‘Quad Bandit’ sought for bank robberies in Los Angeles, Orange counties

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The FBI is seeking a serial bank robbery they’ve dubbed the “Quad Bandit,” whose robbed or attempted to rob nine banks in Orange and Los Angeles counties since April, officials said Friday.
The bandit earned his moniker at the outset of his spree when he struck four Buena Park banks on March 22, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. Three of the crimes at Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase branches failed, while one at a Chase bank was successful.
The robber then showed up in Cerritos March 16, where he tried unsuccessfully to rob a Wells Fargo before successfully robbing a Chase bank later the same day, officials said.
The Quad Bandit robbed a La Habra U.S. Bank branch July 3, followed by an Opus Bank branch in Anaheim on July 15 and a Union Bank branch in Anaheim Hills on Wednesday.
“During the robberies, the suspect known as the Quad Bandit typically passes a note and makes a verbal demand for cash,” Eimilller said. “In some of the robberies, the Quad Bandit has threatened a weapon, or has appeared to have gestured toward what might be a weapon, according to victims.”
0726_NWS_WDN-L-WUADBANDIT2In a bank surveillance photo released by the FBI from a Buena Park crime, the bandit is seen holding up a piece of paper toward the teller’s window with the words, “bank robbery,” written on it.
The FBI described the bandit as white, 40 to 50 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall, 150 to 160 grounds. he had dirty blond hair, a goatee and stubble during the crimes, during which he wore sunglasses and baseball caps.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI’s Los Angeles office at 888-226-8443.

PHOTOS courtesy of the FBI

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Hacienda Road reopened after water main break in La Habra Heights

LA HABRA HEIGHTS — A stretch of Hacienda Road that was shut down Friday due to a water main leak reopened Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The leak was first reported about 12:30 p.m. Friday at Hacienda and West Roads, prompting officials to shut down Hacienda Road between Colima Road and Whittier Boulevard, La Habra Heights Public Works Director Dave Nichols. The mishap opened up a hole 10 feet wide by 20 feet long, and 4 to 5 feet deep.
After repairing the water main and repaving the street, the section of road was reopened shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday, Nichols said. About 18,000 vehicles use the road daily.

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Suspect sought in failed La Habra tobacco shop robbery

LA HABRA — Police searched a La Habra neighborhood Thursday after a botched tobacco shop robbery, authorities said.
The suspect ultimately eluded capture following the incident, which began about 6 p.m. with an attempted robbery at a tobacco store on Whittier Boulevard, just east of Hacienda Road, La Habra police Sgt. Mel Ruiz said.
The would-be robber entered the store and demanded property from the clerk, the sergeant said. He claimed to have a knife.
The clerk refused and confronted the robber, Ruiz said. The crook reached for the cash resister as the two briefly struggled.
The robber abandoned the crime and ran from the store, dropping a box cutter-style knife as he fled, officials said. The clerk declined to be taken to a hospital.
Police spotted a man matching the description of the failed robber about 6:40 p.m. in the area of Beach and La Habra Boulevards, Ruiz said. He ran south through a residential neighborhood as officers approached.
Officers set up a search perimeter in the area of Beach Boulevard and Lambert Road, where they last spotted the fleeing suspect, Ruiz said.
They searched yard-to-yard with the help of two police dogs and an Orange County Sheriff’s Department Helicopter, but came up empty-handed, he said.
Police described the robber as a Latino man of about 20 years old, about 5 feet 3 inches tall, of thin build, with a shaved head. He wore a black shirt with white lettering, blue jeans and leather boots.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the La Habra Police Department.

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Missing couple found dead in La Habra home identified, investigation ongoing

A missing man and woman who were found dead Saturday in their La Habra home have been identified, officials said.
Alaina A’Lurede, 31, and her husband, Kevin A’Lurede, 35, were discovered by officers around 1:40 p.m. in two separate rooms in the 600 block of Greenwood Avenue, La Habra police spokeswoman Cindy Knapp said. Aaina A’Lurede is believed to have died of a drug overdose, and her husband from a gunshot wounds, though their officials causes of death remained under investigation by Orange County coroner’s officials.
After receiving information from family members, officers made entry into the residence.
Officials said one body was found in the living room and the other in the bedroom and appeared to have been dead for several days.
An autopsy was carried out Wednesday yielded some answers, however the officials causes of death of Kevin and Alaina A’Lurede remains undetermined pending the results of further tests at the coroner’s office, Knapp said.
“Alaina A’Lurede’s body showed signs consistent with a drug overdose,” Knapp said. “Cause of death is most likely suicide, however, conclusive results for both subjects is pending the completion of a toxicology screen.”
“Kevin A’Lurede has sustained a gunshot wound from a small-caliber weapon. The pathologist could not rule out suicide as the cause of death,” Knapp said. “A small-caliber handgun was recovered from the bedroom of the home, near Kevin’s body,” Knapp said. “At this juncture, no suicide note has been located.”
Police were not searching for any suspects, Knapp said. The investigation was ongoing, and the coroner’s toxicology results were expected in 8 to 12 weeks.
The couple was reported missing by their families Friday after they were unable to contact them, officials said.
Officers visited their home around 9:30 p.m. that day and saw one of their cars parked in the driveway. Officers knocked on the door, but received no answer, officials said.
Police spoke with neighbors, but were unable to gather information leading to the couple’s whereabouts.
While the man and woman’s specific times of death were not available, Knapp said, “both parties had expired prior to the initial missing person’s report being made,”

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EARTHQUAKE UPDATE: 20 Fullerton apartments deemed safe for residents to return; 6 houses remain red-tagged

FULLERTON — The majority of Fullerton homes red-tagged by authorities following Friday night’s earthquake were inspected and cleared for residents to return early Sunday, as aftershocks as strong as magnitude 4.1 continued to rumble the La Habra area, officials said.
More than 100 aftershocks had been reported since Friday’s 5.1-magnitude quake. A 2.7-magnitude aftershock shook the Southland at 9:05 a.m. Sunday. And a magnitude 4.1-quake was widely felt Saturday afternoon.
But there were no new reports of damage in Fullerton, where 20 apartments and six homes were initially deemed unsafe to inhabit, Fullerton police officials announced in a written statement.
“Of the residences that were originally red-tagged, residents in the 20 apartments on North Associated have been allowed to return to their residences, after structural engineers cleared the properties for re-entry,” according to the police statement.
Six houses within the city remained red-tagged, officials said.

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UPDATED: 26 Fullerton homes red-tagged due to earthquake; aftershocks continue

The magnitude-5.1 earthquake centered just east of La Habra on Friday night was felt throughout the region, however the damage it caused was primarily isolated to a pocket of northern Orange County, where 26 homes were red-tagged, officials said.
Dozens of aftershocks continued to rumble through the night, including one measured at magnitude 3.6 at 9:30 p.m. Friday, and another measured at magnitude 3.4 at 9:02 a.m. Saturday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
And more were expected, USGS Geophysicist Doug Given said.
“We anticipate there will be a few more,” he said.
“This is fairly typical aftershock activity for an event this size,” Given said. “This is maybe a little on the energetic side.”
Over the next seven days, “We have been saying there is about a 5 percent chance of a larger earthquake to come,” he said. “But that chance is front-loaded.”
As time passes, large aftershocks become increasingly less likely to occur, he explained. “That likelihood is decaying very rapidly.”
The quake rattled windows and nerves throughout Orange and Los Angeles Counties, but Fullerton was hardest hit by the quake.
As officials made damage assessments overnight and into Saturday, 20 apartment units and six houses in Fullerton were deemed uninhabitable and red-tagged, Fullerton police Sgt. Mike Chlebowski said.
Residents would not be allowed to reoccupy the homes until they were checked out by an inspector, he said.
And work on a ruptured water main at Rosecrans Avenue and Gilbert Road Street continued to force a road closure Saturday morning, Chlebowski said.
But no earthquake-related injuries had been reported Saturday, in Fullerton or elsewhere.
La Habra had been spared an significant structural damage, La Habra police Lt. Kyle Davis said. “It all seems cosmetic at this point.”
No buildings had been red-tagged, though a couple dozen La Habra residents had evacuated their homes voluntarily due to safety concerns, Davis said.
Authorities had initially feared possible structural damage at three apartment buildings that were especially rocked by the quake in the 2500 block West Whittier Boulevard, the 400 block of North Idaho Street and the 700 block of West First Avenue, Davis said.
Considering how close La Habra lies to the earthquake’s epicenter, “We fared pretty well,” he said.
“The La Habra Police Department has received multiple reports of broken windows throughout the community, with some areas reporting natural gas smells,” La Habra city officials said in a written statement.
“Gas was shut off in the 1200 block of (South) Beach (Boulevard), as a precautionary measure. LA Fitness, which is located in one of the shopping complexes near the intersection of Imperial (Highway) and Beach (Boulevard), had water running off the roof. At Beach (Boulevard) and Lambert (Road), the traffic signal was hanging precariously, but it has since been removed.
Reports of natural gas leaks were also widespread in Rowland Height, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.
A ruptured pipe caused water to flow from the ceiling of a Rite Aid Pharmacy along Colima Road, but the issue was handled within about 20 minutes, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Cheryl Sims said. Officials had previously reported the incident as occurring at a pharmacy along Nogales Street.
Near Brea, a rockslide along Carbon Canyon Road was blamed for causing a car to overturn, Brea police said. The crash resulted in only minor injuries, however the roadway near the county line remained closed Saturday.
The Red Cross set up an evacuation shelter at the La Habra Community Center, 101 W. La Habra Boulevard, where 38 people spent the night, Red Cross spokeswoman Meredith Mills said. It remained open through Saturday morning.
“We’re definitely here to help people if they need it,” Mills said.
A preliminary survey found “no significant reports of damage” in Los Angeles County, according to a statement issued by the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management.
Los Angeles County’s bridges and other infrastructure were also free from reported damage Saturday, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works officials said.
Friday’s earthquake was believed to be associated with the far east end of the Puente Hills Thrust fault system, Given said. “This is the fault system that, on its northern edge, was responsible for the Whittier Narrows Earthquake in 1987,” Given said. Prior to the Whittier Narrows earthquake, the fault system had been unknown.
Scientists in Pasadena had a four second warning before the shaking reached them from the La Habra area thanks to an experimental early warning system that’s been in operation for two years, Givens said.
Givens said he hoped increased funding on the federal and national levels would soon help bring the technology to the mainstram, as has been done in Japan and Mexico City.
About 200 Southern California Gas Company customers remained without service Saturday morning as crews rushed to fix leaks and restore service to customers whose gas was shut off my earthquake valves, according to the utility. Those who suspect a natural has leak were advised to leave the area immediately and report the leak by calling 800-427-2200.
Southern California has not experienced a devastating earthquake since the 1994 magnitude-6.7 Northridge quake killed several dozen people and caused $25 billion in damage.
Preliminary data suggest Friday night’s 5.1 magnitude earthquake occurred near the Puente Hills thrust fault, which stretches from the San Gabriel Valley to downtown Los Angeles and caused the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said.
“It’s a place where we’ve had a lot of earthquakes in the past,” she said.
The 5.9 Whittier Narrows quake killed eight people and caused $360 million in damage.
Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully was on the air calling the Angels-Dodgers exhibition game in the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium when Friday’s quake occurred.
“A little tremor here in the ballpark. I’m not sure if the folks felt it, but we certainly felt it here in press box row,” Scully said. “A tremor and only that, thank goodness.”
Tom Connolly, a Boeing employee who lives in La Mirada, the next town over from La Habra, said the magnitude-5.1 quake lasted about 30 seconds.
“We felt a really good jolt. It was a long rumble and it just didn’t feel like it would end,” he told The Associated Press by phone. “Right in the beginning it shook really hard, so it was a little unnerving. People got quiet and started bracing themselves by holding on to each other. It was a little scary.”
Friday’s quake hit a week after a pre-dawn magnitude-4.4 quake centered in the San Fernando Valley rattled a swath of Southern California. That jolt shook buildings and rattled nerves, but did not cause significant damage.
Givens said that quake was not associated with the same fault system believed responsible for Friday’s earthquake near La Habra.
Officials throughout the region said the earthquake was a stark reminder for California residents to be prepared for earthquakes with supplies and plans.
“Clearly we cannot predict earthquakes, we can only say things about the statistics of earthquakes,” Given said. “Based on the best science of the faults and the earthquake history in Southern California, in the Los Angeles region, there’s a 97 percent chance in the next 30 years of a magnitude 6.7 or larger.”

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UPDATE: 5.1-magnitude earthquake reported near La Habra

LA HABRA >> A magnitude-5.1 earthquake centered 2 miles east of La Habra late Friday rattled buildings and ruptured gas lines throughout Los Angeles County, officials said.
The quake was reported at 9:09 p.m. according to data from the United States Geological Survey. The shaking originated about 5 miles underground.
The 5.1-magnitude quake was followed two minutes later by another quake of magnitude 3.4, officials said.
Reports of natural gas leaks began flooding in to officials once the shaking stopped, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Ed Pickett said.
“We’ve got reports of lots of gas leaks in the Rowland Heights and La Habra areas,” he said.
As firefighters made their way through the affected areas, they found the leaks to be minor, Pickett said. Most were in La Habra.
But a broken water pipe flooded a CVS Pharmacy along Nogales Street in Rowland Heights, he said.
Authorities were still working to assess and attend to the damage, Pickett said.
The earthquake sent rocks tumbling onto the Holt Avenue offramp of the westbound 10 Freeway in Covina, creating a traffic hazard, according to CHP officials. No other earthquake damage had been reported to the CHP late Friday.
Shengzao Chen, a USGS geophysicist, said his office had not heard of any immediate damage or injury reports.
“Right now, it’s pretty good,” Chen said. “But we have to keep our eyes open to see what’s going on. The magnitude is 5.1 which is not big or small, it’s a middle quake. It’s also a shallow quake.”
There were more than a dozen aftershocks following the 5.1 magnitude quake, with magnitudes as high as 3.6, according to the USGS.
Claremont police Lt. Shelly Vander Veen said there was no reported damage on Friday night in Claremont.
“We felt the same thing everyone else will say — a jolt,” Vander Veen said.
breaA rockslide Carbon Canyon Road in Brea caused a car to overturn, causing only minor injuries, Brea police officials said. The road was closed between Valencia Avenue and the county line as officials cleared the mess.
Southern California Edison officials reported about 2,000 customers were without power late Friday as a result of the earthquake.
Officials in Pasadena surveyed the city following the quake and found no signs of injury or damage, Pasadena Fire Department officials said.
The larger quake was preceded by a magnitude-3.6 earthquake reported in the same area, about 1 mile southeast of La Habra, according to seismologists at Caltech in Pasadena.
In a statement issued late Friday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said no damage had been reported in the city.
“Tonight’s earthquake is the second in two weeks, and reminds us to be prepared,” the mayor said. “L.A. residents can visit http://www.readyla.org/ for guidance on how to best prepare for the next earthquake, including potential aftershocks.”
The smaller tremor occurred at 8:03 p.m. with an epicenter about a mile southeast of La Habra, according to a statement issued by Caltech. That quake’s depth was initially reported to be about 4 miles below the surface.
Looking forward, seismologists estimated the likelihood of another quake stronger than the original 5.1-magnitude shock over the next seven days at 5 to 10 percent, according to the USGS.
“Most likely, the recent mainshock will be the largest in the sequence,” the agency said in a written statement.
The chance of “strong” aftershocks — those with a magnitude of 5 or greater — over the next week was estimated by USGS seismologists at 10 percent.
Aftershocks with magnitudes ranging from 3 to 5 are expected to be relatively common over the coming days.
“Approximately three to 20 small aftershocks are expected in the same seven-day period and may be felt locally,” according to the USGS statement.

- Staff Writer Wes Woods contributed to this report

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Hacienda Heights woman charged with manslaughter for pedestrian’s death in La Habra

Prosecutors have filed felony charges against a 21-year-old Hacienda Heights woman accused of speeding through a red light and striking two pedestrians in a La Habra crosswalk before leading police on a high-speed chase.
Caroline Sujin Kim is charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, hit and run causing permanent injury or death and evading police while driving recklessly in connection with the Oct. 25, 2013 incident, Orange County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
A scheduled arraignment last week was postponed to March 26 at the Orange County Superior Court’s North Justice Center in Fullerton, District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Roxi Sotomayor said. Kim, who had remained free pending the trial process on $100,000 bail, is yet to enter a plea in the case.
Officials allege Kim drove a Cadillac sedan at high speed down Whittier Boulevard shortly before 9 p.m. on Oct. 25.
“She is accused of illegally driving through a red light at the intersection at Rigsby Street and crashing her car into two pedestrians,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Sandra Ceballos, 38, of La Habra suffered major injuries, district attorney’s officials said.
“The force of the collision (threw Ceballos) onto the hood and roof of the vehicle before falling into the roadway,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “She was pronounced dead approximately one hour later due to the injuries she sustained in the crash”
A second woman crossing the street with Ceballos, described as 43 years old, was also struck by the Cadillac and suffered minor injuries, La Habra police officials said.
After hitting the victims, Kim is accused of failing to stop and render aid,” the district attorney’s office statement said. “She is accused of fleeing the scene.”
A witness soon called police in Whittier to report spotting and following the hit-and-run driver, Whittier police Lt. Steve Dean said at the time.
When officers tried to pull over Kim on Colima Road, she sped off, leading police on a chase at speeds as high as 90 mph.
Kim ran through several more red lights before ultimately crashing into a parked car at Countrywood Avenue and Pepper Brook Way in her hometown of Hacienda Heights, police and prosecutors said. Officers then took her into custody.
If convicted as charged, Kim could face up to 13 years and 8 months in state prison.

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Teens accused of trashing, burglarizing La Habra Heights home while owner was away

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A group of 16 teenagers is accused of trashing and burglarizing a La Habra Heights mansion while the owner was away.
Detectives recovered stolen items including artwork, electronics, Versace suits and a mounted Snow Leopard valued at $250,000 during their investigation into the alleged illegal escapades, which took place overnight Nov. 23 and 24 in the 1700 block of Chota Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. The total damage and loss associated with the break-in and party is estimated to be more than $1 million.
“It was pretty well-thrashed,” Capt. Tim Murakami of the sheriff’s Industry Station said.
The home is listed for sale and the owner was out of the country when someone apparently noticed his absence and decided to host a party on the large property.
“They call it a ghost party or mansion party, where the suspects go online, look for properties that are high-end, for sale and appear to be abandoned,” the captain said.
“A suspect hosted the party, charged a fee and about 100-plus kids or so attended the party,” Murakami said. The illicit party began in the rear yard as a pool party, but quickly devolved into theft and vandalism.
“At some point during the party, somebody forced entry into the house, which caused kind of a frenzy, where a good amount of the kids went into the house and started stealing,” Murakami said. “And at some point in time, they started damaging property, too.”
The young man who first organized the party had not been arrested Wednesday, though officials said his identity was known to investigators.
“There’s still more property to recover. There’s still more people we’re looking for, Murakami said.
The young suspects aided in their own arrests through social media use, Capt. Tim Murakami of the sheriff’s Industry Station said.
Not only was the party publicized via social media, Murakami said, “They were actually bragging about the party (online), showing themselves within the residence, showing themselves carrying some of the stolen property.”
Detectives spent two weeks identifying everyone they could before heading out Wednesday morning, armed with arrest warrants and search warrants.
The three adult suspects arrested Wednesday were identified as Nicholas Koontz, 18, of La Habra Heights, Kevin Larios, 18, of La Habra and Andres Uribe, 18, of La Habra, sheriff’s department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said. They were booked on suspicion of charges including burglary, trespassing and grand theft.
The other teenage suspect were booked on suspicion of crimes ranging from simple trespassing to burglary, investigators added. They live in the Whittier and La Habra areas, officials added. Ten of the juvenile suspects were boys, while the other three were girls.
Sheriff Lee Baca said it was unsettling that so many young people, “felt that they could do whatever they wanted inside someone else’s home.”
“It begs the question of why,” Sheriff Lee Baca said. “Why can’t people have a good time, if they’re going to have one, and at the same time respect property.”
The matter of how the homeowner was to be compensated for the damage to his home would be determined by the courts, Baca said.
“I certainly believe these young people should be held accountable for what they’ve done,” Baca said. “They need to learn a lesson that you can’t do this sort of thing.”
Lt. Arthur Scott said the parents of the involved youths were distraught over the situation and cooperated with investigators.
“The parents were more than understanding,” he said. “They were embarrassed.”

 

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Parolee sought by La Habra police arrested near Whittier with aid of SWAT team

A sheriff’s SWAT arrested an wanted parolee and suspected drug dealer sought by La Habra police after searching two nearby homes in an unincorporated county area near Whittier Wednesday, authorities said.
Dean Wills, 45, of La Mirada, who had absconded from parole supervision, was being sought on a warrant for sales of narcotics, La Habra police spokeswoman Cindy Knapp said.
La Habra police were backed up by deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau when the went in search of Wills Wednesday morning.
“Wills, a parolee-at-large, was known to have a history of violence and evading police,” La Habra police officials said in a written statement.
Officials first went to a home in the 15800 block of Ocean Avenue in the unincorporated Whittier about 11 a.m. After a couple tense hours, during which officials treated the situation as a possible barricaded suspect, the SWAT team determined the suspect was not at the home.
But the hunt continued, and police and deputies soon picked up on the trail of the suspect shortly after 3 p.m. at a house less than a mile away on Stamy Road, just north of Leffingwell Road, in unincorporated Whittier, Knapp said.
“Wills was arrested at the second location without incident,” according to the police statement. Further details of his arrest were not available.
Due to his status as a parolee, Wills was being held without bail, officials said. Information regarding his initial court appearance was not available late Wednesday.

- Ruby Gonzales and Brian Day

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