thursday warned business owners and employees of a recent trend of con artists posing as fire inspectors.
“Businesses throughout Los Angeles County and across the state have been targeted by scam artists who wear official-looking blue shirts and pants and claim they are there to “inspect” the fire extinguishers, smoke alarms or sprinkler systems,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said in a consumer alert.
“They ask an unsuspecting employee to sign a form authorizing the inspection,” Cooley said. “Weeks or months later, a bill comes to the business’s owner for ‘work done’ or ‘services rendered.’ The bill, sometimes for an ‘annual inspection,’ appears to have been signed by the employee.
Such inspections are carried out by local fire departments, however a fee is never charged, officials said.
Before letting a person claiming to be an inspector into a business, employees and shopkeepers are advised to demand government-issued identification and a business card.
“Local fire department officials all have badges, and their uniforms will state the department for which they work,” according to the consumer alert.
Anyone who believes they may be dealing with a bogus inspector is asked to contact local law enforcement, or the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Public Affairs Section at 323-881-2411.