The sister of a recent Northern California homicide victim accused of robbing or attempting to rob eight banks — including ones in Arcadia, Temple City and Baldwin Park — was in federal custody Thursday awaiting trial, officials said.
Obiomachuckuka Njokanma, 36, of Michigan, was indicted Tuesday on eight counts of bank robbery in connection with the alleged spree, which took place between Dec. 28 and Jan. 12, according to FBI officials and court documents.
Officials said Njokanma also admitted being responsible for a Dec. 27 Modesto bank robbery for which she has not yet been charged.
Her alleged San Gabriel Valley crimes include a Jan. 4 robbery at the Foothill Federal Credit Union, 30 S. First Ave. in Arcadia; a failed Jan. 10 robbery at a Wells Fargo, 11460 Merced Ave. in Baldwin Park; and a Jan. 10 robbery at a Bank of the West, 9934 E. Las Tunas Drive in Temple City.
She was arrested Jan. 14 by by Los Angeles police, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
According to the indictment, “Njokanma repeatedly apologized for committing the bank robberies. She explained that her sister was recently discovered murdered in Modesto, California. She admitted that the very first bank she robbed was in Modesto.”
A search of public records shows that Njokanma is a relative of Eldoris Graham, 28, of Modesto, who was found slain in her hometown Jan. 11.
Graham’s boyfriend, 36-year-old Anthony Coxum, was not cooperating with investigators and gave inconsistent statements to detectives, but was not initially arrested in connection with the killing, Modesto police officials said in a written statement.
Coxum was being held on suspicion of unrelated probation violations in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as the investigation continued, Modesto police added. He was driving Graham’s car when arrested.
Graham was reported missing by her mother on Dec. 15, and her body was found Jan. 11, officials said.
FBI investigators had been referring to the serial robber as the “60 Second Bandit” due to statements she made during the robberies indicating she wanted to get the money and be gone within 60 seconds, Eimiller said. But officials had not yet gone public with the moniker.
During the robberies, Njokanma handed tellers notes threatening to shoot them or others in the bank if they didn’t quickly hand over large-denomination bills, according to court documents. She would often wear a baseball cap or a wig.
In all, the eight robberies Njokanma is charged with allegedly netted her $20,001.
In addition to the three San Gabriel Valley crimes, robberies linked to Njokanma also include a Dec. 28 robbery at the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists-Screen Actors Guild Credit Union in Burbank; a Dec. 31 heist at a U.S. Bank in Bell; a failed Jan. 8 robbery at a Wells Fargo branch at 3800 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles; a Jan. 9 robbery at the First Financial Credit Union, 5115 Wilshire Ave. in Los Angeles; and a Jan. 12 robbery at a Citibank, 270 N. Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles.
BANK SURVEILLANCE PHOTOS of Baldwin Park attempted robbery (above) and Temple City robbery (below) courtesy of the FBI.
The FBI has released bank surveillance photos from a Monday robbery at a Chase branch on Huntintgon Drive.
ARCADIA — An Arcadia church was vandalized and set on fire for the second time in the past two weeks in what police are investigating as possible hate crimes.
The break-ins and vandalisms took place about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Holy Angels Church, 330 Campus Drive, and sometime overnight between Jan. 19 and 20 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 400 West Duarte Road, Arcadia police officials said in a written statement.
“What we’re trying to do is get the word out to the religious community,” Arcadia police Sgt. Tom Le Veque said.
Due to the similarity in the crimes, as well as the proximity and timing between them, detectives suspected the incidents may be related and asked the community to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior, the sergeant said.
“Although neither crime involved entry into the church sanctuaries, both events involved religious artifacts or items and we are treating these as religious-based hate crimes,” according to the police statement. Both crimes occurred in portions of the churches used for administrative offices.
In the most recent crime, an unknown vandal or vandals broke in through an office window and smashed two religious statues and a DVD player, Le Veque said.
They also kicked in the interior office door and rummaged through several rooms in the building, police said.
Investigators were not aware of anything missing from the Holy Angels Church Wednesday, Le Veque added.
Officials found smoke inside the church when they arrived and also discovered a small fire of papers and carpet against an interior hallway inside the building, officials said.
Police encountered a similar scene when responded to a report of a break-in at the Church of the Good Shepherd on the morning of Jan. 20, Le Veque said.
Officials found a door to an administrative building forced open and the interior ransacked, police said.
Clergy robes were thrown on the ground, a fire extinguisher had been discharged within the building and a religious portrait hanging on the wall had been set on fire, investigators said. A guitar and other sound equipment was stolen from the church.
No suspect description was available Wednesday.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5150. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by calling L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
ARCADIA — Police are seeking a mustachioed bandit who robbed a bank branch earlier this week, authorities said.
The heist took place about 11:25 a.m. Monday at the Chase bank, 60 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia police Lt. Tom Cullen said in a written statement.
“The suspect presented a demand note and then left the location with an undisclosed amount of money,” Cullen said.
He was described as a Latino man in his early-30s, with a black mustache. He wore a black sweat shirt, a black hat and black glasses.
The FBI is assisting the Arcadia Police Department in the investigation.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5150. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by contacting L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
ARCADIA — A complaint about loud music early Sunday led police to discover a “sophisticated” marijuana growing operation in an abandoned Arcadia home, authorities said.
Chuan Wu Pang, 30, of Alhambra was arrested in connection with the bust, which took place shortly after 2:30 a.m. in the 2500 block of South Santa Anita Avenue, Arcadia police Sgt. Tom Le Veque said in a written statement.
“Arcadia detectives searched the home and found the majority of the residence being used as a sophisticated, indoor marijuana grow operation,” Le Veque said. “In excess of 500 marijuana plants were found in various staged of growth.”
It appeared the home’s electrical meter had been bypassed as well, allowing Pang to steal electricity from Southern California Edison’s grid, officials said.
“Every room, closet, hallway and usable space inside this approximately 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home was being used to facilitate the operation,” Le Veque said.
Police were first summoned to the home after someone called to report loud music, Le Veque said. Officers encountered Pang in front of the home, and he told officers he would lower the music.
“About an hour later, after learning the residence in question was reported to be abandoned, officers went back to the location and again contacted the lone male, still to the front of the home.”
When questioned, Pang told officers the house belonged to a friend, who gave him permission to be there, but he couldn’t recall the friend’s name, according to police.
The man then showed officers a key, which he demonstrated could be used to open the door.
“When the door was opened, officers saw items consistent with an indoor marijuana grow and smelled the overpowering odor of marijuana,” Le Veque added.
The home was secured, and detectives returned with a search warrant.
There was no evidence the marijuana was being grown in compliance with California medical marijuana laws, police added.
According to county booking records, Pang was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail at the Arcadia Police Department’s jail pending a scheduled arraignment Wednesday in Pasadena Superior Court.
PHOTO courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department
ARCADIA — Police arrested a man on suspicion of attempted murder and other crimes early Sunday after he tried to drive himself and a woman over a cliff, then barricaded himself inside the home of the Santa Anita Dam keeper for seven hours, authorities said.
Patrick Anthony Gonzalez, 21, of Los Angeles was taken to a hospital for treatment of unknown injuries prior to being booked into jail, Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro said.
The incident began about 6:30 p.m. Saturday when officers responded to reports of a car that had crashed into a guardrail along Chantry Flats Road, just within the northern city limit, the lieutenant said.
“Further investigation revealed the driver of the vehicle intentionally hit the guardrail in an attempt to kill both himself and his passenger — changing the focus of the investigation from a traffic accident to attempted murder,” Arcadia police officials said in a written statement.
The woman, whose age was not available, was unhurt, police said. Officers searched the area but did not find the driver.
Gonzalez and the woman were believed to be in a relationship or formerly involved in a relationship, Castro said.
But several hours later, just before 1:20 a.m., police received a 9-1-1 call from the home of the dam keeper at the Santa Anita Dam reporting an intruder inside the house, officials said.
The dam keeper and his wife got out of the home safely, but the intruder remained inside, Castro said. It was determined the man who broke into the house was the same man involved in the earlier crash.
Police made repeated attempts to order the suspect — later identified as Gonzalez — to surrender, but he remained holed-up in the house, police said. The residents also advised police that there was a loaded gun inside the house.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team members were summoned to the scene and took over the stand-off.
After a little more than seven hours, they entered the home and took Gonzalez into custody, according to Arcadia police.
He was hospitalized in unknown condition for injuries he was believed to have suffered in the crash and while fleeing from it, Castro said. He was not believed to have been injured during his arrest.
Gang investigators arrested three suspects, seized 1,000 Ecstasy capsules and uprooted a small indoor marijuana grow in busts linked to Asian organized crime in Rowland Heights and Arcadia earlier this week, authorities said.
Denis Lam, 20, and Ruoyo Mike Dong, 22, both Arcadia residents and members of an Asian street gang, were arrested along with Juan Carlos Cabrales, 23, of Azusa, in the operation, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The arrests took place late Wednesday at a strip mall in the 18900 block of Gale Avenue in Rowland Heights.
Lam and Dong had hired Cabrales to deliver 1,000 capsules containing a powder form of the drug Ecstasy to a buyer at the strip mall, officials said. The capsules were expected to fetch $5,000.
“Cabrales was arrested by investigators before the transaction was completed,” according to the sheriff’s statement. “Lam and Dong, who were monitoring the transaction nearby, were located by the investigators and arrested as well.”
Detectives then obtained a search warrant for the Arcadia homes of Lam and Dong in an unincorporated county area near Arcadia, where they discovered a “small but functional” indoor marijuana grow, sheriff’s officials said.
All three suspects were booked on suspicion of drug charges and released Thursday pending their initial court appearances after posting $30,000 bail each, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
PHOTO of Ecstasy capsules courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
ARCADIA — Police placed extra patrols at Arcadia High School Thursday after administrators received an anonymous email stating their may be armed students on campus, officials aid.
The email was discovered and reported to police shortly after 10 a.m., Arcadia police Lt. Bob Anderson said.
“It was an anonymous email that was received by one of the supervisors,” Anderson said. “It stated there might be two students on campus with handguns.”
Police launched an investigation into the email, he said.
Police and school officials decided to continue the school day, which was already on a shortened for mid-term exams, but with extra police presence at the campus, Anderson said. The school was not placed on lockdown.
“Nothing was discovered to lead us to believe it was a credible threat,” Anderson said.
About 10 police officers stood by at the school until dismissal at 12:37 p.m., he said.
ARCADIA — One person was critically injured and two others were in serious condition after a BMW and a Toyota crashed head-on Wednesday night.
Arcadia Police Lt. Mike Castro said one of the cars was traveling the wrong way before the collision.
But due to conflicting statements and the injuries to the people involved, police Thursday were still investigating which of the two vehicles was heading eastbound on westbound Huntington Drive.
The crash was reported to police at 9:16 p.m.
Castro said the woman driving the Toyota sustained critical injuries. A woman who was a passenger in the Toyota and the man driving the BMW were seriously injured, he added.
All three were taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital.
There were no further details.
- Ruby Gonzales
Prosecutors Wednesday filed eight felony charges, with more likely to come later, against an Arcadia man who used a complex credit card fraud and forgery scheme to support an opulent lifestyle at the expense of others for more than a year, investigators said.
South Pasadena police arrested Feng Xian, 21, Monday on charges including forgery, fraud, burglary and possession of equipment for forging fake credit cards, South Pasadena police Detective Bill Earley said.
At a room he was renting in Arcadia, police found 244 allegedly fraudulent credit cards, along with embossing machines and electronic equipment used to create the bogus cards, the detective said.
And it appeared Xian, who drove a Mercedes-Benz and wore designer clothing and jewelry despite having “no visible means of support,” had been involved in the scheme for many months.
“He’s been doing this for at least a year,” Earley said. “I have receipts more than a year old.”
… FULL STORY
PHOTOS of seized property, suspect Feng Xian courtesy of the South Pasadena Police Department