Monterey Park police raided homes in Rosemead and Rancho Cucamonga early Thursday, recovering more than 155 pounds and arresting a Rosemead man on suspicion of cultivating the illicit crop, authorities said.
Detectives from the Monterey Park Police Department’s Crime Impact Team arrested Sunny Hoa, 52, at his home in on Ralph Street near Rosemead Boulevard in Rosemead, Lt. Frank Duke said. They also recovered about 35 pounds of processed pot at the residence.
Also Thursday morning, police went to another home associated with Hoa on Driftood Place near the 210 Freeway in Rancho Cucamonga, where they dismantled an indoor grow operation and seized 121 pounds of marijuana, Duke said.
Several hundred mature plants were seized in Rancho Cucamonga, along with the equipment used to grow the plants,” Monterey Park police officials said in a written statement.
A home in El Monte believed tied to Hoa was also searched, though no pot was found there, he added.
Others who were detained during the raids were ultimately released without charges, Duke said.
Monterey Park police have been watching Hoa for nearly a year, officials said, when they identified him as a suspect in an indoor marijuana grow found in Monterey Park on Thanksgiving Day last year.
In that case, an electrical fire at a condominium in the 500 block of North Chandler Avenue led officials to discover a marijuana growing operation, police said at the time.
Hoa was soon identified as a suspect, Duke said, but not arrested as police continued their investigation into him for nearly a year.
According to county booking records, Hoa was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Monday in Alhambra Superior Court.
MONTEREY PARK — A fire destroyed a Monterey Park home and caused a home oxygen system to explode early Sunday, however no injuries were reported, authorities said.
The fire was first reported at 1:43 a.m. in the 200 block of West Markland Drive, Monterey Park police Sgt. Dave Elliott said.
Firefighters from neighboring agencies helped Monterey Park firefighters attack the flames, the sergeant said.
At least one explosion heard emanating from the home was believed to have been caused by a burning home oxygen system used by an elderly resident, fire officials said.
Everyone had evacuated the home before officials arrived, and no injuries were reported, fire officials said.
A dollar-value estimate of the loss was not available early Sunday, however the home and its contents were believed to be a total loss.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation. Further details were not available Sunday.
MONTEREY PARK — Authorities Wednesday released the names of an elderly Monterey Park couple who died Tuesday following a solo-car crash.
Geng Li, 83, and his wife Zhong Xiu Huang Li, 76, died in the 8:50 p.m. crash on Atlantic Boulevard, between El Repetto Drive and Brightwood Street, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Geng Li was at the wheel of the northbound four-door sedan when it suddenly struck the center divider, blowing out the two left tires, Monterey Park police Sgt. Gus Jimenez said.
The car continued northbound for 50 or 60 yards, ultimately crossing into the southbound traffic lanes before striking a tree, the sergeant said. Initial investigation indicated no other vehicles were involved in the crash.
Both Geng and Zhong Li were pronounced dead at the scene.
The cause of the crash was under investigation by Monterey Park police.
Jimenez said the investigation hinged, in part, on the findings of coroner’s investigators, who planned autopsies later this week.
It remained unclear Wednesday whether the elderly man and woman died from injuries suffered in the crash, or if medical issues played a role in either the crash or the deaths.
A La Puente woman has been charged with 25 felony counts for promising to help more than a dozen people already in financial trouble get quick and easy loans, but instead using their personal information to steal from them, officials announced Thursday.
Si H. Liu, also known as Katie, 44, of La Puente, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges including burglary, grand theft, using an access card and possession of access card information, according to Monterey Park police and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials. She was arrested at her home July 12.
Sixteen victims had been confirmed, with additional victims yet to be contacted by police, Lt. Carrie Mazelin said.
“There might be more who haven’t reported it,” the lieutenant said.
“It started with one original report (in June),” she explained.
After launching an investigation and finding Liu in possession of other people’s sensitive documents and credit cards, detectives linked the suspect to similar crimes throughout the San Gabriel Valley, Mazelin said. Many of the known victims were located in Monterey Park, though some came from as far away as Hacienda Heights.
Liu would take out adds in Chinese language publications such as the Chinese Daily News, according to the police statement.
“Liu asked victims for their identification, social security numbers, and all of their credit cards so that she could ‘check their credit’ in order to obtain loans,” according to the statement. “Instead,Liu allegedly used the credit cards to obtain cash for herself using a credit card machine that she owned.”
Some of the victims also reported that Liu would accompany them to stores, such as Best Buy, where she would instruct them to open up a credit account as a way of building their credit, Mazelin said. Liu would instruct the victims to buy items for her, promising to pay them back, but never did.
The total amount of the alleged theft was not available Thursday, however some of the victims lost thousands of dollars, Mazelin said.
Liu would eventually return the victims’ credit cards, IDs and other documents, but only after making color copies, “possibly for the purpose of committing fraud and identity theft in the future,” the police statement said.
Liu, who speaks both Mandarin and English, has lived in the United Stated for about 10 years, officials said. She represents herself as a real estate agent and may also own a massage business in Fullerton.
Additional victims, or anyone with information was asked to contact Monterey Park police Detective Han at 626-307-1246.
According to officials and court records, Liu was being held in lieu of $560,000 bail pending her next court appearance July 30 in Alhambra Superior Court.
BOOKING PHOTO courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department
MONTEREY PARK — Law enforcement officials and prosecutors are teaming with the victims’ advocacy groups this weekend to host their first-ever crime victim’s clinic and unsolved homicide summit.
The summit, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau, 4700 Ramona Boulevard in Monterey Park, will feature panel discussions and presentations centering on the issue of unsolved slayings, organizers said.
“If you have an unsolved homicide or are interested in unsolved homicides, you need to be at this event,” organizers said in a written statement.
“Families need closure,” said Jeanette Chavez of Justice for Homicide Victims, whose 16-year-old daughter Sammantha Salas was fatally shot in an unincorporated county area between Monrovia and Duarte on Jan. 26, 2008. The case was unsolved for more than a year before two Monrovia men were arrested, convicted and sentenced for the crime.
“I know the feeling of not having our case solved for 14 months. It’s pressure. You can’t function. Some people have lost their jobs. They don’t know what to do next. They’re lost. I know that feeling.”
The summit is designed to empower and educate affected families regarding the law, their rights and the grieving process, she said.
“We look forward to helping victims’ families in getting a better understanding of how the process works,” Chavez said. “They have every right to be their victims’ voices.”
Speakers represent a variety of perspectives with regard to the issue of homicide, from professionals to regular people unwillingly familiarized with the issue through the murder of a loved one.
Sheriff Lee Baca and other high-ranking police and sheriff’s officials will take part, along with family members of homicide victims, media representatives, federal investigators, activists and prosecutors.
And the dialogue was intended to be two-ways, Chavez said.
“Hopefully, this event will shed some light for victims families, an also for the officials who will be there to better understand how we feel,” she said.
At the meeting, “We’ll discuss how we’re going to come together. How do the policies and procedures work? What are the methods. How can we think out of the box to get these cases solved?”
For example, Justice for Homicide Victims has several steps members would like to see taken when it comes to following up on unsolved homicide investigations, Chavez explained.
Law enforcement should do a better job of informing victims of their rights under Marsy’s Law, also known as the Victims Bill of Rights, Chavez said. Victim’s families should be routinely read the law, much like suspects are read their Miranda rights when arrested, she said.
Another suggestion offered by the group is to print decks of playing cards with the images of and information from unsolved homicides to distribute to inmates in county jails and state prisons, Chavez said. Such measures have had success in other states in helping solve cold cases.
Another idea promoted by JHV is to establish some form of second opinion in Los Angeles County and statewide to review unsolved cases with “fresh eyes,” after the initial law enforcement investigators and prosecutors.
“Our goal is to get these cases solved, to get these criminals off the street so they won’t harm another family,” Chavez said.
MONTEREY PARK – A large fire Saturday damaged a house and sent a man to the hospital with burns, authorities said.
The fire was reported just after 3 p.m. in the 500 block of South Garfield Avenue, Monterey Park police Lt. Eric Kim said.
The first firefighters on-scene quickly declared the blaze a second-alarm fire and called for reinforcements, Verdugo Fire Communications Center dispatch supervisor Lynda Sims said.
Dozens of firefighters extinguished the blaze in less than half an hour, Monterey Park Fire Department Capt. Neal Martin said.
A resident estimated to be about 40 years old was taken to a hospital for treatment of first-degree burns to his face and second-degree burns to his chest, the captain said. It was not clear how he suffered the burns.
The fire was contained primarily to a back room of the home and a patio area that contained fuels such as cabinets and mattresses, Martin said.
He estimated that the fire caused more than $50,000 worth of damage.
Between seven and nine residents were displaced from the home as a result of the fire, Martin said. The Red Cross was summoned to help them find temporary lodgings.
A home just south of the one that caught fire sustained minor damage, however the residents were not displaced
The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
MONTEREY PARK — Two young men and a teenager are accused of burglary after a South Alhambra resident reported seeing them breaking into a neighbor’s home earlier this week, officials said Thursday.
Michael Smyer, 23, of Riverside, Rafiki Smith, 19, of Los Angeles and the juvenile suspect were arrested shortly after the burglary, which took place just before 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the 300 block of South Alhambra Avenue, according to Monterey Park police Lt. Carrie Mazelin.
Smith was already on probation for an assault conviction, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
A witness reported seeing three people hopping a fence as they fled from a neighbor’s home, Mazelin said.
The witness provided police with a description of the suspects’ car, which was found and stopped by officers a short distance away, the lieutenant said.
“Further investigation revealed the suspects were in possession of property stolen from the burglary,” she said.
Smyer and Smith were both released following their arrests pending their initial court appearances after posting bonds, records show.
PHOTOS of Michael Smyer and Rafiki Smith courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department
ROSEMEAD — A convicted felon already on Post-Release Community Supervision for weapons violations has been arrested twice this month on suspicion of illegal gun possession, police said.
Phillip Santa Anna, 23, of Rosemead was charged Tuesday with a count of being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
He was being held in lieu of $65,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment July 9 in Alhambra Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County booking records. Following his arrest Friday, he was also immediately sentenced to 10 days in jail for violating parole.
Santa Anna’s most recent arrest took place at his home in the 2400 block of South New Avenue after members of the multi-agency West San Gabriel Valley Anti-Crime Task Force carried out a probation compliance, Monterey Park police Lt. Carrie Mazeline said.
“During a probation search, a stolen handgun was found in his residence,” Mazeline said.
The officers had gone to the home to check on the convicted felon following his arrest one week earlier on the same charge, officials said.
Monterey Park police jailed Santa Anna on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a loaded gun near his home on June 7, Mazeline said.
He was released from jail later in the day after posting $20,000 bail, booking records show.
A charge had not yet been filed in connection with the June 7 arrest when Santa Anna was again caught with a loaded gun, officials said.
When he returns to court next month, Mazeline said police plan to seek a sentence-enhancing special allegation that the crimes were gang-related.
County records also showed that Santa Anna had been arrested March 23 and convicted two days later of carrying a switchblade knife on his person, according to booking records and D.A.’s spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales.
A probation revocation hearing held in March resulting in additional jail , records show. He was released from custody April 12 after serving less than three weeks of a 210-day sentence.
Prior to the switchblade arrest, the defendant was already on Post-Release Community Supervision through the Los Angeles County Probation Department as part of the California prison realignment plan of 2011 for a previous weapons-related conviction, Mazeline said.
Officers also arrested Santa Anna’s brother, 28-year-old Raymond Santa Anna of Rosemead, during Friday’s search due to an outstanding warrant for violating his probation, police said.
He was being held without bail pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in El Monte Superior Court, according to booking records.
He was arrested April 24 and pleaded no contest May 3 to assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and misdemeanor battery, Davila-Morales said.
According to county records, Raymond Santa Anna was released from jail June 4 after serving just under six weeks of a 180-day sentence.
PHOTOS of Phillip Santa Anna and Raymond Santa Ana courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department.
MONTEREY PARK — A fight inside a barbershop escalated into a shooting Saturday, however both the shooter and victim fled the area before police arrived, officials said.
The incident was reported about 1 p.m. at a barbershop in the 2300 block of South Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park police Lt. Eric Kim said.
“Two people inside got into an argument, then a fight,” the lieutenant said. “One of the two pulled out a gun.”
Several shots were fired, Kim said, however there was no evidence found that the other man had been struck by the gunfire.
Both combatants had left when police arrived, and both the attacker and victim were described only as men.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY — Authorities Friday released the name of a 19-year-old Santa Monica College Student accused of prompting school lockdowns throughout the county by threatening to shoot up campuses Thursday.
Neiman Jerome Smith was booked on suspicion of making criminal threats, a felony, following Thursday’s incidents, Los Angeles Police spokesman Richard French said. Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials described him as a Los Angeles resident.
He was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, according to county booking records.
Dozens of schools in Monterey Park, Santa Monica and Los Angeles were placed on lockdown after Smith allegedly made at least one cell phone call shortly before 8 a.m. Thursday to the California Highway Patrol saying he planned to shoot up schools with an assault rifle before killing himself, according to sheriff’s and Santa Monica police officials.
East Los Angeles City College was evacuated, as the cell phone call was believed to have originated from the East Los Angeles-Monterey Park area, according to Monterey Park police Lt. Eric Kim.
Santa Monica College, where Smith was ultimately arrested about an hour and a half after the threatening phone calls were made, was locked down prior to the arrest, though it was not evacuated.
All 19 schools in Monterey Park was placed on lockdown following the threat, authorities said. Another two were locked down in Santa Monica, while six schools and a maintenance facility in Los Angeles.
Smith was arrested by Santa Monica College campus police after showing up at the campus’ psychiatric services center, Santa Monica police Sgt. Richard Lewis said. He was not armed.
A motive was not available.