PASADENA — A Tujunga man was charged Thursday with murdering his 33- year-old female cousin, whose body was left near the La Crescenta Avenue offramp of the westbound 210 Freeway.Aram Sarukhanyan, 27, is accused of shooting Adrine Arzumanyan and then pointing a handgun at a civilian who tried to stop him after he allegedly dumped the victim’s body alongside the freeway April 29.Sarukhanyan was located a short time later on the southbound 2 Freeway with a self-inflicted gunshot wound that resulted in his hospitalization, authorities said.He will be arraigned after he is released from the hospital, according to Deputy District Attorney Lee Mitchell.Sarukhanyan is charged with one felony count each of murder and brandishing a firearm at a person in motor vehicle, along with the allegation that he personally used a handgun in the commission of Arzumanyan’s shooting.If convicted, he faces a maximum of more than 50 years to life in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Officials blame drivers distracted by gadgets for two separate injury crashes late Friday in Industry and early Saturday in La Canada Flintridge.
A man suffered a broken ankle about 8:50 p.m. Friday when he crashed into a telephone pole at Baldwin Park Boulevard and Temple Avenue in Industry, Lt. Steve Katz said in a written statement.
The man told deputies he dropped his cell phone while driving and leaned over to retrieve it, the lieutenant said.
“In doing so, the vehicle veered toward the curb and struck a telephone pole,” Katz said.
The crash brought live electrical wires down into the street, officials said, however electrical service and traffic signals were unaffected. A Southern California Edison crew was summoned to repair the damage.
About five hours later, a 22-year-old man was hospitalized with major injuries when he crashed his car while sending a text message on the westbound 210 Freeway near Foothill Boulevard, California Highway Patrol Officer Ed Jacobs said.
“He was texting while driving,” he said. “His wife or girlfriend received the text a minute after the crash came out.”
The car swerved across westbound lanes, hit the center divider and overturned, Jacobs said.
The driver was taken Huntington Hospital in Pasadena for treatement of injuries that were believed to be life-threatening, officials said.
LA CAADA FLINRTRIDGE — Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Pasadena man and an Altadena teen Tuesday after they broke into a woman’s house, then one of them rammed her car with their own, authorities said.
Ricardo Lopez, 19, of Pasadena, was booked on suspicion of burglary and assault with a deadly weapon, while a 17-year-old Altadena boy was suspected of burglary, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Blume said.
A 54-year-old woman arrived home about 10:45 a.m. and found the suspects inside her house, the lieutenant said.
When Lopez saw the woman was dialing 9-1-1, he ran out to his truck and charged toward the woman’s car, Blume said.
“The truck scraped against passenger side of the victim’s car,” he said, then drove away.
Stolen from the home was four laptop computers and other electronics, Blume said.
The teenage suspect, who was left behind in the scuffle, was found nearby walking on Foothill Boulevard with the help of tips from neighbors, officials said.
Deputies found Lopez sitting in the car believed to have been involved in the incident parked near his home in Pasadena, Blume said. Lopez was arrested, and deputies discovered items allegedly stolen from the house in La Caada Flintridge inside Lopez’s home.
According to sheriff’s booking records, Lopez was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail and was due for arraignment Thursday in Pasadena Superior Court.
LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE – The sheriff’s Crescenta Valley Station was briefly evacuated Thursday evening after a faulty air conditioning unit filled the building with smoke, authorities said.
The smoke was first reported at 6:42 p.m. at the sheriff’s station, 4554 Briggs Ave. in La Crescenta, Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatch supervisor Michael Pittman said.
The building was evacuated and emergency calls were re-routed to the sheriff’s Temple Station, sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Conti said.
A single inmate being housed in the Crescenta Valley Station jail was secured in a police car during the incident, he added, and Crescenta Valley deputies continued their usual patrols.
The malfunctioning air conditioner bellowed smoke in to the station, though there was no actual fire, officials said.
Firefighters were ventilating the building around 7:30 p.m., and operations at the station were expected to return to normal later Thursday evening.
LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — A man robbed a bank Friday, but left the cash behind after a dye pack exploded, authorities said.
The crime occurred just after noon at the Citizens Business Bank, 858 Foothill Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Blume said.
The robber entered the bank and presented a note to a teller, he said. The note demanded cash and claimed the man had a weapon.
After receiving some cash from a teller, the robber left the bank. A dye pack concealed in the money exploded as the robber exited the bank, and he abandoned the stolen cash.
He was last seen getting into an unknown getaway car, Blume added.
Officials described the robber as a white man in his 50s or 60s with a white mustache and bushy hair. He wore a blue striped shirt and a white baseball cap.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s Crescenta Valley Station at 818-248-3464.
From Thom Mrozek:
LOS ANGELES – A La Caada woman who sold fake art – including works purported to be by Picasso, Dali and Chagall – through a rigged televised art auction has been sentenced to 84 months in federal prison.
Kristine Eubanks, 52, was sentenced late yesterday by United States District Judge Gary A. Feess, who said that the fraud scheme was “audacious in its scope” and “blatantly illegal.”
The scam, run through a company called Fine Art Treasures Gallery, falsely told customers that art sold on the company’s television show had been found at “estate liquidations all over the world.” Instead, Eubanks and others sold fake and forged art that they had bought from suppliers, as well as forgeries they had printed themselves and signed on behalf of the artists. The scam brought in well over $20 million from more than 10,000 victims across the country.
Eubanks pleaded guilty in April 2007 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property and to filing a false income tax return. Through this company, Eubanks and her conspirators operated an art auction television show, which aired on Friday and Saturday nights on DirecTV and The Dish Network, and sold art to customers around the United States. Eubanks and her husband, Gerald Sullivan, ran the scheme from 2002 through 2006.
Eubanks admitted that she obtained fake art from various suppliers, and printed other art works in her own printing shop, and sold that bogus art on the auction as genuine. Eubanks and others forged signatures on some of the works, including purported lithographs from Picasso, Chagall and Dali. To support the scam, Eubanks also forged Certificates of Authenticity for certain pieces and provided falsified appraisals for some of the jewelry that was sold to customers. Eubanks and others also rigged the bidding for the auction process by arranging for fake bids to be announced on the program to falsely drive up prices for the art they sold to the public.
Eubanks’ husband, Gerald Sullivan, 54, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Feess on May 24, at which time he faces a statutory maximum sentence of six years in federal prison.
As part of the investigation into Fine Arts, federal authorities seized approximately $3.8 million from bank accounts controlled by Eubanks and Sullivan. Those funds have been forfeited to the government, which is in the process of notifying thousands of potential victims that they may have purchased bogus artworks.
This case was investigated by the national Art Crime Team at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Theft Detail.
From Sandi Gibbons in the District Attorney’s Office:
LOS ANGELES – An attorney investigated as part of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) probe of hardcore child pornography on the Internet pleaded no contest today to one felony count each of possessing child pornography and an assault rifle.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Schwartz of the Justice System Integrity Division said Walter Loustari, who remains free on bail, entered the plea before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan. Sentencing was scheduled for March 3.
Schwartz said the 58-year-old defendant entered an “open” plea, meaning it was not part of a negotiated settlement. His sentence could range anywhere from probation to three years and eight months in state prison.
Loustari, who had a law office in La Canada and lived in Glendale, was charged in October 2009 following an investigation by ICE and the Glendale Police Department.
Authorities said the investigation began in October 2006 as part of ICE’s Operation Predator, in which the agency works closely with local agencies to investigate child pornography throughout the United States.
At a press conference held at Fire Camp 2 in La Canada Flintridge Thursday at 5:30 p.m., officials expressed relief that the foothill communities such as La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Altadena and Sierra Madre had not suffered any major damage as of yet due to rain.
Nonetheless, officials cautioned that the danger posed by the fire-denuded and now soaked hillsides north of foothill comunities has not passed.
Patchy thunderstorms were expected to continue overnight over hillsides that are already saturated with water.
Even after the storm subsides and the sun comes up, mudslides and debris flows will be on “ongoing concern,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Director Gail Farber said. She declined to estimate how long the threat of mudslides would loom over the recent burn areas of the Station Fire.
Though mandatory evacuations were lifted Thursday throughout Sierra Madre, all other evacuations, including those in La Canada Flintridge and La Crescenta, remained in effect.
Those asked to evacuate there homes will have to wait at least one more night to find out when it’s safe to return, Farber added.
“We want to bring people home just as quickly as possible,” she said. “However, we are not prepared to make a decision this evening.”
County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said he hoped officials would be able to give residence information Friday morning on when they may be able to return home.
LA CAADA FLINTRIDGE — A person was killed Sunday when a pickup truck overturned and caught fire on the 210 Freeway, officials said.
The crash occurred just before 3 p.m. in the westbound lanes of the 210 Freeway, just east of the 2 Freeway, according to California Highway Patrol logs.
One person was pronounced dead at the scene, officials said, however no description of that person was immediately available.
The truck was westbound on the freeway when, for unknown reasons, it suddenly swerved to the left and struck the center divider, CHP Officer Monica Posada said.
“The truck overturned onto its driver-side,” she said. “It came to rest and was engulfed in flames.”
The driver of the pickup truck died at the scene.
Officials said a motorcyclist was injured and an SUV was damaged when they were struck by debris in the eastbound lanes of the 210 Freeway.
Both directions of the freeway were initially shut down after the crash, officials said.
Eastbound lanes of the freeway were reopened within about half an hour, and two lanes of the westbound freeway were opened to traffic as of 4 p.m.
The crash was the second fatal wreck reported on the 210 Freeway Sunday.
In Sunland, a man, woman and 14-year-old boy were killed after their SUV rear-ended a big rig and burst into flames during the early morning hours, authorities said.
Two other children who were in the SUV — a 9-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy — were rescued from the wreckage by a good Samaritan. They were hospitalized in fair condition.
LA CAADA FLINTRIDGE — For the fourth time in just over a week, a foothill city bank has been robbed by gunman, authorities said.
A robbery was reported about 9:45 a.m. Thursday at a La Caada Flintridge Chase bank branch, 749 Foothill Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Larry Landreth said.
Two robbers wearing masks helped themselves to an undisclosed amount of cash from two tellers at the bank, the lieutenant said, but abandoned some of the money and one of the guns, which turned out to be a fake, a short distance away when an anti-theft dye-pack exploded.
“Some of the money was recovered with the die pack,” Landreth said.
The robbers were both described as black men in their 20s wearing masks, he said. One of the robbers wore a grey hooded sweat shirt, grey overalls and a gorilla mask, Landreth said. A further description of the other robber was not available.
Witnesses at the bank reported seeing a silver car, possibly a Toyota, fleeing the area, officials said.
Deputies from the Altadena Station spotted a silver Honda Prelude with two black men driving extremely aggressively and fast down the eastbound 210 Freeway shortly after the robbery, Landreth added, but they were not found.
Another bank robbery occurred Monday at a Citibank branch in La Crescenta, 2621 Foothill Boulevard, authorities said.
In that case, the robber was described as a black man in his 20s, about 6 feet 4 inches tall, about 185 pounds, with a goatee and mustache, sheriff’s officials said. He wore a green heavy winter coat with a hood.
Two bank robberies were reported Oct. 15 in San Dimas and Altadena.
In Altadena, a black man who appeared to be in his 40s used a demand note to rob a Chase bank at 2333 N. Lake Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. John Stanley said.
He stood 6 feet 2 inches to 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighed about 200 pounds, the sergeant said. He was bearded and wore all black clothing, including a black beanie.
In San Dimas, three men armed with a handguns carried out a robbery at the Chase bank at 1198 Via Verde, sheriff’s officials said. A white car was used as a getaway car.
Though the suspect descriptions in each case bare similarities, Landreth said, there are also differences.
It was not clear Thursday if the robberies were connected, Landreth said.