A Baldwin Park man Wednesday admitted participating in a San Gabriel Valley-based drug distribution conspiracy Wednesday and admitted fatally shooting a man in La Puente in 2006, federal officials said.
Eddie “Criminal” Garcia, 39, faces up to 30 years in federal prison when he returns to court in Los Angeles for sentencing Jan. 25, U.S. Assistant Attorney Mack Jenkins said. But under the plea deal, the prosecution and defense agreed to recommend a prison term of 18 to 24 years to the presiding judge.
Garcia pleaded guilty to participating in a drug distribution conspiracy which included murder, Jenkins explained.
The charge stems from a 2010 investigation targeting the Puente 13 street gang’s drug activities in the San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
“In addition to participating in drug trafficking activities that include collecting ‘taxes’ or ‘rent’ on behalf of the Mexican Mafia member who controlled Puente 13, Garcia admitted that he murdered another gang member who failed to… make those extortion payments,” U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
Garcia and two other gang members who have since been convicted in connection with the slaying shot and killed 44-year-old David Dragna of East Valinda after luring him to an apartment complex in the 14700 block of Pritchard Street in La Puente on July 3, 2006, according to DOJ and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
Officials described Garcia as a former member of the 18th Street gang, while Dragna was part of the Townsmen gang.
The 18th Street gang, Townsmen and Puente 13 all operate under the leadership of the Mexican Mafia, Jenkins said.
As part of the same investigation that led to Garcia’s conviction, the then-leader of the Puente 13 gang and his brother were sentenced to life in federal prison in 2013.
The investigation was a joint effort by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
BALDWIN PARK >> The California Highway Patrol is hosting a class for teens and their parents Friday designed to help young people stay safe behind the wheel.
The “Start Smart” class will take place from 6:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office, 14029 Francisquito Ave., CHP Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said.
“The primary objective of ‘Start Smart’ is to provide teens and their parent (or) guardian with an interactive safe driving awareness class which will illustrate how poor choices behind the wheel of a car can affect the lives of numerous people,” CHP officials said in a written statement.
Topics will include the responsibilities of newly-licensed drivers, the responsibilities of parents and guardians and collision avoidance techniques.
The class is free for teens ages 15 through 19 years old and a drivers’ licenses are not required. Space is limited, however, and those interested are urged to RSVP early.
Due to some graphic pictures and video displayed during the class, teens must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who must sign a waiver form at the beginning of the class.
For more information, or to reserve a space for a teen and guardian, contact Officer Jimenez at 626-338-1164, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IRWINDALE >> A man died Saturday after police took him into custody with the use of a Taser while responding to reports he was acting strangely along Ramona Boulevard, officials said.
The incident began about 3:30 p.m. when officers responded to a gas station in Baldwin Park along Ramona Boulevard at the 605 Freeway after someone reported the man was lying on the sidewalk, Baldwin Park Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said.
The man, who was reported to be in his 40s, was calm when officers arrived but witnesses directed them to a parking lot across the street.
“When officers arrived, they were told that the suspect had stolen a large American flag and flag pole from a gas station and had been swinging it at cars and people in the area,” deputy Crystal Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
BALDWIN PARK >> Police arrested a woman and her brother on suspicion of kidnapping and other crimes after the siblings snatched the woman’s toddler son from the home of the boy’s father in Baldwin Park Friday, officials said.
Elizabeth Arias, 25, and Anthony Arias, 22, both of Baldwin Park, were ultimately jailed on suspicion of kidnapping, burglary and domestic violence, Baldwin Park police Lt. Chris Kuberry said.
The incident began about 8:30 a.m. when the brother and sister went to the father’s home in the 14800 block of Central Avenue and forced their way inside, the lieutenant said.
“The suspects became involved in a physical altercation with the father,” Kuberry said. “(Elizabeth Arias) kicked open a bedroom door and took the baby.” The woman and her brother then left in a black SUV.
Detectives found and arrested Anthony Arias in El Monte about 12:20 p.m., Kuberry said. When asked where the toddler was, “He was not cooperative.”
Investigators spotted Elizabeth Arias driving in El Monte about 4:30 p.m. and pulled her over, he said. Police found the boy, unharmed, inside the vehicle and arrested his mother.
There was no legal custody arrangement between the boy’s parents, Kuberry said.
BALDWIN PARK >> The cause of death of a 54-year-old Duarte man found unconscious in front of a Baldwin Park grocery store remains under investigation, though the man suffered from several maladies and foul play was not initially suspected.
Paramedics pronounced Raul Ygnacio Acuna dead shortly after he was found lying unconscious in front of Food 4 Less, 3000 N. Baldwin Park Blvd., Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
An autopsy had been performed, but a cause of death was yet to be determined pending the results of additional tests, Winter said Thursday.
Though listed in coroner’s documents as transient, niece Rachel Chavez said her uncle was a lifelong Duarte resident.
Family members were awaiting word from the coroner regarding exactly what happened to Acuna, she said. They knew only that he had gone for a walk after leaving the nearby Kaiser Permanente hospital.
“He was diabetic,” the niece said. He had a lot of ailments.”
Acuna is survived by son Nicholas Acuna; mother Linda Olsen-Acuna; siblings Angela Acuna Hernandez, Eddie Acuna Jr., Cynthia Marin, Alex Acuna, David Olsen; and many nieces and nephews, Chavez said.
A former steel worker who had not been working lately due to his illness, Chavez described her uncle as a “funny, funny guy.”
“He was one of those guys who wanted to make everyone laugh,” she said. “He was so much fun to be around. His energy was so amazing.”
“His family loved him very much,” Chavez said. “We will greatly miss him.”
BALDWIN PARK >> Coroner’s officials Sunday released the identity of a 54-year-old man found dead in front of a Baldwin Park grocery store Thursday night.
Raul Ygnacio Acuna, was found dead about 10 p.m. Thursday in front of Food 4 Less, along Baldwin Park Boulevard, just south of Francisquito Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
An autopsy was yet to be completed Sunday, however investigators found no initial signs of foul play, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Johnny Patino said.
BALDWIN PARK >> Police found no initial signs of foul play after a man was found dead in front of a Baldwin Park grocery store late Thursday, officials said.
Someone called police about 10 p.m. to report what was thought to be a man passed out drunk in front of Food 4 Less on Baldwin Park Boulevard, jut south of Francisquito Avenue, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Johnny Patino said.
Officers arrived to discover a man already dead, the sergeant said. Police said the body appeared to have gone undiscovered for some amount of time, as rigor mortis had already set in.
The man was believed to be transient known to the area, Patino said.
There were no overt signs of trauma or foul play, he said. Coroner’s investigators were summoned to the scene.
POMONA >> A Baldwin Park man received a sentenced of 25 years to life in prison Tuesday after a Pomona Superior Court jury convicted of murder and child abuse for the death of his 20-month-old son, authorities said.
The jury deliberated for about an hour before finding David Paz Vasquez, 34, guilty of second-degree murder and child abuse causing death for the June 12, 2013, death of his son, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. Judge Bruce Marrs immediately sentenced Vasquez to 25 years to life in state prison.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators identified the young toddler as Joshua Anderson Vasquez.
His father brought him to Citrus Valley Medical Center – Queen of the Valley Campus about 10:50 a.m. before he was pronounced dead at 11:08 a.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroners officials said. Doctors determined the boy died from blunt force trauma to his torso and head, and detectives responded the man’s home in the 3700 block of Downing Avenue to investigate, Detective Eddie Brown of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said at the time.
The toddler’s mother was at work when the fatal injuries occurred, officials said.
“Vasquez told investigators that placed the child on a bed and told him not to move,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement. “The toddler fell onto the floor and Vasquez became so upset that he struck his son on the head and abdomen and then took him to the hospital.”
“It appears Vasquez slammed the victim’s head against the floor and that he used a shoe to strike the child in the abdomen,” Risling said. The victim’s injuries included a broken skull, broken ribs and internal bleeding to the abdomen, officials said.
An autopsy determined the boy died of “blunt force trauma inflicted by caregiver,” and the case was ruled a homicide, Los Angeles County Department Coroner Assistance Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Detectives arrested David Vasquez on suspicion of murder late the same day.
About 15 months prior to the child’s death, when he was five months old, he suffered a broken leg when Vasquez yanked him away from his mother, the district attorney’s statement said. “After that incident, the toddler was placed in foster care for about a month and then went to his grandmother’s house for six months. “He was then returned to his parents.”
BALDWIN PARK >> Authorities charged a 73-year-old man with solicitation of murder Thursday for allegedly offering to pay coworker at a Baldwin Park manufacturing facility to kill another coworker over workplace dispute.
Police arrested Ronald Herman Perfetto of Los Angeles Tuesday at a business in the 4700 block of Littlejohn Street, Baldwin Park police Lt. Doug Parnell said.
“Two separate employees told officers that (Perfetto) had offered them between $500 and $7,000, and a ‘clean gun,’ if they would kill another employee,” Baldwin Park police said in a written statement. “Officers learned the suspect had also inquired on how to withdraw money from his 401(k) plan.”
The company fired the suspect on the spot before police took him into custody, Parnell said.
A search of Perfetto’s home in the 1000 block of North Avenue 63 in Los Angeles lead to the recovery of 11 handguns, rifles and shotguns, police said. Investigators were looking into the registration of the weapons.
Perfetto was a longtime employee of the business, while the target of his alleged scheme was a man in his 30s with just a few years experience, Parnell said.
“The newer employee went to the boss with a new procedure or technique to improve efficiency. The employer liked it and implemented it,” the lieutenant said. “(Perfetto) felt slighted.”
Perfetto first offered the two coworkers $500 to carry out the hit, ultimately raising his bid to $7,000, Parnell said.
Prosecutors Thursday filed a charge of solicitation of murder against Perfetto, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
He entered a not guilty plea and was ordered back to West Covina Superior Court for a preliminary hearing setting on July 30, she said.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Perfetto is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Honda teamed with gas stations in Covina and Baldwin Park Saturday to help San Gabriel Valley Honda owners kick off their Independence Day travels by pumping free gas.
The helpful folks in blue shirts brought their “Random Acts of Helpfulness” campaign to Valero, 3660 Puente Ave. in Baldwin Park, in the late morning, then headed to Jerry’s Automotive Services and Kwik Serv, 4560 N. Grand Ave., early Saturday afternoon.
Word of the free fuel quickly spread, and both stations saw lines of Honda’s waiting to take advantage of the events.
Damian Ruiz, 20, of Covina said he rushed to the Covina gas station after receiving a text message from a friend letting him know about the unannounced giveaway.
“I was on a quarter (tank),” so this will get me through the weekend,” he said. “I’m going to Laughlin right after this, so it was perfect.”
A stroke of luck brought Rolando Buelnas, 23, of Covina, to the Covina giveaway.
He said he tried to go to the Baldwin Park event but didn’t make it in time. He headed to a car wash next door to the Covina station when the Honda crew coincidentally arrived to continue pumping free gas.
“I was going to wash my car and I saw this long line of Hondas,” he said.
Joanna Perales, 30, of Baldwin Park arrived at the Baldwin Park Valero station just as the Honda crew was leaving. So she said she decided to follow them to see if they stopped nearby.
The tactic paid off when the Honda team pulled in to Jerry’s Auto in Covina and let the pumps loose.
“This is awesome,” Perales said as Honda representatives filled her tank. Though she’d heard of Honda’s helpfulness campaign before, “You don’t really think it was really true until you actually go through it.”