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.
ARCADIA >> Police jailed an El Monte man Friday they say has been pilfering packages from porches in Arcadia in recent days.
David John Dunn, 31, was booked on suspicion of theft, Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro said. He was also being held on a “no bail” warrant related to a narcotics case.
Officers responded to the 1700 block of Highland Oaks Drive shortly before 4 p.m. after a someone reported a suspicious person loitering near a porch, police said.
Officers stopped Dunn as he was leaving the neighborhood in a vehicle, the lieutenant said. Police determined Dunn had opened a package on the porch, but left the box and its contents behind.
But other items found inside Dunn’s car had been stolen in package thefts in the same neighborhood Thursday and Friday, police said. And Dunn matched the description of a man seen snagging a package from the same neighborhood Thursday.
The investigation was ongoing, and police were looking into whether Dunn was connected to additional thefts.
PASADENA >> A Monterey Park man pleaded not guilty Thursday to molesting two 10-year-old boys inside the bathroom of an Arcadia restaurant last week and earlier this week, authorities said.
Kwan Yven Chow, 31, appeared in Pasadena Superior Court, where he denied two counts of committing lewd acts on a child under 14 years old, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. He was ordered back to court Dec. 2 for a hearing in his case.
In addition to the two felony charges, prosecutors also accuse Chow of the special circumstance of multiple victims.
The alleged molestations took place Monday and Nov. 8 in a restroom at Dave & Busters at the Westfield Santa Anita shopping mall, 400 S. Baldwin Ave., according to Arcadia police officials.
Police jailed Chow Monday afternoon after the mother of the victim and the manager chased after him, and mall security detained him until police arrived, Arcadia police Lt. Roy Nakamura said. Investigators later learned about the second alleged victim, who was allegedly groped inside the same bathroom two days earlier.
Bail was set at $1.25 million, officials said.
BOOKING photo of suspect Kwan Chow courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.
ALHAMBRA >> A judge sentenced a Chino man to 374 years to life in prison Thursday for a spree of follow-home robberies targeting lone Asian women throughout the San Gabriel Valley in 2011, officials said.
An Alhambra Superior Court convicted Jose Lewis Avila, 33, of nine counts of robbery, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and one count of child abuse. The 12 charges stem from a eight incidents in March and April of 2011, investigators said.
Three robberies, one of which involved two victims, occurred in Alhambra, officials said. Three of he robberies occurred in San Gabriel, one occurred in Arcadia and one took place in Monterey Park.
“The defendant targeted women driving alone,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Once the victims arrived at their homes, Avila accosted them and demanded their money and property. During each robbery, the defendant used a BB gun and covered his face with a bandana or mask.
But detectives managed to identify Avila the culprit in the crimes through surveillance video and credit card charges, officials said.
Additionally, Avila’s “unique” and “pretty” eyes helped victims point him out as their attacker, said Deputy District Attorney David Ayvazian, who prosecuted the case with Deputy District Attorney Gabriel Kim.
Avila was convicted of a similar string of crimes in 2005, Ayvazian said.
The assault with a deadly weapon charge was the result of Avila shooting one of his victims in the face with a BB gun during a robbery in Arcadia, officials said. He also threatened a witness not to contact the police, leading to the charge of dissuading a witness. And one of the robbery victims was holding a child in her arms during the crime, resulting in the charge of child abuse.
According to district attorney’s officials, the jury also found true special allegations that Avila used a deadly and dangerous weapon, the BB gun, in his crimes, and that he inflicted great bodily injury.
PHOTO of Jose Avila, 33, of Chino, courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department.