ALTADENA >> A former teacher at an Arcadia private high school accused of falsely imprisoning three teenagers at knifepoint and demanding they drive him to a fast-food restaurant pleaded “no contest” Thursday to two felony charges, authorities said.
Under a negotiated plea arrangement, ex-John Edward Maust, 34, of Altadena pleaded no contest to two counts of false imprisonment by violence, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said. An additional count of false imprisonment, as well as a count of kidnapping and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon were dismissed.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Elaine Lu sentenced Maust to five years of formal probation, 180 days of community service and more than 50 Alcoholics Anonymous sessions, Santiago said.
The bizarre crime took place on Saturday, June 7, 2014, after three 17-year-old boys, two of whom were Maust’s students at Arroyo Pacific Academy in Arcadia, were driving around and saw Maust in his driveway, according to district attorney’s and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
Maust appeared to have been drinking when jumped into the back of their car, brandished a knife and told the teen’s to drive, Santiago said. Two of the teens got out of the car and called for help.
“When the driver attempted to also exit, Maust placed him in a choke hold with the pocket knife up to him and demanded that he be taken to a fast food restaurant,” Santiago said.
After going to a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant, Maust ordered the driver stop and fled on foot after a sheriff’s helicopter arrived overhead, officials said. He was arrested the following day and released from custody on $300,000 bail, according to county records.
School officials placed Maust on administrative leave at the outset of the investigation, officials said. His employment has since ended, however further details were not available.
ARCADIA >> Police arrested a convicted sex offender Friday after he was found nude, sitting atop a vibrator and surrounded by pornography on the grounds of an Arcadia church, officials said.
Paul Allan McQuown, 55, of Azusa is accused of indecent exposure following Friday’s arrest, which took place shortly after 4 p.m. at the Arcadia Congregational Church, 2607 S. Santa Anita Ave., according to Arcadia police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
A groundskeeper at the church called police after finding McGuown nude, sitting on the vibrator under some trees on the church property, Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro said.
“He had a lot of pornographic material with him,” Castro said. The nude man also had a knife within reach.
Responding police officers found McQuown and took him into custody, the lieutenant said. He was expected to be booked for indecent exposure.
According to Los Angeles County Superior Court records, McGuown has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 1992. He already had a pending case for failure to register as a sex offender at the time of his arrest Friday.
In recent years, McQuown has been convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia six times, failure to register as a sex offender twice and trespassing, possession of a controlled substance and being under the influence of a controlled substance, records show.
In the 2000s, McQuown was convicted of lewd conduct in public, possession of drug paraphernalia twice, and possession of a controlled substance, according to court records. In the 1990s, he was convicted of indecent exposure five times, as well as trespassing.
Despite his numerous sex-related convictions, McGuown is not listed on California’s statewide database of registered sex offenders.
It was not clear Friday why he was not listed, though not all convicted sex offenders are subject to public disclosure of their information on the database.
Though indecent exposure is often considered a misdeamnor offense, because of his prior convictions, McQuown was booked on suspicion of a felony, police said.
He was being held in lieu of $35,000 bail pending his arraignment hearing, scheduled Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court.
Detectives suspect a former Catholic school music teacher and choir director of molesting a female student 12 years ago while working at a South El Monte Catholic school, officials said.
Investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau jailed Elohim D’Leon, 43, of El Monte Thursday afternoon on suspicion of 10 counts of committing lewd acts on a child younger than 14 years old, according to sheriff’s officials county booking records.
D’Leon, who more recently worked at Holy Angels school and parish in Arcadia from 2004 to 2013, is accused of committing the crimes in the 2003-04 school year while working as a music teacher at Epiphany Catholic School in South El Monte, Holy Angels school and sheriff’s officials said.
“The girl was a fifth grader. He was her music teacher,” Detective Michael Silva said.
“There was inappropriate touching that would occur after school,” Silva said. “These incidents would occur in a classroom.”
Silva said the victim, who is now an adult, first reported the crimes in early February, triggering an investigation.
D’Leon also served as the choir director for the Epiphany school and parish “and has had some involvement in other music activities in the Archdiocese over the years,” Holy Angels school Principal Ted Carroll and Holy Angels parish Pastor Michael Evans said in an email sent to parents
The suspect worked at Epiphany school and parish from 2001 to 2004.
In addition to D’Leon’s work at Epiphany and Holy Angels, he “provided music for some liturgies and regional events in the Archdiocese,” Archdiocese of Los Angeles spokeswoman Monica Valencia said.
It was not clear how or why is employment with the Archdiocese ended in 2013.
“Law enforcement has advised that he has no prior criminal record and that they are not aware at this time of any misconduct with any other minors, but their investigation is ongoing,” the statement said. “The Archdiocese and Holy Angels continue to cooperate with authorities in their investigation. We express our gratitude to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for making this case a priority.”
Holy Angels officials could not be reached for direct comment Saturday.
Holy Angels and sheriff’s officials ask anyone with information to contact Detective Silva at the Sheriff’s Special Victim’s Bureau at 877-710-5273. Archdiocese of Los Angeles Coordinator of Victims Assistance Ministry Suzanne Healy also is available at 213-637-7650.
“We also ask that you keep everyone impacted by this sad situation in your thoughts and prayers,” the emailed statement said.
D’Leon was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Monday in Pomona Superior Court, records show.
ARCADIA >> Detectives seeking a missing 13-year-old Arcadia boy who disappeared after school Friday afternoon found him safe Saturday in Temple City, authorities said.
The grandmother of the boy dropped him off about 8 a.m. at Dana Middle School, 1401 S. First Avenue, Arcadia police Sgt. James Trabbie said.
“We have a record of him attending school,” the sergeant said. But he was not seen after.
“Just before midnight, the reporting party notified the Arcadia Police Department that his son had not returned home from school and has not been heard from,” Trabbie said. He did not have a cell phone or any money with him.
Detectives found the boy about 11:30 a.m. at the home of a friend in Temple City, Trabbie said. Police brought him back to the Arcadia Police Department to reunite him with his parents.
ARCADIA >> Police cautioned the public Thursday about an ongoing rash of purse thefts from vehicles targeting women shopping at Asian markets in Arcadia.
The series of crimes began in mid-December, with the most recent theft reported Wednesday, Arcadia police officials said in a written statement.
Eight such crimes have been reported over the past two months outside the 99 Ranch Market, 1300 block of S. Golden West Ave., as well as the Arcadia Supermarket, 645 West Duarte Road, Castro said.
The thefts have primarily been occurring as women are loading items into their car, Castro said.
The thieves, who have been described with several varying descriptions, snatch the purses from the passenger compartment or trunk area of the unlocked vehicles before fleeing in getaway cars of their own, police said.
Police urged residents to be aware of the surroundings and offered several safety tips.
Always lock car doors, even when sitting inside, police said. Purses and other valuables should be kept out of view.
Police asked residents to report any suspicious activity immediately, and pay attention to license plate numbers and other details about the suspicious people or vehicles.
ARCADIA >> A routine traffic stop for running a stop sign in Arcadia early Thursday led to the discovery of methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, a pipe, baggies, a scale, stolen credit cards and checks, burglary tools, officials said.
Police arrested the driver Eric Rey, 42, of West Covina, along with passengers Iris Samberg, 46, and Nicole Strohm, 34, both of Pasadena, on suspicion of a laundry list of crimes following the 2:30 a.m. traffic stop on Santa Anita Avenue, just north of the 210 Freeway, Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro said.
In addition to the drug, identity theft-related charges, the trio is also accused of child endangerment, Castro said. The 14-year-old son of Strohm was a passenger in the Chevrolet 2500 pickup truck and was released to his father.
Ann officer saw the pickup truck blow through stop sign at 5th Avenue and Santa Clara Street, Castro said. After the driver pulled over along Santa Anita Avenue, the officer found that Rey’s driver’s license was suspended.
While searching the truck, police found a clear plastic bag containing “a large amount of a white substance determined to be methamphetamine,” Castro said. Alongside the meth, police found a digital scale and plastic baggies, often used by dealers to used to meter out portions of the drug. The exact amount of drugs recovered was not available.
Police recovered small amounts of cocaine and marijuana from the truck, along with syringes and a marijuana pipe, the lieutenant said.
Additionally, about 40 credit cards in other peoples’ names were seized, along with allegedly stolen checks, suspected stolen mail and burglary tools including bolt cutters and picks, he said.
According to county booking records, Rey Strohm were being held in lieu of $100,000 bail each, while Samberg was being held in lieu of $115,000 bail. All three were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court.
ARCADIA >> Police seized about 1,250 marijuana plants, arrested three people and took two infants into protective custody early Thursday after dismantling indoor marijuana-growing operations inside two Arcadia homes, police said.
As part of an ongoing investigation, detectives and SWAT team members served two search warrants in the 300 block of West Woodruff Avenue and the 1800 block of South Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said in a written statement.
“Both warrants were served without incident, and indoor marijuana grows were found at each location,” Flores said.
Police uprooted about 750 marijuana plants from the Baldwin Avenue home, and another 500 from the Woodruff Avenue home, police said.
The complex indoor pot grows appeared to be bypassing electrical meters to steal electricity from the grid, Flores said.
Just before serving the search warrants, police arrested a man seen leaving from the Woodruff Avenue home in a vehicle, Flores said. Police also arrested a man who showed up at the home during the operation and a woman found inside with two infant boys, Flores said. The children were taken into the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
Arrested were Ming Gao, 46, of Arcadia, Jia Hui Shen, 27, of El Monte, and Lan Lau, 34, of Arcadia, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
“No evidence was found at the location to indicate a medical marijuana grow operation,” Flores added.
Detectives had not yet determined who owns and is responsible for the homes, police said. Authorities were looking into the possibility of adding additional charges, such as utility theft and child endangerment.
All three were accused of cultivating marijuana and were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail each pending their initial court appearances.
PHOTO courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.
ARCADIA >> A masked gunman emptied the safe of an Italian restaurant early Sunday during the second takeover-style restaurant robbery reported in Arcadia this month, police said.
The robbery took place just after midnight at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant & Bar, 311 E. Live Oak Ave., Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro said in a written statement. The eatery was closed at the time.
A robber with a bandana covering his face approached two employees who were taking out the trash behind the restaurant, Castro said.
“The suspect pointed a chrome-colored handgun at the employees and forced them back into the restaurant,” the lieutenant said. “Once inside, the suspect confronted the manager and ordered everyone into the office. The suspect demanded all of the money from the safe.”
The manager complied, filling a bag with about $6,000 and handing it over to the robber, police said.
The robber ran to a dark-colored vehicle parked on Third Avenue and fled, Castro said. It was not clear whether he drove himself or had an accomplice waiting behind the wheel.
Investigators described the robber as a black man in his mid-20s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 170 pounds. He wore a dark hooded sweatshirt and carried a chrome, semi-automatic handgun.
The suspect description and tactics involved in the robbery closely resemble another reported late last Sunday, Jan. 4, at Coco’s Bakery Restaurant, 1150 W. Colorado St. in Arcadia.
An armed robber approached an employee who was taking out the garbage and ordered him back into the restaurant at gunpoint, according to Lt. Roy Nakamura.
Once inside the restaurant, the gunman ordered a manager to fill a backpack with money, Nakamura said. The robber locked both the manager and employee inside a freezer before fleeing.
No one was injured in either robbery, police said.
While it was too early to say definitively if the robberies were linked, “They’re fairly similar,” Lt. Tom Cullen said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.”
Anyone with information was asked to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5150. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
ARCADIA >> Police jailed two Pasadena men accused of punching a security guard and threatening him with pepper spray after being caught shoplifting from a sporting goods store at an Arcadia shopping mall Sunday, officials said.
The robbery took place just before 12:40 p.m. at Sport Chalet inside Westfield Santa Anita, 400 South Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia police Lt. Tom Cullen said.
A security guard spotted two young men fill a backpack with items from the store and leave, the lieutenant said. The security guard chased after them as they ran to a black Honda Civic in the parking lot.
“The loss prevention (officer) caught up to them at a vehicle,” Cullen said. “At that point, one or both of them struck the loss prevention officer.”
The robbers threatened the security guard with pepper spray, though he was not sprayed with the inflammatory agent, as was initially reported to be the case, the lieutenant said. The security guard suffered no significant injuries.
Cullen said the two suspects fled in the Honda, but someone was able to provide police with a description of the getaway car.
Officers found a car matching the description driving nearby on Colorado Boulevard, police said. The driver refused to pull over, initiating a brief chase.
Police pursued the Honda west until the suspects stopped were taken into custody at Corta Calle and Buff Avenue, Cullen said.
Some stolen items were recovered from the suspects, Cullen said. Officials found the suspects’ backpack discarded back at the mall, the lieutenant said. It contained primarily clothing taken from the store.
Dominique Javan Jones, 20, and Royce Lee Emerson Camp, 18, both of Pasadena, were booked on suspicion of robbery, police said.
The alleged driver, Jones, is also accused of evading police and driving without a license, Cullen said. He also had an outstanding arrest warrant stemming from a previous vandalism case.
Jones was being held in lieu of $105,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, while Camps was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
SAN GABRIEL VALLEY >> A task force charged with monitoring convicts released from jail under AB 109 guidelines arrested 30 people during a compliance check throughout the western San Gabriel Valley early Wednesday, officials said.
The task force visited the listed homes of 88 people who are free on Post-Release Community Supervision, under the 2011 state prison alignment plan, Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said in a written statement. The probationers were contacted at 61 of the homes, while the remaining 27 were either not home or not longer living at their listed addresses.
Compliance checks took place in Arcadia, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Monrovia, El Monte and Monterey Park, Sgt. Brett Bourgeous said.
“The zero-tolerance focus of the enforcement campaign was aimed at apprehending AB 109 absconders with outstanding warrants, and conducting compliance checks in accordance with a person’s probation conditions,” Flores said. “Many of the probationers contacted during the course of the operation were known to have previous court violations to include weapons charges, assault charges and property crimes.”
The 30 probationers arrested Wednesday were accused of crimes ranging from violating probation to drug charges, officials said. Officers jailed at least one of the probationers on suspicion of gun possession and seized a firearm.
The West San Gabriel Valley Anti-Crime Task Force is comprised of officers from the Arcadia, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Monrovia, El Monte and Monterey Park police departments, as well as the Los Angeles County Probation Department. Officials from the Long Beach, Burbank, Glendale and San Fernando police department also took part in Wednesday’s campaign, along with Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and officials from the County of Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services.