PASADENA >> A jury convicted three men of murder and other crimes Friday for the 2013 shotgun slaying of a Pasadena man in an attempted robbery during a marijuana transaction, authorities said.
Gang members Peter Parra, 37, of Pasadena, Kevin Jessie Cabrera, 27, of north Hollywood and Raymond Frank Conchas, 26, of Covina each face life in prison without the possibility of parole when they return to Los Angeles Superior Court for sentencing April 17, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said in a written statement.
A jury found each of the three men guilty of first-degree murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy to a commit a crime for the Jan. 15, 2013, slaying of 21-year-old Zane Goldstein at Maple Avenue and Chester Street in Pasadena, officials said.
“The jury also found true the special circumstance allegation that the murder was committed during a robbery and allegations that a shotgun was used and the crime was for the benefit of a gang,” Santiago said.
The victim was riding in a car with his then-24-year-old brother when the shooting occurred.
Prior to the fatal attack, the brothers had arranged to meet the suspects in an alleyway to by a small amount of marijuana, which police described as less than an ounce.
“When the victim arrived, the defendants attempted to rob him and shot him in the head with a shotgun as he tried to escape near Maple Street and Chester Avenue,” Santiago said. Goldstein’s brother escaped serious injury.
A fourth suspect in the slaying, 21-year-old Michael Piepoli, received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in November after being convicted of the killing, officials said. And a fifth defendant, 20-year-old Ward Lacey, is scheduled to go on trial for the killing in Feb. 23.
ARCADIA >> Police seized about 1,250 marijuana plants, arrested three people and took two infants into protective custody early Thursday after dismantling indoor marijuana-growing operations inside two Arcadia homes, police said.
As part of an ongoing investigation, detectives and SWAT team members served two search warrants in the 300 block of West Woodruff Avenue and the 1800 block of South Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said in a written statement.
“Both warrants were served without incident, and indoor marijuana grows were found at each location,” Flores said.
Police uprooted about 750 marijuana plants from the Baldwin Avenue home, and another 500 from the Woodruff Avenue home, police said.
The complex indoor pot grows appeared to be bypassing electrical meters to steal electricity from the grid, Flores said.
Just before serving the search warrants, police arrested a man seen leaving from the Woodruff Avenue home in a vehicle, Flores said. Police also arrested a man who showed up at the home during the operation and a woman found inside with two infant boys, Flores said. The children were taken into the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
Arrested were Ming Gao, 46, of Arcadia, Jia Hui Shen, 27, of El Monte, and Lan Lau, 34, of Arcadia, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
“No evidence was found at the location to indicate a medical marijuana grow operation,” Flores added.
Detectives had not yet determined who owns and is responsible for the homes, police said. Authorities were looking into the possibility of adding additional charges, such as utility theft and child endangerment.
All three were accused of cultivating marijuana and were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail each pending their initial court appearances.
PHOTO courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.
UPDATE: Suspect Cheri Diane Sawvell, initially arrested in connection with this incident, was ultimately released without charges, per Los Angeles County Superior Court and booking records.
SAN DIMAS >> Deputies checking out a call of someone yelling followed their noses to a marijuana grow Tuesday, authorities said.
Two people were arrested as a result of the discovery of about 100 pot plants growing inside a commercial building in the 400 block of Arrow Highway, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. The estimated street value of the plants was not available.
Sgt. Louie Serrano of the sheriff’s San Dimas station said deputies responded to a disturbance call at that location around 4:15 p.m.
“Deputies were able to contact two individuals. They did a welfare check inside and smelled the odor of marijuana, “ Serrano said.
Deputies discovered the illicit crop and arrested the man and woman present at the building.
Trenton Dale Burbank, 46, of San Dimas was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, while Cheri Diane Sawvell, 44, of Pomona was booked on suspicion of transporting or sales of a controlled substance, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Brett Lisle and Los Angeles County booking records.
Burbank was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail and Sawvell was being held in lieu of $30,000, booking records show. Both are scheduled to appear for arraignment Thursday in Pomona Superior Court.
The investigation was being handled by the Sheriff’s Narcotics Bureau.
– Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
TEMPLE CITY >> A house fire that ignited Tuesday, blew out windows and caused about $152,500 in damages is believed to have been caused by the manufacture of concentrated cannabis, also known as “honey oil,” authorities said.
The blaze was first reported shortly after 8 p.m. at a home in the 9800 block of Garibaldi Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire officials said.
Firefighters found butane bottles and turned over the case to the sheriff’s Temple station, fire Inspector Rick Flores said.
Butane is commonly used in process of concentrating marijuana into a more potent forms.
Investigators labeled the incident a “reckless fire,” believed caused by, “the manufacture of a controlled substance,” sheriff’s Lt. Ismael Chavez said.
Flores said nobody was home when firefighters arrived. Windows were blown out and the fire spread throughout the house, he said.
Firefighters put out the blaze at 8:21 p.m.
Flores estimated damages to the structure at $150,000 and the $2,500 to the contents.
No suspects were in custody in connection with the incident Wednesday, Chavez said.
– Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
SOUTH EL MONTE >> Officers arrested two people and discovered more than 700 marijuana plants growing in a vacant business on Thursday.
Covina Police Sgt. Jim McDonough said officers served a search warrant about 1 p.m. at the secluded, seemingly vacant business in 2600 block of Chico Avenue in South El Monte.
George Almaguer, 26, Pico Rivera and Jenny Ly, 31, of Rosemead were arrested at the scene, he said. They were booked on suspicion of cultivating marijuana and theft of electricity, as the sophisticated hydroponic grow operation was wired to bypass the electrical meter and steal its power directly from the Southern California Edison grid, the sergeant said.
Police estimated the grow operation had stolen at least $10,000 worth of electricity from the utility over the past year.
“There were three different rooms, each for different stages of growth,” the sergeant said. In all, police seized 733 pot plants from the buidling.
Investigators seized about $2,000 in suspected drug money that Almaguer was carrying, McDonough added.
The building where the pot grow was uprooted Thursday was situated at the rear of a lot that was secured with a padlocked gate, McDonough said.
Thursday’s bust was related to another investigation where a grow house was found in Covina on May 26, police said.
In the May incident, officers responding to call of several downed power lines smelled marijuana coming from a house in the 200 block of North Larkin Drive. More than 200 marijuana plants were found on the Larkin Drive residence.
That investigation led to Thursday’s search and arrests in South El Monte, though McDonough declined to say exactly how detectives identified the South El Monte address as a suspected grow operation. The investigation was ongoing.
A suspect has been identified in connection with the Larkin Drive grow house, however no arrests have been made, McDonough said.
– By Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
PHOTOS courtesy of the Covina Police Department
PASADENA — Pasadena police seized about 200 marijuana plants that were growing inside a commercial building earlier this week, officials said Sunday.
The bust on Altadena Drive, just north of Colorado Boulevard, resulted from an anonymous caller who reported a “strong odor of marijuana emitting from the building,” Wednesday, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said in his weekly letter to the community.
An officer identified the source of the odor in a commercial unit and turned the investigation over to detectives, the chief said.
After obtaining a search warrant, officers entered the building and found about 200 pot plants, Sanchez said.
“The farm was a very sophisticated hydroponic system,” he wrote.
NO arrested were made during the search, Lt. Vasken Gourdikian said. The investigation was ongoing.
Police in Monrovia uprooted 600 marijuana plants and seized and two pounds of dried pot the same day from a Monrovia house after a resident reported smelling marijuana emanating from the home.
Arcadia police arrested a man Monday who was allegedly growing about 135 marijuana plants in a residence, Arcadia police officials said in a press release.
Tiv Ke Roeung, 40, of Arcadia was arrested for cultivation, officials said.
Roeung is being held at Arcadia Police Department’s jail in lieu of $30,000 bail.
Officers received a tip about a possible grow house in the 500 block of West Huntington Drive, officials said.
Police discovered the plants about 3 p.m. Monday inside the garage of the residence.
“The garage was converted into a marijuana cultivation area with lighting, ventilation, electrical wiring, irrigation, and drying bins strewn throughout the bottom level of the residence,” officials said.
In addition to his arrest, Roeung is also being held without bail on an immigration hold by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, officials said.
He has a scheduled appearance Wednesday at Pasadena Municipal Court, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department booking system.
Monday’s bust was the second time Arcadia police raided an indoor marijuana farm in two days.
Officers seized 438 pot plants and arrested a suspect Saturday at a home in the 2000 block of South Sixth Avenue.
— Venusse Navid and Brian Day
ARCADIA — Police seized more than 400 marijuana plants from an Arcadia home late Saturday and arrested a 60-year-old man in connection with the indoor pot garden, officials said.
Yong Fa Jiang of Arcadia was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, according to Arcadia police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The bust came about 10 p.m. after police officers patrolling the area spotted a “suspicious vehicle” parked along the street in the 2000 block of South Sixth Avenue, Arcadia police Lt. Tom Cullen said in a written statement.
“Officers contacted a person near the vehicle, and their preliminary investigation revealed that a marijuana cultivation operation was being conducted inside a nearby house,” Cullen said.
Further detail regarding what tipped off police to the grow house were not available.
“The grow consisted of several rooms with lighting, ventilation, and electrical wiring run throughout the house,“ Cullen said.
Police ultimately uprooted 438 marijuana plants, “in various stages of growth,” Sgt. Dan Crowther said.
Jiang was released from jail Sunday morning after posting $10,000 bail, records show.
Arcadia police detectives are handling the investigation, and anyone with information was asked to contact the Arcadia Police Department and reference case 14-3018. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
COVINA >> A minor hit-and-run traffic collision led Covina police to discover 120 pounds of marijuana inside a pickup truck being driven by a Mexican national Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
Saul Ernesto Chavez, 32, who told police he is from Tijuana, Mexico, was ultimately arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sales, transportation of marijuana, hit-and-run and driving without a license, according to Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
He was involved in a minor crash with another motorist about 1:15 p.m. at Barranca Avenue and Rowland Street, Covina police Sgt. Rob Bobkiewicz said. No one was injured in the crash, but one of the drivers — later identified as Chavez — ran from the crash scene.
Police set up a search perimeter and soon found Chavez hiding in a nearby backyard, Bobkiewicz said. After arresting Chavez on suspicion of hit-and-run, police searched the small pickup truck he had been driving.
In the covered bed of the pickup truck, police found six 20-pound bundles of marijuana, officials said. The pot had an estimated street value of $240,000.
Chavez did not cooperate with investigators, Bobkiewicz said.
According to booking records, he was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Covina Police Department.
WEST COVINA >> Police uprooted about 700 marijuana plants valued at $1.5 million Saturday after real estate agents visiting a home for sale in West Covina stumbled upon a large marijuana growing operation Saturday, officials said.
The illicit garden was found about 1:30 p.m., concealed within a home in the 2400 block of Felicia Street, just southwest of Amar Road and Nogales Street, West Covina Police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
“The home is apparently up for sale,” the lieutenant said. Real estate agents who stopped by the home notified police of the pot plants growing inside.
Police obtained a search warrant before removing the plants and equipment from the house.
The home, which Patton described as “an exceptionally large marijuana grow,” was outfitted with extensive lighting and irrigation equipment.
No arrests had been made Saturday afternoon, and police were still looking into who was responsible for the home Sunday.
It initially appeared the home was owned by an absentee landlord who was unaware of the marijuana growing operation, Patton said.
One neighbor, who asked not to be identified for fear of possible retaliation, said she didn’t recall seeing anyone at the home, but the interior lights were often on in the middle of the night.
“We don’t see anybody there going in and out, even cars,” the neighbor said.
“It’s scary,” she added. “We don’t know who our neighbors are.”