Covina police raid marijuana grow inside South El Monte commercial building

POT

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.
0725_NWS_SGT-L-POT1George 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.
0725_NWS_SGT-L-POT2The 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

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Kilogram of suspected cocaine seized from car in South El Monte, 3 arrested

SOUTH EL MONTE — Deputies seized more than two pounds of what was believed to be cocaine and arrested three men, including one who ran, after pulling over a car in South El Monte late Friday, authorities said.
The incident unfolded about 10 p.m. when deputies stopped a car in the area of Peck Road and Michael Hunt Drive, Sgt. A. Ben-Sahile of the sheriff’s Temple Station said.
One of the three men inside the car ran from the vehicle, initiating a search that lasted about an hour before the fleeing suspect was found hiding under a car in a nearby driveway, officials said.
The two other men who remained in the car were also arrested after deputies discovered a kilogram of a substance suspected to be cocaine — with a street value of about $30,000 — in the trunk of the car, Ben-Sahile said. The substance was to be tested to confirm its composition.
Detectives withheld the suspects’ identities Saturday as they continued their investigation, he said. They were described as Northern California men ranging from 30 to 50 years old.

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Man fatally struck by SUV, pickup truck in South El Monte identified

SOUTH EL MONTE >> Coroner’s officials Thursday released the identity of a 46-year-old Los Angeles man fatally struck by two vehicle while trying to cross Rosemead Boulevard.
Jose Javier Ramirez died at the scene of the 4:20 a.m. collision on Rosemead Boulevard, just north of the 60 Freeway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said.
An autopsy was carried out Thursday, Harvey said. Ramirez died of blunt force injuries, and the death was ruled an accident.
He was wearing dark clothing when he tried to cross the street and was struck by a Honda CRV that was heading north on Rosemead Boulevard, California Highway Patrol Officer Doris Peniche said. The CRV driver, a Temple City man, remained at the scene and called for help.
A second vehicle, described as a white box truck, also struck Ramirez but continued driving, officials said. A further description of the truck or its driver was not available.
Officers from the East Los Angeles office of the CHP are handling the investigation.

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San Gabriel Valley men sentenced for running ‘black market peso exchange’

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge sentenced two San Gabriel Valley man to prison and fined their South El Monte-based import-export company $75,000 for illegally moving millions of dollars from the U.S. to Mexico as part of a “black market peso exchange,” officials said.
Chaur Hwan “Kenny” Lin, 67, of Temple City and Antonio Pareja, 54, of San Gabriel were each sentenced to a year in federal prison by Judge John A. Kronstadt, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. Lin was also ordered to pay a $6,000 fine, and their company, Peace & Rich Import, Inc. — a wholesale distribute of goods including silk flowers — was fined $75,000 and placed on probation for four years.
“Judge Kronstadt also ordered Peace & Rich and Lin to forfeit more than $2 million of funds related to the crime,” Mrozek said.
Lin is the president and co-owner of Peace & Rich, while Pareja serves as manager, authorities said.
They worked with Mexican businesses and “peso brokers” to help send millions of dollars south of the border while circumventing conventional financial institutions, officials said.
“An investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles determined that Lin and Pareja used Peace & Rich to receive large amounts of cash derived from illegal activity,” according to the DOJ statement. “The cash – as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars – was typically delivered by couriers working in conjunction with a peso broker in Mexico.”
The cash was often hidden in duffel bags when transferred.
Under a black market peso scheme, peso brokers worth with people such as drug traffickers who have dollars in the United States which they want to send to Mexico and convert to pesos, Mrozek explained.
“The peso broker finds business owners in Mexico who buy goods from vendors in the United States, such as Peace & Rich, and need dollars to pay for those goods,” according to the statement. “The peso broker arranges for the illegally obtained dollars in the United States to be delivered to the United States-based vendors, such as Peace & Rich, where they are used to pay for the goods purchased by the Mexico based customers. Once the goods are shipped to Mexico and sold by the Mexico based business owner for pesos, the pesos are turned over to the peso broker, who then pays the drug trafficker in Mexico.”
Additionally, prosecutors said Lin circumvented cash reporting requirements when depositing large amounts of money into banks.

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Former South El Monte High School volunteer sentenced for inappropriate photos of student

POMONA >> An ex-South El Monte High School volunteer received a one-year jail sentence Friday for taking inappropriate pictures of a 17-year-old boy who passed out at his home during a party, authorities said.
Andres Fernandez, 31, of South El Monte pleaded no contest last month to a count of possession of matter depicting a minor engaging in sexual conduct, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
He was sentenced Friday in Pomona Superior Court to one year in county jail and five years of formal probation, district attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling said. He will also be required to register as a sex offender.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested him March 30 in connection with the Dec. 2, 2013, incident at Fernandez’s home.
Prosecutors alleged he held a party at his home which was attended by several students.
“At the gathering, a male teenager got drunk and passed out,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement. “While the youth was unconscious, Fernandez took inappropriate pictures of the teen.”
The pictures were discovered by a coworker, who notified the school, officials said. School officials, in turn, notified sheriff’s investigators.
Fernandez, who was free on a $20,000 bond pending trial, was remanded into custody following his sentencing, according to county booking records.

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South El Monte man killed in Santa Fe Springs motorcycle crash

SANTA FE SPRINGS — Officials have released the name of a 39-year-old South El Monte man who died in a motorcycle crash in Santa Fe Springs Monday,
Jacob John Valdivia died in the 10:12 p.m. crash at Washington Boulevard and Chatfield Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Valdivia was westbound Washington Boulevard on his 2005 Harley-Davidson motorcycle at an unknown speed when he collided with a 2003 Dodge Ram pickup truck that was making a left turn from eastbound Washington Boulevard to northbound Chatfield Avenue, Officer J. Boyd of the California Highway Patrol’s Santa Fe Springs office said in written statement.
“(Valdivia) failed to stop in time as the front of the Harley-Davidson collided into the right, rear corner of the Dodge Ram,” Boyd said. “This caused major impact damage to the Harley-Davidson. (Valdivia) was ejected from the Harley-Davidson.”
Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene, officials said. The driver of the Dodge, a 27-year-old Fullerton man, was not injured in the collision.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation.

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Armed man robs South El Monte motel office

SOUTH EL MONTE — A gunman robbed the lobby of a South El Monte motel Friday afternoon, authorities said.
The crime took place about 3:35 p.m. when the robber walked into the Rodeway Inn, 1228 Durfee Avenue, near Peck Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Ismael Chavez said.
“He asked the price of a room. As the victim began to answer, he produced a handgun and pointed it at him,” the lieutenant said.
The gunman demanded cash, and the clerk turned over $245 from the cash register, he said.
Chavez said the robber then ordered to victim, a 23-year-old man, to turn around and not look back as he fled.
Officials described the robber as a Latino man in his mid-20s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and 190 pounds. He wore a black coat, purple shorts and purple shoes.
Anyone with information can contact the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171.

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Teens beaten with baseball bat in South El Monte

SOUTH EL MONTE — Two teenage boys suffered injuries in baseball bat attack late Friday, authorities said.
Few details were initially available regarding the 11:59 p.m. incident in the 2000 block of Santa Anita Avenue, near Rush Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Ann Devane said. The teens did not appear to be fully cooperating with investigators.
They were with a group of four or five others when two attackers described only as Latino exited a white, 4-door, older model car and assaulted the two victims with a baseball bat, Devane said.
The teens told deputies the attack was unprovoked, and they had no idea why they were beaten, the sergeant said.
One of the boys was hospitalized with injuries including an apparent broken nose, and the other was bleeding from his head, the sergeant said. The injuries were not believed to be major.

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Chino Hills man fatally struck by big rig in South El Monte hit-and-run

A 30-year-old Chino Hills man died Wednesday after he was thrown from his motorcycle on the 60 Freeway in South El Monte, then struck by a big rig which continued driving, authorities said.
Troy Dean Olson died in the crash, which took place shortly after 6:30 p.m. in the eastbound lanes of the freeway, just east of Cogswell Road, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
Olson was driving a 2013 Honda motorcycle at an unknown speed in the No. 3 lane prior to the crash, Officer M. Gonzales of the California Highway Patrol’s East Los Angeles office said. The motorcyclist applied his brakes due to slowing traffic ahead.
“(Olson) lost control of the motorcycle, causing him to be ejected onto the No. 4 lane,” Gonzales said. A passing big rig then ran over the rider.
Paramedics pronounced Olson dead at the scene, officials said.
Witnesses on-scene stated the driver of the tractor-trailer momentarily stopped and then proceeded to drive away from the scene of the collisions,” Gonzales said.
A description of the driver was not available, however the big rig was described as a dark-colored tractor with a gray or white trailer, he said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the East Los Angeles office of the CHP at 323-980-4600.

- Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

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Coroner’s officials seek help identifying woman found dead in riverbed near Whittier Narrows Dam

Facial reconstruction

Coroner’s officials asked the public’s help Wednesday in identifying a woman whose partially skeletonized remained were discovered in the San Gabriel riverbed in April.
The remains of the woman, listed at the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner as Jane Doe No. 27, were discovered by county workers about 8:40 a.m. April 2 in the riverbed about 150 yards north of the Whittier Narrows Dam, and 100 yards west of Pico Rivera Bicentennial Park in an unincorporated county area near South El Monte, coroner’s officials said in a written statement.
Due to the condition of the body, which sheriff’s investigators said may have been there for several months, an autopsy was unable to determine how the woman died, coroner’s Lt. Larry Dietz said. The officials cause of death was listed at the coroner’s office as “undetermined.”
In an effort to learn the identity of the woman, and possibly shed light on what happened to her, investigators Wednesday publicly released a sketch of what the woman was believed to have looked like. A sketch of a tattoo of a rising sun with two mushrooms in front of it on the woman’s right calf was also released.
TATTO sketchNo wallet or identifying papers were found with the body, officials said.
The dead woman was described as 21 to 40 years old. Her eye color could not be determined. She was wearing blue jeans, size 16 petite, and gray size 10 tennis shoes.
“A gray messenger bag containing two body sprays, along with a gray “Amtrak” hooded jacket were found near the decedent,” according to the coroner’s statement.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Investigator Daniel Machian of the Coroner’s Identifications Unit at 323-343-0754, or the Coroner’s Investigations Division at 3230343-0714.

Sketch of victim, tattoo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.

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