Although it has recovered more than $7 million in stolen goods in the past 16 months, funding for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Industrial Plastic Theft Task Force is due to expire this month, officials said Friday.
Based at the sheriff’s Industry Station, the five-person task force is the first of its kind targeting the theft of trademarked plastic goods.
Since its inception in September 2011, task force members have made 65 arrests – all but one resulting in felony charges – and shut down 28 locations where pilfered plastics were being stored or ground up for recycling, deputies said.
Plastic thefts have become a major problem for Southland business, officials said. With plastic selling for about 15 cents a pound, thieves see milk crates, pallets and bread trays as a quick source of cash. They sell them to local recyclers, who then ground them into pellets that are often shipped to Asian plastics manufacturers.
It is not uncommon for the pilfered plastic to end up being resold to the victimized companies.
“Some companies will go out of business because of the thefts. They can’t sustain it,” said Capt. Michael Claus, who heads the sheriff’s Industry Station.
A task force based out of the sheriff’s Industry Station recovered more than $115,000 worth of stolen plastic goods late Wednesday from a South El Monte recycling business and a Lynwood home, officials said.
Eight people were arrested during the bust, which was carried out at Broadway Plastics in the 2000 block of Lee Avenue in South El Monte, as well as at a home in the 3500 block of Virginia Street in Lynwood, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Arrested were: Carlos Torres, 41, who is accused of masterminding the operation; Torres’ wife, Cecilia Torres, 38; their daughter, Carmen Torres, 18; Broadway Plastics owner Jason Wang, 46; Jesus Martinez, 23; Jose Gomez, 42; Joshua Barragan, 19; and Alex Merino, Sgt. Nabeel Mitry said. Their cities of residence were not available early Thursday.
Five of those arrested are family members, and two of them worked at Broadway Plastics, in addition to the business owner, Mitry added.
Officials described them as five family members, as well as two employees and the owner of the South El Monte recycling business. They were booked on suspicion of receiving stolen property.
The allegedly stolen plastics include items such as pallets and crates used to transport products.
At the South El Monte location, “Stolen trademarked plastic products were being stowed, ground and primed to be sold,” according to the sheriff’s statement. “Some of the products were still intact, while some had already been ground.”
The investigation and arrests were the result of an investigation by the sheriff’s Industrial Plastic Theft Task Force, based out of the sheriff’s Industry Station.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, the eight suspects were being held in lieu of $20,000 bail each pending their scheduled arraignment Friday in El Monte Superior Court.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
INDUSTRY — Coroner’s officials over the weekend released the name of a 48-year-old La Puente man who died Thursday in a motorcycle crash.
Mauricio Martinez-Coto died at the scene of the crash, which took place just before 9 a.m. on Fullerton Road at Arenth Avenue, according to Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Joe Bale. He was initially described by sheriff’s officials as a 38-year-old man.
Initial investigation indicated Martinez-Coto was southbound on Fullerton Road when a vehicle turned in front of him while making a left from northbound Fullerton Road onto Arenth Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Arthur Scott said. The rider was thrown from his motorcycle by the impact.
The driver of the vehicle that collided with the motorcycle remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators, Scott added. No arrested were made in what was being investigated as an accident.
INDUSTRY — A La Puente man died early Thursday in a motorcycle crash on Fullerton Road, authorities said.
The crash took place just before 9 a.m. at Fullerton Road and Arenth Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Russell Boucher said.
Lt. Arthur Scott said the rider was initially described as a 38-year-old La Puente man.
He was southbound Fullerton Road prior to the crash, the lieutenant said.
A vehicle being drive by a man made a left turn from northbound Fullerton Road onto Arenth Avenue in front of the motorcyclist, who was unable to avoid a collision, Scott said.
The motorcyclist was thrown from his motorcycle, officials said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Though the crash was initially believed to have been caused by the vehicle that was making the left turn, nothing criminal was initially suspected and the crash appeared to be an accident, Scott said.
The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators, he added.
INDUSTRY — A man suffered major injuries but was expected to survive after being struck in the head with a hammer early Thursday in a seemingly random attack, officials said.
A 53-year-old man exited a manufacturing business where he worked in the 180 block of South Brent Circle about 6:30 a.m. when he was attacked without warning, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Wilson said.
The attacker, described only as a Latino man wearing dark clothing, struck the man in the head with a hammer suddenly and without provocation, the sergeant said.
Officials used a helicopter to rush the injured man to Los Angeles County-USC Medical with serious injuries, but was expected to survive, Wilson said.
The victim told investigators he did not recognize his attacker.
INDUSTRY — Sheriff’s deputies arrested three people on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol Friday during a checkpoint, officials said.
More than 1,800 vehicles passed through Friday night’s checkpoint at Valley Boulevard and 6th Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. Of those, 1,224 drivers were screened.
Two drivers were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana, while another was jailed on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana and alcohol, according to the statement.
Two drivers were arrested on suspicion of being addicts driving vehicles, and two drivers were arrested for not having licenses, officials said. Four cars were impounded for one day.
INDUSTRY — A 20-year-old man died Sunday in a rollover crash on the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway, authorities said.
The crash was reported about 7:15 p.m. on the southbound side of the freeway, just south of Peck Road, California Highway Patrol Officer Patrick Kimball said.
The man was driving a Saturn sedan in the right lane when it went over the right shoulder and overturned, Kimball said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers from the CHP’s Santa Fe Springs office are investigating the cause of the crash.
AVOCADO HEIGHTS – An explosion that sent compressed gas cylinders raining onto a neighborhood Monday led to the evacuation of residents and the two-hour closure of the eastbound 60 Freeway.
The explosion occurred about 11:30 a.m. on Cambray Drive, in a small neighborhood near the interchange of the 60 and 605 freeways. No one was injured.
The explosion, which was caused by the failure of a 50-gallon compressed carbon dioxide tank, flattened the bed
of the pickup truck carrying it and flung 18 other cylinders into neighboring yards. The cylinders are commonly used to carbonate soda in restaurant soft-drink machines.
“Those cylinders have been kicked around this neighborhood,” said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Tony Imbrenda. “The truck was pretty well demolished.”
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INDUSTRY — Two people died Thursday following a multi-car crash involving a big rig and three other vehicles, authorities said.
The crash was first reported at 1:18 p.m. on the eastbound 60 Freeway at the 605 Freeway, California Highway Patrol Officer Tatiana Sauquillo said.
Two people were pronounced dead at the scene, she said.
The circumstances of the crash were unavailable Thursday afternoon, and it was unclear if additional injuries were involved.
Officials issued a Sig Alert for the right three lanes of the eastbound 60 Freeway that was expected to last for several hours.