Police Files

LBPD officer arrested in elder abuse case: internal investigation launched

On Tuesday, November 28, officers from the Fullerton Police Department arrested three individuals in connection with an ongoing elder abuse and fraud investigation.

One of those individuals was LBPD’s Officer Rock Wagner, 58, a nine-year veteran of the police department. Arrested along with him were his sister, Wendy Wagner, 55, and her boyfriend, Norman McBride, 58. All three were arrested for elder abuse and fraud, and were released from the Fullerton City Jail after posting bail.

Officer Wagner has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

In an interview with Stu News Laguna, Police Chief Laura Farinella estimated that the internal investigation would take approximately 30-45 days.

“We will not compromise a thorough and accurate investigation for the sake of getting it done earlier than it takes,” she said.

While disappointed with the arrest, the LBPD wants to express to the community that no criminal activity is alleged to have occurred within Laguna Beach or while Officer Wagner was on-duty.

“The arrest of Wagner was definitely unexpected and has sent a disappointing ripple throughout the entire department,” said Farinella. “With that said, this arrest is not a reflection of the hard-working, ethical men and women of the Laguna Beach Police Department, and nothing in this case has ever pointed to his work here as a police officer.”

Fullerton PD was informed of the alleged misconduct in June 2017 by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Orange County Adult Protective Services. Chief Farinella was made aware of the investigation a few months ago by Fullerton PD. 

“One of our lieutenants was there at the time of the arrest and [Wagner’s] badge, gun, and ID ware taken. It was at that time he was placed on paid administrative leave and given the appropriate paperwork related to this status,” Farinella said.

Fullerton PD officers said that there was more than one alleged victim, related to the suspects, and the allegations relate to the theft of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The suspects are not accused of any physical abuse. 

“We have a war on trees [in our town],” says Mayor Iseman after vicious attack kills eucalyptus

In August, an unknown suspect poured gasoline on a eucalyptus tree a block away from Thousand Steps Beach. The fire department responded to absorb the fuel, and a consulting arborist was called in by the city’s Public Works and Code Enforcement departments to evaluate the tree.

“Public Works staff followed the consulting arborists’ recommendations to remove the fuel and periodically visited the site to monitor the situation and evaluate the health of the tree,” said Shohreh Dupuis, director of Public Works, in a letter. At that time, the tree did not appear damaged beyond recovery.

That did not last long. A few weeks later, the foliage turned brown and the canopy began to die. A dozen nails were found in the tree trunk, which were removed immediately. 

“During the follow up inspection, the arborist suggested that the damage caused by the vandalism had systematically affected the tree to a level that was likely to be irreversible,” said Dupuis.

The tree has not recovered and is now dead. The Public Works department is following the City Council’s Public Tree Removal Policy for its removal, as it has become a fire hazard.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

A 50-foot tall eucalyptus tree will be removed after a series of attacks killed it

“We have a war on trees going on [in this town],” said Mayor Toni Iseman. Last November, someone cut gashes into five eucalyptus trees in front of Montage Laguna Beach. And in May of this year, several nails were hammered into a tree in the 1000 block of Cortez.

Unfortunately, LBPD is not actively investigating the recent vandalism that killed the eucalyptus tree because they have no leads on the incident.

“If you can prove that a tree was purposely or maliciously killed by a person, a case can be presented to the DA’s office for filing consideration,” explained Sgt. Jim Cota. “A report was generated and Code Enforcement conducted an investigation. If there had been any solid leads on who committed the crime, a report would have been sent to Investigations for assistance in either an arrest or filing a charge with the DA.”

Red Flag Warning issued for Laguna Beach

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning effective through Thurs, Dec 7 at 11:59 p.m. A high wind watch has also been issued where wind speeds between 20-40 mph and gusts of up to 60 mph are possible. Laguna Beach residents should refer to the Ready! Set! Go! Program available on the Fire Department website (www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/fire). 

Register for AlertOC, the city’s mass notification system, by going to AlertOC.com. To ensure you are contacted during a Red Flag Warning, please register with the Nixle Red Flag group by texting “LBRedFlag” to 888-777.

Residents should be aware of parking restrictions in the Diamond/Crestview neighborhood during Red Flag Warnings. Any vehicles parked in spaces marked with a “red flag” in the center may be cited or towed.


Police Files

LBPD officer arrested in elder abuse case

On Tuesday, November 28, officers from the Fullerton Police Department arrested three individuals in connection with an ongoing elder abuse and fraud investigation.

One of those individuals was LBPD’s Officer Rock Wagner, a nine-year veteran of the police department. Arrested along with him were his sister, Wendy Wagner, and her boyfriend, Norman McBride. All three were arrested for elder abuse and fraud, and were released from the Fullerton City Jail after posting bail.

While disappointed with the arrest, the LBPD wants to express to the community that no criminal activity is alleged to have occurred within Laguna Beach or while Officer Wagner was on-duty.

“As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest of standards and in no way is the arrest of Officer Wagner a reflection of the hard-working men and women of this outstanding police organization, said Police Chief Laura Farinella in a statement.

Fullerton PD was informed of the alleged misconduct in June 2017 by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Orange County Adult Protective Services.

Little details are currently available, though Fullerton PD officers said that there was more than one alleged victim, related to the suspects, and the allegations relate to the theft of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The suspects are not accused of any physical abuse. 

Officer Wagner has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.


Police Files

Laguna Beach man sustains critical injuries after crash early Thursday

On Thanksgiving morning at 1:16 a.m., callers reported hearing a crash in the area of Park Avenue and Tahiti Avenue.

“A single vehicle reportedly drove off the hillside and rolled several times,” said Sgt. Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “The driver was ejected from the vehicle at some point.”

A helicopter was called in to extract the driver, a Laguna Beach man in his 20s, from the bottom of the ravine. He was taken to the hospital with critical injuries.


Police Files

Thieving duo steals wallets at Ralphs

Multiple shoppers at Ralphs on Monday evening, likely stocking up for Thanksgiving, were met with an unpleasant surprise… their wallets had been stolen. 

“Two suspects, a man and a woman, worked in conjunction with each other to systematically distract women and steal their wallets from their purses in their shopping carts,” explained Sgt. Cota, LBPD spokesperson. 

Two victims came forward, reporting that their wallets had been stolen around 6:20 p.m..

Photos courtesy of LBPD

Surveillance footage shows the two suspects, who would distract customers before taking their wallets

The total reported loss at this point is $102 and credit cards. The suspects were not seen entering any vehicles.

If you recognize the suspects, or have any information, please contact the LBPD at 949-497-0701.

Facebook followers find fraudster

In June, a woman went to Bank of America to cash a check.

Trouble was, that check was stolen, and so was the ID she used.

When officers responded, the woman had left the scene. LBPD detectives had only the surveillance footage provided to them by the bank to solve the crime.

Photos courtesy of LPBD

In an effort to maximize the resources available to them, LBPD sent out crime bulletins to other police agencies, and posted stills from the video on their Facebook page.

Lo and behold, a Facebook follower recognized the woman in the video – a prior resident of Laguna who had moved away a few years ago.

Alexandra Hovas was located and arrested on November 13. She has been charged with check fraud, identity theft, and other fraud and theft related charges.


Police Files

Peace, love, positivity…and then the police

Thursday morning, fumes from paint cans permeated the area of Canyon Acres Drive and Laguna Canyon Road.

An open area with cement and rebar remnants near a hiking trail had been spray painted with the letters “PLP,” said to stand for “Peace, Love, and Positivity.”

Timothy Payton, 26, Irvine, was apprehended and admitted to spray painting the rocks, concrete and trees in the area.

“He said he did it to paint over all the negativity,” explained Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “He was arrested for vandalism and transported to the Laguna Beach Police Department.”

Assault with a deadly flashlight

On Friday evening, a fight over a cell phone on Main Beach escalated a bit too far for one of the parties involved.

A group of three men was squabbling over who among them was the rightful owner of a Samsung cell phone. Joseph Hogsten, 30, no fixed address, was prepared to go to any means necessary to prove the phone was his.

“Hogsten hit two men in the head with a flashlight,” said Sgt. Jim Cota. One of the victims reported that he was losing consciousness while on the phone with the police department.

Hogsten was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, with bail set at $25,000.


Police Files

Shipwrecked in Laguna

The evening of Tuesday the 14th on Main Beach, Laguna residents were met with something unexpected.

Laguna Beach Police, Fire, and Marine Safety, as well as OCSD Harbor Patrol, congregated at the shore following reports of a 26’ boat running aground. 

The two uninjured occupants, a local transient and a man from Laguna Niguel, had arrived on Main Beach after the vessel had suffered from electrical problems.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Valerie Sokola

The sailboat was not in very good shape when it ran aground Tuesday

“Marine Safety personnel called in a vessel assist company to assess the options,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “The two subjects did not have enough money to pay for the boat to be extracted and wanted to push it back into the ocean.”

Instead, the boat was deemed a hazard, and Marine Safety took custody and responsibility of it. They monitored the boat overnight and called in Public Works in the morning to pull the boat further up the shore during high tide, twelve hours after the boat ran aground.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Tracy Newton

Heavy equipment was brought in for the removal of the vessel Wednesday morning

The boat was removed Wednesday morning. 

Yoga locker burglar and credit card thief pleads guilty

In February, a man entered a Laguna Beach yoga studio and ransacked the lockers, later using stolen credit cards to pay his bill at a local restaurant.

He left town on a train, and continued his life of crime at stops between San Francisco and San Diego over the next few months.

Douglas Schlichting was arrested in June by the Coronado Police Department, and on Monday, pled guilty to charges of residential burglary and identity theft.

Photo courtesy LBPD

Douglas Schlichting

As a third strike felon, Schlichting faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 11 years and 8 months. 

“He also has a probation violation out of San Francisco, where they will choose to sentence him to an additional 8 years consecutive or concurrent,” said Cota.

Schlichting’s sentencing will be on January 9, 2018.

Man bites officer, gets arrested

Wednesday evening, a drunk man on Cleo Street got unruly with officers.

Joshua Szalanczy, 21, Florida, was passed out on the sidewalk when officers arrived to check on him. 

When officers placed him under arrest, he tried to fight with the officers, biting one in the leg in the process.

LBPD Booking Photo

Joshua Szalanczy

In the end, the officers prevailed and Szalanczy was arrested for being drunk in public and felony battery on a police officer. The bitten officer was not seriously injured.


Police Files

LBPD reminds residents to lock their doors following vacation rental break-in

Laguna Beach residents aren’t the only victims in the recent spree of burglaries across town. 

A visitor staying in a vacation rental in the 1100 block of N. Coast Hwy woke up at around 3 a.m. on Wednesday to find someone in her room. Upon seeing that the previously sleeping guest was awake, the suspect fled – but not before grabbing a jacket with $40 inside.

“The suspect entered through unlocked doors,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “People need to lock the doors to their residences and vehicles.”

The jacket was recovered, but the money was gone. And, there was a beer on the front porch the following morning that hadn’t been there the night before.

LBPD is looking into the case to see if there are any leads.

Rats! We have a gnawing suspicion that a certain thief was disappointed when he opened stolen packages 

Imagine the scene: you’re just your average burglar ambling along Cerritos Street early Thursday morning, wondering whether today will be your lucky day, looking for open windows or doors, when you see a few nice size boxes sitting on the doorstep of a home…so you pick them up. 

They’re heavy and rattle when you shake them. Seems like this could be valuable stuff – the kind of stuff thieves like you can make money on. It’s been a slow thief day.

You scurry away, packages in hand. Feeling beady eyes on you, you turn – has the homeowner noticed you? But no, it’s a pair of rats sitting on a fencepost, whiskers upturned. If you didn’t know better, you might think they were smiling at you, as if to say, hey, we recognize you, and thanks, buddy! 

Thanks, buddy – we see you’re one of us…

Funny what nerves will do to your mind.

When you get home, you open the boxes to find – 60+ rat traps. Nearly $85 worth of rat traps and their associated equipment, to be exact. A plague on the house you burgled!

It’s not your lucky day after all. And you have a gnawing feeling the cops will be after you soon. 

And we think you’re right about that.


Police Files

Lumberyard vandal apprehended in Tustin

In the wee hours last Thursday morning, a suspect destroyed lights in front of the Lumberyard Restaurant. The damage was estimated to be about $2,000. 

Unfortunately for the suspect, the Lumberyard is right across from the Laguna Beach Police Department, and the entire incident was caught on camera. Not to mention, the suspect had been called to bail out a friend of theirs who had been arrested that night. 

“Sometimes people make bad decisions when they are mad, and this was one of them,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

Click on photos for larger images

Photos Courtesy of LBPD

LBPD detectives were able to positively identify the suspects who vandalized the Lumberyard lights thanks to security footage 

“The Investigations Team quickly identified the suspect and located him. There was no hesitation in making the arrest,” said Cota. 

 LBPD Detective Jordan Mirakian called the suspect before the arrest. “I told him, you’re caught, now let’s put this behind us. He agreed. The arrest was uneventful, which is the way we like it,” he said.

LBPD Booking Photo

Noah Laguna

Noah Laguna, 19, Tustin, was taken into custody without incident in Tustin on Thursday. He admitted to what he did and was booked into the Laguna Beach Jail on charges of vandalism.

“We will not tolerate extensive damage done to our businesses and have someone think they are going to get away with it,” said Cota.

More than termites gone after fumigation

Having a home fumigated for termites is not uncommon. Unfortunately, when the tents go up, the home can become a target for crime.

This was the case for homeowners in the 800 block of Coast View Drive. When the owners returned after their house was fumigated, they discovered that the closets had been ransacked, with $10,000 in cash and two watches valued at $40,000 taken.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this happening,” Sgt. Cota said.

There are no suspects at this time, and the extermination company is conducting its own investigation into the matter as well.


DUI Arrests

Daniel Jude Zamalloa, 22, Laguna Niguel - Sunday, November 5 Traffic Collision

Gregory Scott Raia, 55, Laguna Beach - Saturday, November 4

Richard Robert Ray, 41, Los Angeles - Saturday

Alorah Jean Burke, 22, Temecula - Saturday

Jesus Mauricio Cartagena, 36, Duarte - Saturday

Angela Marie Carnago, 50, Laguna Beach - Friday, November 3 Cell Caller

Gabriel Alonso Verdiales, 18, Santa Ana - Thursday, November 2

Incident Reports

Sunday, November 5

Arrests for Being Drunk in Public

Mike Lewis, 47, Laguna Beach

Mehran Khamnehipour, 30, Laguna Beach

Ocean Avenue & S. Coast Hwy | Reckless Driving

2:13 a.m. During a traffic stop, Anthony Morales, 36, Winnetka, was arrested for reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, disobeying a court order, driving a vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock device, bail $500 for each charge.

Saturday, November 4

Arrests for Being Drunk in Public

Robert Carlos Renovales, 40, San Diego

Michael William Todd, 48, Laguna Beach - additional charge for Harbor Court warrant for DUI & driving with a suspended license.

S. Coast Hwy | 100 Block | Battery

4 p.m. Joseph Craig Hosten, 30, no fixed address, was arrested for battery.

S. Coast Hwy | 100 Block | Warrant

3:44 p.m. Wayne Chancey, 46, no fixed address, was arrested on a Harbor Court Warrant.

S. Coast Hwy | 1500 Block | Petty Theft

2:51 p.m. The RP’s purse was stolen by the pool within the last hour.

Laguna Canyon Road | 20600 Block | Welfare Check, Drugs

2:07 p.m. Juan Francisco Perez, 58, Santa Ana, arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Friday, November 3

Arrests for Being Drunk in Public

Brandon Daniel Alderete, 35, no fixed address

Emerald Bay & N. Coast Hwy | Hit & Run

5:12 p.m. A white car hit the RP’s BMW. A possible sighting of the suspect vehicle occurred at 4:34 p.m.

Cress Street | 400 Block | Fraud

12:37 p.m. An incident of identity theft was reported. There is documentation of the incident, but there is no financial loss at this time.

Forest Avenue | 300 Block | Vandalism

10:18 a.m. Broken lights and various items were found in front of the location. The vandalism occurred sometime last night.

Thursday, November 2

Forest Avenue & Third Street | Stolen Vehicle

7:19 p.m. A vehicle reported as stolen was found unoccupied. The RP did not park vehicle there.

West Street | 31500 Block | Vandalism

6:58 p.m. The victim’s car was keyed and both windshield wipers were broken off. The loss was estimated at $3,800. 

Cress Street | 100 Block | Warrant

4:37 p.m. Gregory Van Sexton, 46, Garden Grove, was arrested on a Harbor Court warrant.

N. Stonington Road | Vandalism

8:33 a.m. Two left side windows of the RP’s vehicle were shot out with a BB gun overnight, causing the windows to shatter.

Laguna Canyon Road & Northbound State Hwy 73 Laguna Beach | Traffic Collision

6:40 a.m. A motorcycle was down on the shoulder of the road. The rider complained of back pain. 

Wednesday, November 1

Arrests for Being Drunk in Public

Richard Ray Bowhay, 59, Texas

Curtis Grant Abbott, 52, no fixed address

Laguna Canyon Road | Assault, Battery

3:25 p.m. A physical fight occurred. Donald Douglas Kramer, 46, no fixed address, was arrested for assault, battery, and resisting arrest, bail $500 for each.

Marylin Drive | 30800 Block | Burglary, Vehicle

1:54 p.m. A backpack was taken from a vehicle that was possibly unlocked. The total loss was estimated at $250.

Panorama Drive | 400 Block | Fraud

12:02 p.m. Phones were purchased using the RP’s name.

Coast Hwy | 30800 Block | Fraud

10:25 a.m. A month ago, a cable company was billing the RP from another address, with a total loss of $382.51.


Police Files

Thief waltzes away with dancing woman

On Friday evening, a resident in the 200 block of Chiquita Street reported that a sculpture had been stolen from their home. 

The sculpture, a bronze dancing woman on a base of green marble, had been listed on eBay. The loss was estimated at $7,000. 

Copycat sought in wilderness parking lot burglary

Last May, LBPD apprehended a suspect who had been breaking into cars parked in Laguna Coast Wilderness lots on Laguna Canyon Road.

Now, it seems a copycat is back at it.

On Saturday morning, a woman’s car, parked in the lot in the 3200 block of Laguna Canyon Road, was broken into while she was hiking. 

When she returned to her vehicle, she found that her purse, credit cards, house keys, and two iPhones had been stolen.

“Detectives arrested the last guy responsible for all of those vehicle burglaries, but it looks like someone new is back at it,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

Remember to lock your vehicles and hide your valuables.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

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Alexis Amaradio, Cameron Gillespie, Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle and Suzie Harrison are columnists.

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