Woman accused of embezzling nearly $200K from her elderly employer in South Pasadena

SAN MARINO >> San Marino police arrested a woman on suspicion of embezzling nearly $200,000 from her elderly employer over the past two years, authorities said.
Rebecca Diaz, 44, of Los Angeles is accused of embezzlement and grand theft following her arrest, which took place just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to San Marino police officials and Los Angeles county booking records.
Los Angeles County Adult Protective Services officials contacted San Marino police regarding possible financial elder abuse earlier in the afternoon, San Marino police Sgt. Tim Tebbetts said in a written statement.
The victim, a San Marino man in his 70s, employed Diaz as the account manager at his South Pasadena-based agricultural business, Detective Brian Wong said.
“The initial report claimed there were abnormally large amounts of money being deducted from the victim’s bank account,” Tebbetts said.
“Further investigation revealed (Diaz) had been making cash advances and purchases using the victim’s business credit card and business checking account,” Tebbetts said. “It is believed the suspect embezzled over $195,000.00 in just over two years.”
Diaz had worked for the victim even longer, and detectives continued looking into the possibility of additional theft, Wong said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Wong a 626-300-0719.

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San Marino police jail San Gabriel man in large-scale mail, ID theft bust

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SAN MARINO >> San Marino police jailed a San Gabriel man this on suspicion of identity theft, mail theft and other crimes after catching him with a car filled with hundreds of pieces of stolen mail, checks, identification cards, credit cards, and other identity-theft related materials, police said.
Joseph Kamel, 40, was being held in lieu of $250,000 bail Saturday following his arrest on Thursday evening, according to San Marino police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Investigators had been seeking Kamel after he and his car were seen in connection with at least two mail or package thefts in the city dating back to May,San Marino police Sgt. Robert Matthews said.
After spotting Kamel driving through the city, an officers summoned backup and followed him into the 1500 block of Oak Knoll Avenue in Pasadena, where they pulled the car over and detained Kamel without a struggle, police said. He was alone in the black, 2011 Chevrolet Camaro.
“A subsequent investigation revealed Kamel to be in possession of a U.S. Postal service master key, hundreds of pieces of mail addressed to individual persons and businesses across Los Angeles County, over 100 checks that were addressed to other victims, banking statements, U.S. Passports, California Identification cards and Driver Licenses, credit card encoding and skimming devices, and ledgers containing personal and banking information of many other potential victims,” Sgt. Timothy Tebbetts said in a written statement.
0918_nws_psn-l-smarrest2Some of the people whose information was recovered from Kamel’s car had already been the victims of identity theft, Matthews said.
It was yet to be determined whether the case would be turned over to federal officials for prosecution, though it appeared likely, Matthews said. Mail theft is a federal crime.
Thursday’s arrest was the latest in series of arrests by area police for alleged large-scale mail and identity theft schemes.
Police in South Pasadena arrested a Highland Park woman on Sept. 3 after finding her driving through town with a treasure trove of stolen mail, documents, mail keys and other theft-related items. Marisa Rae Delgado, 27, is facing federal charges in the case.
And San Marino police in May arrested a mother and daughter for allegedly driving around with stolen mail, a U.S. Postal Service master key and methamphetamine, police said at the time. Estela Castaneda, 48, of Huntington Park and Elizabeth Castaneda, 22, of Rosemead, also face federal charges.
The two San Marino cases appear to be linked, officials said. Kamel posted bail for Elizabeth Castaneda following her arrest in May, officials said. Their relationship was unclear Saturday.
Kamel is scheduled to make his first appearance Tuesday in the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, records show.

PHOTOS courtesy of the

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‘Palm Tree Bandits’ linked to violent bank takeover robberies in Arcadia, San Marino, Santa Monica

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Recent takeover robberies at banks in Arcadia, San Marino and Santa Monica have been linked to a pair of serial robbers the FBI has dubbed, “The Palm Tree Bandits,” authorities said Friday.
The robbers, who earned their moniker due to baseball caps emblazoned with palm tree logos they wore during the crimes, struck Thursday at a First Bank branch, 848 W. Duarte Road in Arcadia, as well as July 28 at a One West Bank at 900 Huntington Drive in San Marino, and July 18 at a Banc of California at 2635 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, FBI officials said in a written statement.
The FBI described the crimes as “violent takeover robberies.”
0806_NWS_PSN-L-BANDITS2“They are considered armed and dangerous,” according to the FBI statement. “At least one suspect brandishes a handgun during the robberies.”
In Thursday’s robbery in Arcadia, the robbers donned surgical masks, latex gloves and orange construction vests during the heist. In other robberies, the robbers’ faces were uncovered and recorded by bank surveillance cameras.
Both robbers were armed with handguns during the Arcadia crime, Lt. Tom Cullen said.
In the San Marino robbery, only one of the robbers was seen with a gun, San Marino police Detective Brian Wong said. The suspect fled the area in a red SUV.
0806_NWS_PSN-L-BANDITS4The FBI has teamed with Arcadia, San Marino and Santa Monica police in the investigation.
Officials described the bandits as two black men between 20 and 30 years old.
One is about 5 feet 9 inches tall and of thin build. The second robber is of heavy build.
Anyone with information is asked to contact local police, or the FBI’s 24-hour Los Angeles-area tip line at 310-477-6565.

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PHOTOS courtesy of the FBI

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Two sought in San Marino bank robbery


SAN MARINO >> Police in San Marino are seeking two men who carried out an armed bank robbery Thursday afternoon.
The robbery took place at 1:52 p.m. at One West Bank, 900 Huntington Drive, according to San Marino police Detective Brian Wong.
The two robbers entered the bank and one of them pulled a handgun and pointed at a teller working behind the counter, Wong said in a written statement.
“The victim backed up and (the gunman) jumped over the counter and removed currency from several bank drawers,” Wong said. “(He then jumped back over the counter and both suspects fled out the same front door.”
Both robbers fled the scene in a red SUV with an undisclosed amount of cash, he said.
Police described both robbers as black men, between 20 and 30 years old.
One was about 5 feet 9 inches tall, of thin build, wearing a light-colored long-sleeve shirt and a baseball cap with an unknown logo on the front. The second robber was heavy-set, wearing a light-colored shirt, tan shorts and a baseball cap.
The FBI joined San Marino police in the investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Wong at 626-300-0719. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Police: Three arrested with stolen car, documents in San Marino


SAN MARINO >> A report of suspicious activity from a San Marino resident Friday afternoon led police to arrest three people — including a mother and son — caught sitting in a stolen car with stolen mail, stolen and altered financial documents and burglary tools, police said.
Dillon Richard Parks, 20, his mother Renee Eileen Parks, 51, and Jeannifer Marie Espinoza, 23, were arrested shortly after noon in the 1400 block of San Gabriel Boulevard, San Marino police Detective Brian Wong said in a written statement.
A witness called police to report seeing a “suspicious vehicle” parked in the driveway of a home, Wong said. All were described as Rosemead residents.
“Officers quickly arrived on scene and observed a white passenger van parked in the driveway, the detective said. “All three occupants were ordered out of the vehicle and later taken into custody without incident.”
Police determined the suspects had no reason to be on the property, he said. “The vehicle was previously reported stolen out of Pasadena.”
A search of the vehicle turned up stolen mail, stolen and altered checks and credit cards and burglary tools.
Officer arrested Dillon Parks on suspicion of auto theft, theft of identity information, possession of burglary tools and trespassing, Wong said. Dillon Parks, who has two warrants for auto theft, was being held without bail.
Renee Parks was booked on suspicion of receiving stolen property, possession of burglary tools and trespassing, while Espinoza is accused of receiving stolen property and trespassing, officials said. Renee Parks and Espinoza were being held in lieu of $20,000 bail each pending their initial court appearances, records show.

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Routine traffic stop leads to bust of alleged ID thief in San Marino


SAN MARINO >> What began as a routine stop for traffic violation in San Marino early Saturday led police to discover a trove of stolen goods and identity theft-related materials and arrest two suspects, officials said.
Police on patrol about 12:50 a.m. pulled over a car for a traffic infraction at Huntington Drive and Virginia Road, according to San Marino police Sgt. Tim Tebbetts.
Officers soon determined that the driver, 29-year-old Jonathan Villanueva, had no driver license, the sergeant said.
His passenger, Charlene Gomez, 35, of Pasadena, was found to have “stolen mail, a stolen credit card, a forged check made out to her and burglary tools,” Tebbetts said in a written statement.
Villanueva was booked at the Alhambra Police Department jail on a misdemeanor allegation, according to Los Angeles County booking records, Bail was set at $100.
Gomez, who was booked on suspicion of theft of an access card, forgery, identity theft, possession of burglary tools and possession of stolen property, was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood pending her initial court appearance, records show.
Anyone with information, or who believes they may have been a victim of mail or ID theft, is encouraged to contact Detective Brian Wong at 626-300-0719. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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San Marino police arrest San Gabriel man, woman in connection with alleged burglary spree


SAN MARINO >> Police arrested a man and woman from San Gabriel in connection with a series of burglaries and other theft-related crimes after they broke into a San Marino home through a doggy door Tuesday, officials said.
Arthur Edward Hernandez, 31, and Tracey Lee Viera, 42, were booked on suspicion of burglary, grand theft, identity theft, receiving stolen property and trespassing following their arrests shortly after 9 a.m. in the 2300 block of Robles Avenue, according to San Marino police and Los Angeles County booking records.
A resident called police to report a unfamiliar black Acura was parked in their driveway, San Marino police Sergeant Tim Tebbetts said in a written statement.
“Officers arrived on scene within two minutes caught two suspects attempting to remove property from the location,” Tebbetts said. They were detained without a struggle.
Police found items from the home deposited around the house and backyard in advance of a quick getaway, the sergeant said.
The suspects — later identified as Hernandez and Viera — “entered the house by reaching through a dog door and unlocking the rear door,” Tebbetts said. They broke into the house, as well as the detached garage.
Officers found several pieces of mail not belonging to the suspects, as well as other suspected stolen items, in the suspects’ car, police said.
“Officers were able to link both suspects to two other burglaries in San Marino and one burglary in Pasadena,” Tebbetts said.
Detectives are seeking any additional victims of the burglars.
Hernandez and Viera were being held in lieu of $50,000 each pending their initial court appearances, scheduled Thursday in Alhambra Superior Court, records show.

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Suspect jailed in San Marino burglary


SAN MARINO >> Police arrested a Hollywood man this week on suspicion of burglary and other crimes after he broke into a San Marino business, officials announced Friday.
Jason Richard Lindaman, 37, was booked on suspicion of burglary, theft, possession of stolen property and being under the influence of a controlled substance following Wednesday’s 12:35 a.m. break-in in the 1400 block of San Marino Avenue, San Marino police Sgt. Tim Tebbetts said in a written statement.
A business owner called 911 after spotting the “silhouette of a person” inside an office next to hers, Tebbetts said.
A man was then seen exiting the business and running south along San Marino Avenue, he said.
Officers arrived on-scene in less than one minute and found the suspect, later identified as Lindaman, hiding in an alley behind the 2100 block of Huntington Drive, the sergeant said.
He was found to be in possession of items stolen from the burglarized business, as well as other items believed to have been stolen from two other victims in other cities.
“Lindaman was also in possession of a hypodermic needs and appeared to be under the influence of an unknown narcotic,” Tebbetts added.
According to county booking records, Lindaman was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail at the Alhambra Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance.

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San Marino police arrest woman and daughter for mail, ID theft


SAN MARINO >> A woman and her daughter will be spending Mother’s Day together, behind bars, after police caught them driving through San Marino with mail stolen from Arcadia, along with a U.S. Postal Service master key and methamphetamine, authorities said.
Estela Castaneda, 48, of Huntington Park and daughter Elizabeth Castaneda, 22, of Rosemead, were arrested just after midnight Friday following what began as a routine traffic stop for a traffic violation in the 1300 block of Bradbury Road, according to San Marino police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Officers soon noticed that the driver, Estela Castaneda, and her daughter had pieces of mail and checks that had been stolen in Arcadia, along with a U.S. Postal Service lock and master key, or “arrow key,” San Marino police Detective Sergeant Timothy Tebbetts said in a written statement.
As police were booking the women into jail at the Alhambra Police Department, jail guards found the mother hiding “a substance resembling methamphetamine,” the sergeant said.
Police booked the mother and daughter on suspicion of crimes including identity theft, possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools, possession of methamphetamine and possession of contraband inside a jail, officials said.
“The mail appears to be stolen out of the city of Arcadia,” Tebbetts said. “San Marino Police are working with Postal Inspectors to locate additional victims. U.S. Postal Inspectors are seeking to file federal charges on both suspects.”
Estela Castaneda was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail, while Elizabeth Castaneda was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, records show. Both were scheduled for arraignment hearings Tuesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Alhambra branch.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Sgt. Tebbetts at 626-300-0722. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Traffic stop in San Marino nets stolen car, drugs, gun, two arrests

SAN MARINO >> Police jailed a wanted Alhambra man and his girlfriend after the man fled from a stolen car, which contained drugs and a gun, in San Marino early Sunday, police said.
The series of events began when police in San Marino pulled over a car in their city, according to Alhambra police officials, who assisted San Marino police.
“The male driver fled on foot, leaving his girlfriend behind inside the car,” Alhambra police officials said in a written statement. “Unfortunately for the fleeing suspect, he left his driver license in the car.”
Officers detained the female suspect and discovered a gun and drugs inside the car, which had been reported stolen, officials said. It was also determined that the fleeing man had several outstanding warrants for his arrest.
Police began keeping watch over the male suspect’s home in Alhambra, suspecting he may be trying to make his way there. An officer spotted the man walking down the street.
“The officer was able to sneak up on the subject and detain him,” according to the Alhambra police statement. “The subject was identified as the same person who fled from the San Marino officer.”
The suspects identities were not available Sunday. San Marino police, who are handling the investigation, could not be reached for comment.

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