UPDATED: ‘Sophisticated’ burglary team devastates longtime Whittier jewelry business


WHITTIER >> A crew of burglars devastated a 40-year-old Whittier jewelry business when they made off more than $1 million worth of jewelry and precious metals during a “sophisticated” break-in at the Whittier Boulevard business over the weekend, authorities said.
The crime took place sometime between Saturday evening and Monday morning at Whittier Jewelry Mart, 14414 Whittier Blvd., Whittier police Lt. Mike Przybyl said.
An exact tally of what was stolen was not available, however the stolen jewelry and precious metals were believed to be worth between $1 million and $3 million, the lieutenant said.
“Based on what was done, there were multiple people involved. It was a fairly sophisticated effort,” Przybyl said.
Owner Alberto Montes De Oca said Wednesday that he remained “numb” from the loss of his livelihood, but was grateful the heist took place when no one was present and that no one was hurt.
But he said he did not yet know how the family business could recover from the devastating loss of its entire inventory of valuables.
“Forty years of work, it just went down in one second,” Montes De Oca said.
“For me, it’s a terrible hit. And for my family,” he said. “It feels like a dream. It’s hard to comprehend.”
Police declined to discuss specifics of how the burglary occurred, citing an active investigation.
But officials confirmed that the crime showed signs of planning and seasoned burglars.
“The people who did it, they knew what they were doing,” Przybyl said.
Police received no alarm activation from the business, he said.
“They came in through the roof,” Montes De Oca said, adding that he suspected the burglary took place early Sunday morning.
The burglars cut their way into a fortified safe, as well as smashed open display cases to help themselves to valuables, he said.
The stores alarm system, phone line and electricity line were cut, Montes De Oca said.
“It looks to me like they were professionals,” he said.
Montes De Oca said he was yet to determine the exact value of the stolen property. “It’s in the millions,” he said.
The proprietor said the family business would remain closed as he contemplated how to move forward. The needed repairs to the business alone will be costly, let alone the loss of his entire inventory.
Among the stolen items were pieces of jewelry and other precious items customers had set aside on layaway, as well as some brought by customers for repairs.
The Whittier Jewelry Mart has been operating in Whittier for four decades, Montes De Oca said.
The store was located in Uptown Whittier for its first 20 years, until it was destroyed by the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987. The business was relocated to Whittier Boulevard, where it has remained ever since.
Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Police: Man breaks into Arcadia home, robs woman of car keys, steals car

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ARCADIA >> Police in Monrovia arrested a man early Friday after he broke into a woman’s home in Arcadia, robbed her of her car keys and stole her car the previous afternoon, authorities said.
Troy Lucarelli, 43, of Temple City was being held on a domestic violence warrant as officials prepared to seek charges of burglary, robbery and auto theft, Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said.
He showed up at a home in the 900 block of Paloma Drive shortly after 4:30 p.m. Thursday and entered through an unlocked door, Flores said in a written statement. Minutes earlier, he was believed to have tried, but failed, to break into another home less than a mile away in the 800 block of Balboa Drive.
Once inside the Paloma Drive home, “The suspect confronted the homeowner and demanded the keys to the victim’s vehicle,” Flores said. “Fearing for her safety, the victim complied with the suspect and he left the location in her vehicle.”
Police soon found the stolen car abandoned several blocks away, she said.
Investigators identified Lucarelli as the suspect, Flores said. He was already being sought by Monrovia police due to a domestic violence-related warrant.
Monrovia officers found and arrested Lucarelli about 4 a.m. Friday.
He was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, records show, however his bail amount was likely to increase as additional expected charges are added next week. He’s scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court.
The crimes took place the same day that two masked gunman forced their way into a home in the 1900 block of South Tulip Lane and attacked a resident in his bed, Lt. Mike Castro said. The suspects in the morning break-in were not caught. The Tulip Avenue incident was not believed to be connected to the break-ins on Paloma and Balboa drives Thursday afternoon.

PHOTO of Troy Lucarelli, 43, of Temple City courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.

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Ex-cons arrested for burglary, gun possession in Pasadena


PASADENA >> Police arrested two convicted felons from Mission Hills in connection with a Pasadena auto burglary early Saturday and seized a loaded handgun from their car, officials said.
Officers conducting a “directed patrol” aimed at suppressing burglaries about 4:50 a.m. spotted a parked car that had been broken into at Colorado and San Gabriel boulevards, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said.
The also saw another car driving in the immediate area and pulled it over, suspecting it may have been related to the break-in, he said.
Both the driver, Cornelio Felix, 33, and passenger, Giovanni Prado, 21, were wearing gloves, Mercado said. Police soon discovered that Felix was an ex-convict, and Prado was on Post-Release Community Supervision following a robbery conviction under California’s AB 109 guidelines, which allows “non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offenders” to be dealt with by county jails and probation agencies, rather than state prisons and parole agents.
Mercado said police found a loaded handgun under the passenger seat of suspects’ car, along with burglary tools in the back.
Felix and Prado were both booked on suspicion of burglary, Mercado said. Prado was additionally accused of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
According to county booking records, Felix and Prado were released from custody later in the morning pending their initial court appearances after posting $20,000 and $50,000 bail, respectively.

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Elderly woman attacked by intruder inside Norwalk home


NORWALK >> A intruder or intruders attacked an elderly woman after she confronted them in the process of burglarizing her home Friday afternoon, authorities said.
The victim, an 85-year-old woman, was punched during the crime and suffered a bump to her head, but did not appear seriously injured following the 2:30 p.m. crime in the 11500 block of Mapledale Street, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire officials. She was taken to a hospital for examination and treatment.
Someone had broken into the woman’s home, likely believing it to be empty, sheriff’s Lt. Eric Smitson said.
At some point, the woman came face-to-face with the burglar or burglars.
“She was punched in the face,” the lieutenant said. The intruder or intruders then fled.
The woman’s son emerged from the shower to discover his mother lying on the floor, Smitson said. He then noticed a room in the house had been ransacked.
Smitson said the elderly victim was conscious and speaking with officials while taken to a hospital.
It was unclear what, if anything, had been stolen from the home.

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One suspect jailed, another sought following La Canada Flintridge burglary


LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE >> Deputies jailed one suspect and sought another after interrupting a residential burglary Wednesday morning, authorities said.
A resident of the 5500 block of Castle Rock Drive called 9-1-1 about 10 a.m. after seeing two men breaking into neighbor’s house, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Bill Jaeger said.
“We were there within a minute,” Jaeger said. “As a result of that response, we were able to quickly apprehend one suspect running from the location.”
The second suspect got away, prompting a neighborhood search that continued for more than three hours, the lieutenant said.
The second suspect remained at large, he said.
Deputies recovered items stolen from the home that were dropped by the suspects as they fled, Jaeger said. Investigators also recovered the car the suspects had driven to the neighborhood.
Deputies withheld the name of the arrested suspect Wednesday as they continued searching for his alleged accomplice, Jaeger said.

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3 teens arrested after Pasadena burglary, chase


PASADENA >> A tip from a neighbor led police to arrest three teenagers following a Pasadena home break-in and a short car chase Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
The break-in was first reported about 12:45 p.m. at a home in the 1600 block of Paloma Street, Pasadena police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
“A citizen reported three suspects were in the process of burglarizing a residence, Goodman said.
Officers arrived to see three teenage boys driving away from the home in a 1994 Acura Integrta, the lieutenant said. The driver refused to pull over, starting a 90-second chase that ended when the driver lost control and crashed into the side yard of a home along nearby Allen Avenue.
The young suspects continued fleeing on foot, Goodman said. Police quickly apprehended two of them, but the third eluded immediate capture.
Police found him hiding behind a shed, but he refused to surrender, Goodman said. Police dog “Figo” helped subdue the 17-year-old burglary suspect, who was taken to a hospital for treatment of a dog bite to his arm before being booked.
Electronics and jewelry stolen from the Paloma Street home were found inside the suspects’ car, which had been reported stolen to Los Angeles police Tuesday, Goodman said.

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Three Glendora businesses broken into in early-morning burglary spree


GLENDORA >> A pair of burglars smashed their way into three neighboring businesses along Route 66 early Friday, police said.
Officers first responded to reports of smashing window glass at the Frozen Ropes Baseball and Softball Training Center, 2244 E. Route 66, just before 3 a.m. and discovered the front glass had been shattered, Glendora police Lt. Scott Strong said.
They also soon discovered that two neighboring businesses — Mauricio’s Mexican Food and A&J Cake and Candy Supplies — had also been burglarized in the same fashion.
The two burglars stole cash from at least one of the three businesses, officials said.
A detailed suspect description was not available.

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Woman confronts auto burglar in Pasadena; suspect arrested


PASADENA >> A woman returned to her SUV to find a man rummaging through it late Tuesday, police said.
Gabriel Rodrigo Vasquez, 18, who was described as transient, was ultimately booked on suspicion of auto burglary in connection with the 9:40 a.m. break-in in the 900 block of East Walnut Street, just east of Lake Avenue, according to Pasadena police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
“The victim returned to her vehicle to find the suspect ransacking the interior, with her purse between his legs,” Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
The 46-year-old Palmdale woman called police, who began searching for the burglar.
An officer found a suspect matching the description nearby. The victim was able to identify him as the burglar, and items taken from her Honda CRV were found in his possession, Luna said.

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Safe stolen in early-morning burglary at Pasadena gas station


PASADENA >> Police are seeking three burglars who smashed their way into a gas station early Wednesday and stole a safe containing cash and lottery tickets, officials said.
A burglar alarm activation at 4:37 a.m. first drew the attention of police to a has station at the southwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Hill Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
Officials soon learned three male burglars had smashed through the glass front door of the business and made off with the businesses’ safe, Luna said.
A detailed suspect description was not available. A dark-colored sedan was used as the getaway car.

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Chino man accused of high-tech auto burglary in Pasadena


PASADENA >> A Chino man is accused of using a car door signal “descrambler” device to target cars for burglary at a Pasadena apartment complex early Friday, authorities said.
Yuzhe Luo, 18, was booked on suspicion of auto burglary following his 3:20 a.m. arrest in the parking structure of an apartment complex in the 100 block of Valley Street, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said.
An officer was patrolling in the area, which has seen a spate of car break-ins lately, when he noticed Luo and thought him suspicious, Mercado said.
The officer followed from a distance, the lieutenant said. “He watched as the suspect opened up a door to a car and began rifling through the contents. The suspect then exited that car, went over to another car, and looked inside.” Luo was wearing gloves.
The officer detained Luo without a struggle, Mercado said. Inside a car rented by Luo found nearby, police found an electronic “descrambler” device used to open the doors of cars equipped with remote door locks.
It was unclear if anything was taken from the car Luo was seen rifling through.
He was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail pending arraignment, records show.

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