Nanny bound at knifepoint during San Marino home-invasion robbery; suspect jailed

SAN MARINO >> A San Gabriel man stormed into a San Marino home Friday and tied up a woman at knifepoint during a daytime home-invasion robbery, authorities said.
Yongheng Huang, 24, was arrested on suspicion of charges including robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment shortly after the incident, which was reported just before 1 p.m. at a home in the 2500 block of Lombardy Road, San Marino police officials said in a written statement.
A woman who was working as a nanny at the home told police that a man, clad in a black jacket and mask, had entered the home through a back door and demanded money, San Marino Police Sgt. Robert Matthews said. But no money was found.
“The victim was threatened with a knife and tied,” according to the police statement. “(Huang) detained the victim until the homeowner arrived. Upon arrival, the suspect confronted the homeowner and again demanded money.
Police said the homeowner complied, and Huang fled with both U.S. and Chinese currency.
The woman was bound for more than an hour before the homeowner arrived home, Matthews said. Neither victim was hurt.
A San Marino police officer searching the area spotted Huang on foot just around the corner at California Boulevard and Alegria Place, officials said. He was detained and ultimately identified as the suspect in the home-invasion robbery.
Huang had a fixed-blade knife with him when arrested, as well as the money believed to have been stolen in the crime, police said.
The amount of money stolen was not available Friday.
Police had not discovered any link between the suspect and victims or a reason he may have targeted the Lombardy Road home, Matthews said, however detectives continued interviewing Huang Friday night.
Huang was booked on suspicion of robbery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, brandishing a knife, burglary, receiving stolen property, providing false information to a peace police officer and wearing a mask during the commission of a crime.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Huang was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Alhambra Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in Alhambra Superior Court.

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Protesters picket outside San Marino home of Wells Fargo CFO

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Protesters angered over home foreclosures gathered to picket in front of the San Marino home of a Wells Fargo executive Saturday, testing a recently adopted city ordinance banning such demonstrations.
The act of civil disobedience by about 70 protesters resulted in no arrests, San Marino police Sgt. Tim Tebbetts said. The crowd promptly dispersed once police announced via loudspeaker that the gathering was declared an unlawful assembly.
The protest, organized by the activist group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment in partnership with other nonprofit organizations, took place in front of the home of Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer Timothy Sloan. The home has been picketed twice before, in October 2011 and in April 2012.
“Predatory lender, criminal offender,” shouted the protesters as they stood in the street holding signs and banners. “Wells Fargo, shame on you.”
The protest was held in violation of a city ordinance past late last year that prohibits picketing within 150 of a residential home, or within 75 feet of the property on which the home sits, whichever is greater.”
Wells Fargo was targeted for the protest, in part, because of accusations leveled by New York State Attorney Eric Schneiderman that the bank, along with Bank of America, was failing to live up to its responsibilities under the terms of last year’s national mortgage settlement.
Schneiderman pointed to 210 complaints related to prompt processing of refinancing requests against Wells Fargo, and 129 against Bank of America.
Columbine High School mass shooting survivor Richard Castaldo of Los Angeles, who is paralyzed below the waist due to injuries suffered in the infamous attack, said his condominium is due to be auctioned off Aug. 12.
Initially financed through Wells Fargo, Castaldo said he fell behind in his mortgage due to a skyrocketing adjustable interest rate at the time his home went underwater in the housing market crash. The loan was then transferred to a third party lender, and attempts to modify the loan have been unsuccessful.
“I just want to know why Wells Fargo is not helping disabled people, when they received generous government bailouts,” Castaldo said.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Diane Rodriguez disputed the claims of the protesters, but said the bank recognized their right to expression.
“We respect the rights of people to be able to protest peacefully,” she said. “We appreciate the service of the San Marino Police Department for ensuring a safe event for everyone.”
“Generally speaking, we, as a company, have a very strong record of supporting homeowners who may be in some sort of distress or may be struggling to stay in their homes. We’ve invested heavily in our community to help those who need help along the way.”
The bank’s website states that Wells Fargo has provided new loans, both for purchases and refinances, to nearly 8.3 million customers since 2009, and forgiven more than $6.9 million of mortgage principal through 862,028 loan modifications.
But demonstrators such as ACE Community Organizer Peggy Means of Fontana called the Wells Fargo called Well Fargo management, “banker gangsters.”
We’re here to let the world know what Wells Fargo is doing, said Means.
“I don’t think they’re patriotic, because they’re doing everything they can to kill the American Dream,” she said.
She led a moment of silence for Ana Casas of South Gate, who died late last year during battles with cancer and cerebral palsy.
Casas was arrested in front of Sloan’s home in April 2012 when she refused police orders to leave before giving a mortgage payment to the banking official that the bank had refused to accept. Means said Casas provided a bold example to be followed.
“She fought to the very end,” Means said. “Because of Ana’s tenacity, her family is still in their home. They couldn’t break her spirit.”

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San Marino police motorcycle officer involved in crash

A San Marino police motorcycle officer was involved in a crash with a minivan Friday in an unincorporated county area just east of San Marino, but suffered only minor injuries, officials said.
The crash took place about 8:25 a.m. on La Presa Drive at Huntington Drive, California Highway Patrol Officer Ed Jacobs said.
The motor officer collided with a Honda Odyssey Minivan, which sustained major front-end damage, Jacobs said.
The officer was treated for apparently minor injuries, according to CHP logs.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said Eastbound Huntington Drive and northbound La Presa Drive were shut down in the area as the CHP investigated.
San Marino police did not return calls seeking comment.
The circumstances of the crash were under investigation by officers from the Altadena office of the CHP.

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South Pasadena police arrest teen on suspicion of San Marino burglary, attempted robbery

Police arrested a Riverside teenager over the weekend after he was confronted by a resident while burglarizing a San Marino home, then tried to rob a man of a cell phone before ultimately being captured in South Pasadena, authorities said.
San Marino police responded about 10:15 a.m. Sunday to a report of a burglary in progress in the 2000 block of Winthrop Road, South Pasadena police Sgt. Brian Solinsky said.
The 17-year-old suspect “used a brick to break a window and gain entry into the home,” Solinsky said.
A woman who lives in the home heard a commotion and found the suspect stealing valuables, police said. He fled when confronted, escaping with an ornamental lock from a Japanese cabinet.
Solinsky said the fleeing burglar ran to a home that was under construction nearby in the 1300 block of Garfield Avenue and asked the caretaker to use a phone, Solinsky said.
When the caretaker refused, the teenage suspect claimed to have a gun and demanded the caretaker’s cell phone, the sergeant said. But the would-be robbery victim refused, and the suspect continued on his way.
South Pasadena police then received a call reporting a suspicious person, who was sweaty and appeared to be trying to change clothes, just across the city border in the 2000 block of Edgewood Drive, Solinsky said. Officers found him in the area and arrested him without a struggle.
No weapon was found in the teenage suspect’s possession, officials said. Due to his age, his name was not released.

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Body found in lake identified as missing San Marino man

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SOLVANG — A body found in a lake in Santa Barbara County has been identified as that of a 55-year-old San Marino man missing since his vehicle struck a tree in the area two weeks ago.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department identified Kurt Brimberry as the man whose body was found early Wednesday in the lake area of the Alisal Guest Ranch near Solvang. An employee made the discovery while walking around the lake and called authorities, who sent a dive team to recover the body.
Brimberry had been missing since the vehicle crash in the Aug. 18 crash in the 2500 block of Alisal Road, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. 
“The vehicle was totaled, and the driver was not found at the scene,” the statement said. “A passerby reported seeing a man matching Kurt Brimberry’s description walking toward the Alisal Guest Ranch, on Alisal Road, a short time after the time of the collision, but responding emergency workers could not find him.”
His cell phone was found inside his SUV, officials said. He was believed to be injured due to the crash, and also in need of medical attention for a medical condition.
After checking the local hospital and hotels and launching a search with the help of a helicopter and dogs, officials came up empty-handed. A public bulletin was issued by local authorities, along with Brimberry’s picture.
After more than a week with no sign of the San Marino man, the ranch employee spotted his body early Wednesday morning, sheriff’s officials said.
Investigators said the exact cause of death remained under investigation and may take several more weeks to determine.
- From staff and wire reports
PHOTO courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department
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UPDATE: Employees, security guard locked in vault during takeover robbery at San Marino bank

SAN MARINO — Two armed men wearing masks and sunglasses got away with a large amount of cash after a takeover robbery of a local bank Friday.
Police didn’t reveal the exact amount taken from the East West Bank at 805 Huntington Drive. San Marino police Sgt. Jay Wilburn said no one was injured in the heist, which took place just after 10 a.m.
“Both suspects were each brandishing an unknown type of handgun; one described as a black handgun and the second described as a silver and black handgun,” said San Marino police Detective Henry Todd.
“The suspects pointed these handguns at each of the bank employees and security guard and ordered each of them to lie down on the floor,” the detective said. “The suspects then forced three of the employees into a nearby ‘vault room.’”
While in the vault, the robbers helped themselves to a large amount of cash, which they placed into a large “military-style” bag, Todd said.
The gunmen only appeared to be interested in the money from the bank’s vault, police added.
“The suspects did not remove any currency from the individual bank teller stations,” Todd said.
Wilburn said the men fled from the bank in a burgundy Ford Mustang, which officers later found abandoned about a block away from the bank.
“It was stolen April 19 in Inglewood,” Wilburn said.
Police described one of the suspects as a black man, 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 5 inches tall and between 140 to 170 pounds.
He was wearing a black T-shirt, a hooded sweat shirt with the hood pulled over his head, a black knit cap, a pair of sunglasses, gloves and a mask that covered the lower portion of his face.
The other suspect was described as a black man, between 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 160 to 180 pounds. He had a thin mustache and wore a black nylon jacket with security badges or patches on the sleeves and chest, a black knit cap, gold-framed sunglasses and gloves.
Like his companion, police said this suspect also had a mask covering the lower portion of his face.
The FBI is assisting San Marino police in the investigation.
Anyone with information was asked to contact San Marino Police at 626-300-0720.
- Ruby Gonzales and Brian Day
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UPDATE: Fire causes $2 million in damage to San Marino realty office

SAN MARINO — A massive fire caused an estimated $2 million worth of damage to a real estate office early Friday, authorities said.
No one was injured in the four-alarm blaze, which was first reported at 1:11 a.m. at Masters Realty, 2476 Huntington Drive, San Marino Fire Department officials said in a written statement.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation Friday, San Marino Fire Department Division Chief Rick Mayhew said.
“They’re actually still trying to dig through all of the rubble to get to the actual point of origin,” Mayhew said.
Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke pouring out of the windows of the business, officials said. They immediately called for additional firefighters and began attacking the flames.
“The extreme fire conditions inside the occupancy kept firefighters from advancing any further into the structure,” the statement said.
Firefighters then called for additional backup and used large, truck-mounted hoses to control the fire before sending personnel in with handheld hoses, officials said.
Authorities continued battling the blaze for more than two and a half hours, fire officials said.
“Due to the effective actions all firefighters on scene, the fire was contained to the occupancy of origin, thus preventing any losses to the adjacent business,” according to the written statement.
The neighboring business attached to Masters Realty sustained only minor damage, Mayhew said.
In addition to the San Marino Fire Department, officials from the Los Angeles County, San Gabriel, Alhambra, Arcadia, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Monterey Park and Glendale assisted with the fire.
The fire departments make up a cooperative team of agencies that often works and trains with each other, Mayhew explained.
“They did an outstanding job, Mayhew said. “They work really well together.”
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Former San Marino High School football coach pleads not guilty to embezzlement

LOS ANGELES — A former San Marino football coach accused of embezzling $21,000 from school booster clubs pleaded not guilty Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Mike Mooney, 41, is charged with grand theft, according to a Nov. 22 felony complaint against him.
Mooney became head coach in 2010, but resigned later in the year after being placed on administrative leave.
School officials also suspended from his his position as assistant principal in charge of discipline and attendance.
The alleged theft took place between October of 2008 and October of 2010.
Mooney is due back in Los Angeles Superior Court for a hearing Jan. 17, court officials said.

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Police looking into San Marino break-in find inert grenades

SAN MARINO — Police investigating a break-in at a Mesa Road home discovered three grenades Thursday, which were ultimately found to be inert training grenades.
A gardener called police around 3 p.m. to report a window had been smashed at a home in the 1200 block of Mesa Road sometime since his last visit to the home on Tuesday, San Marino police Sgt. Robert Cervantes said. The residents were out of town.
Investigating officers found that the home had been ransacked and noticed three grenades sitting on a bed in the master bedroom.
“We cleared out of there, just to be on the safe side,” the sergeant said. A bomb squad was summoned, but cancelled before arriving after a police officers recognized the grenades as harmless training devices.
Officials left the devices, which are note illegal, at the home but dismantled them to avoid further misunderstanding, Cervantes said.
It was not immediately clear what, if anything, was taken from the home.
The investigation into the burglary was ongoing.

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San Marino police jail burglary suspect

SAN MARINO — Police arrested an 18-year-old Altadena man Friday on suspicion of burglarizing a San Marino house, authorities said.
Adrian Rodriguez was booked on suspicion of possession of stolen property and was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail at the Alhambra Police Department’s jail, according to San Marino police officials and sheriff’s booking records.
A resident of Avondale Road called police about 10:50 a.m. to report to report a neighbor’s house had been broken into and two men were driving off in a black Chevrolet HHR, San Marino police Sgt. Aaron Blonde said in a written statement.
A witness provided police with a license plate number for the car, which was determined to have been rented by a Pasadena man, the sergeant said.
“This individual told officers that he had lent the vehicle to Mr. Adrian Rodriguez,” Blonde said.
After contacting Rodriguez by telephone, officers found him walking in the area of Lincoln Avenue and Woodbury Road in Altadena.
A police helicopter found the rented Chevrolet driving on Lincoln Avenue, Blonde said. “The vehicle was stopped, however, available information did not link the (female) driver to the crime.”
San Marino police received additional information that someone had hidden computer equipment in some bushes in the 3000 block of Lincoln Avenue in Altadena, officials said.
Officers recovered equipment allegedly stolen from the Avondale Road home, and a witness identified Rodriguez as the person who hid it.
The second burglary suspect was not found.
Rodriguez was due for arraignment Tuesday in Alhambra Superior Court.
Anyone with information is asked to call San Marino police at 626-300-0720.
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