El Monte developer arrested on felony counts

Talk about breaking news …

I just wrapped up this story running in tomorrow’s paper:

EL MONTE — Police arrested the developer of a proposed $1 billion transit-oriented project on suspicion of forgery and embezzlement, among other felony charges, authorities said Sunday.
El Monte police officers took John Leung, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Titan Group, into custody Friday evening. Leung is suspected of forgery, embezzlement, grand theft, burglary and fraud, Police Chief Tom Armstrong said.
Leung, 53, was being held at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles on $1 million bond. Calls to Titan Group Sunday went unanswered.
The El Monte-based development company is in exclusive talks with the city to build the El Monte Transit Village — a 65-acre residential and commercial complex planned for Santa Anita Avenue off the 10 Freeway.
Armstrong said Sunday Leung’s case did not in any way involve the city.
“This investigation is ongoing and the victim is not the city of El Monte … but a private citizen,” he said. “That is where we are with it right now.”
Officials released few details Sunday about the case, but Armstrong said Leung is alleged to have stolen more than $1 million from the victim.
“If you look at the charges, basically they kind of tell you there was a forgery to obtain money that was not a property of Mr. Leung,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong would not comment on whether search warrants were served on Leung or the Titan Group.
He said the Police Department had been looking into the matter “for some time,” though he would not specify how long. Armstrong said the victim was referred to El Monte police by the FBI, but he said the bureau is not participating in the department’s case.
Officials with the FBI did not return calls seeking comment Sunday night.
“I do not feel (they are) involved in any way shape or form in our case,” Armstrong said.
Late Sunday, two El Monte police cars could be seen parked to the rear of the Titan Group offices, at 10501 Valley Blvd.
Doors to the building were locked, but the lights to several offices inside were on.
The arrest took some officials in City Hall by surprise.
“I am sincerely shocked,” Councilwoman Emily Ishigaki said. “To me John has been a real visionary. It’s just shocking.”
Ishigaki said it has yet to be seen how, or if, Leung’s arrest will affect the transit village project.
El Monte has been in exclusive talks with the Titan Group since 2007 on the transit village project.
Nearly $70 million in grants have already been awarded for renovations of the El Monte Transit Center, as well as the village portion of the project.
The City Council is expected to have a closed-session meeting about the matter on Tuesday, City Manager Jim Mussenden said.
“We’re looking at the managing partnership for the Titan Group to see exactly how they are going to move forward with this,” Mussenden said. “There are still other members of the management team.”
Ishigaki said city staff members had been working through the weekend to “keep things secured.”
“Obviously the city wants to protect its investment for the future development of the site,” Mussenden said. “If there’s an issue we are going to address it … I don’t want to sit here and say we are going to be working with another developer.”
Councilwoman Patricia Wallach declined to comment on the investigation Sunday. Mayor Ernie Gutierrez and council members Juventino “J” Gomez and Art Barrios did not return calls seeking comment.
Officials expect to send their case against Leung to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office this week.
Records show Leung is due in Rio Hondo Municipal Court in El Monte on Tuesday.
Armstrong said Leung’s bail was originally set at $20,000. But investigators sought a bail enhancement because Leung is considered a flight risk.
“I frankly am not sure if he is still a citizen of China or not, but certainly he travels frequently and my understanding is (the enhancement is) due to being a flight risk,” Armstrong said.

  • Anonymous

    Another black eye for El Monte. Hopefully the funding that came about through the grants was not part of this investigation. One man with too much money seems questionable. Was he cleared by the city on previous projects of this cost and size. This city can not afford to lose such a huge project. Their credibility and that of the city attorney and city managers is in question. They should of done their homewrok on this matter.

  • Anonymous

    READ THE STORY: The charges do not involve the City.

  • anonymous

    They may not involve the city, but they do involve the citys grants that are being used for this project. How do you seperate the two?

  • Anonymous

    Armstrong got the job done. Had it been Weldon he would of sold out. Typical.

  • La Puente Lookout

    Everyone needs to read the story more carefully. None of this involves the city or their grants. It was a private citizen that Leung is accused of bilking.

  • anonymous

    I remain neutral about the arrest because a person is inocent until proven guilty but
    Congratulations Chief Armstrong by trying to restore credibility back to our City and you will pass the final test next november if i do not see you putting campaign signs like the previous chief Weldon…

  • Anonymous

    Regarding council members not commenting on Leung or being shock by his actions, what a surprise! He not only did he wined and dined them but heavily contributed to their political campaigns. They are not going to say anything negative (even if its true) on this individual or the Titan company because all 5 of the council and city treasurer are as corrupt or worse as he is.

    This is who the city council gave tax payers money and called it redevelopment.

    Now that the dirt is coming out on this thief, the dirt on all five council members and the city treasure will come out soon!!

    We can thank former Mayor Rachael Montes for bring this parasite and corrupt company Titan to the city.

    Tribune: please continue to investigate on our shameful city representatives.

  • Anonymous

    ….and please continue to investigate ALL special interests that back them…police unions, developers and others.

  • Anonymous

    It’s funny because most of the grant money has not even come in yet, so I fail to see how it could have been bilked before it is received. This is a bad story no question, but isn’t it funny how a certain faction within the city is trying to piggyback their agenda onto peoples legitimate outrage.

    People:

    Rule #1 – Beware of Developers

    Rule #2 – Beware of greedy cop unions and their shameless efforts to distort the facts of a story to suit their own greedy agenda.

    I’ve already seen posts mixing up the Transit Village Project (a good project) with the Santa Fe Trai Project (a bad project that everyone’s been trying to kill for years…with little luck…and that has no involvement by John Leung but plenty of involvement by political friends $$$$$$ of Ernie and Emily).

    See, the cops don’t care if you know the truth about what is what. They just want you to believe that all of the cities problems are owed to a problem that doesn’t even involve the city.

    You are smarter than that.

  • hurchel

    Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

    I can assure you, that the city of el monte was made aware of fraudulent activity by the titan group over a year ago, involving Pacific Towers and the Senior apartments across the street from pacific towers. I can assure you that police officers also were made aware at the same time.

    They choose to ignore it, not all of them, and this is what will surface… you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Now why would they choose to continue to want to give at the time, what was going to be another 283 million to this same developer?

    Why does our elected city council sit on the redevelopment agency?

    This is the second time with leung…while innocent until proven quilty where there is smoke there is usually fire.

    I said earlier the city should be glad they weren’t defrauded more than they have been.

    But as I read all the comments perhaps I should say the citizens of El Monte, the true heart and soul of El Monte, won’t be defrauded of the monies which were headed toward the el monte transit center.

    I for one am very grateful to the individual who took this case to the FBI, you should be too.

  • hmmmmmm

    Pacific Towers- Its the developer best friends with Mr. & Mrs. Pat Wallach?

    Who had taxpayers money fix his property at no cost to him!!!

    Hurcel you are right City Council has no business in the redevelopment commission! This is the same group that agreed to have Ernie’s girlfriend private property repaved at the City’s expense … in order words tax payers expense.

    Ernie also had them give a party at taxpayers expense for his girlfriend’s daughter who had return from war. Go ahead have your FN party put pay it with your own money!

  • Truth Squad

    F-E-S-T-I-V-A-L

    F-E-S-T-I-V-A-L

    F-E-S-T-I-V-A-L

    F-E-S-T-I-V-A-L

    Want to know where the REAL theiving developer-cockroaches are hiding….ask your council person about the Festival Capri/Santa Fe Trail project on Valley and Santa Anita – the one with all the boarded up buildings.

    ASK THEM WHY THE CITY COUNCIL HAS NOT HAD THE GUTS TO CUT THE CORD WITH THIS CROOK DEVELOPER EVEN WHEN EVERYONE ELSE AT CITY HALL HAS BEEN TELLING THEM TO DO JUST THAT.

    ASK WHY THEY WON’T LET THE CITY FIGHT TO GET YOUR TAX DOLLARS BACK FROM THIS GREEDY PACK OF DEVELOPERS.

    LET’S SEE WHO REALLY CARES ABOUT RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT.

  • Anonymous 2

    hmmmm….

    Now, I realize I could be wrong, but I thought the Festival project was also by Titan. If the investigation begins, wouldn’t it eventually uncover that as well? Maybe the whole thing will come down like a house of cards.