Car stop leads to arrest of two for drug sales

A routine traffic stop at 8:41 Friday morning resulted in the arrests of two Inland Empire men for possession of dangerous drugs discovered in the vehicle.

When the erratic driving of Riverside resident William Thomas Whitenack led to the car stop at Upland Road and S. Coast Hwy, police immediately suspected him of driving under the influence. When he subsequently failed field sobriety tests, he was arrested for DUI and held for two Riverside County felony warrants for sales and transportation of drugs with $50,000 bail. Officers suspected that Whitenack was under the influence of drugs and charged him with that as well.

When stopped, he first gave police the name of a real person and was charged with false personation, a felony and providing false information to a police officer. For good measure, he was also held on a charge of driving on a suspended license.

A search of the car turned up nearly an ounce of liquid GHB, the so-called date-rape drug and an ounce and a quarter of methamphetamine.

Whitenack and his passenger, Hesperia resident Alejandro Hernandez, 35, both were charged with felony possession of drugs for sales and felony transportation of drugs for sales.

After booking at the police station here, they were taken to county jail.

Teen driver exiting Emerald Bay starts 4-car chain reaction crash with 3 trauma victims

Three people were taken to the Mission Hospital trauma center in Mission Viejo by ambulance Thursday morning as the result of a four-car chain reaction traffic crash south of the main gate entrance to Emerald Bay.

Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Louise Callus said yesterday that the preliminary traffic investigation findings indicate that a vehicle driven by a teenager exited the main Emerald Bay gate to go southbound on Coast Hwy. Once across the northbound lanes the teen clipped a second car going southbound on Coast Hwy causing it to cross over into the northbound lanes where it collided head-on into a third vehicle heading north.

The third vehicle veered to the right side of the northbound lane striking another vehicle, which was stopped on the shoulder waiting to enter Emerald Bay.

Sgt. Callus said the car that had been heading southbound was occupied by a Garden Grove couple in their fifties. Both of them “…sustained major injuries…” including broken bones, multiple lacerations and internal injuries. The 22-year-old driver of the third car, from Oxnard, received a knee injury and a neck sprain. All three were treated by paramedics at the scene and transported in two ambulances to Mission Trauma Center

Neither the teen nor the driver of the stopped vehicle suffered injuries.

“This case is still under investigation. There were no arrests on scene and neither drugs or alcohol seem to be involved,” Sgt. Callus explained.

Mini Cooper squeezed into a tight spot

Cooper Photo 1

Photos by Kurt Grosz

A Mini Cooper managed to miss two close together trees and somehow run into a commercial building at Glenneyre and Mountain Road (above) on May 30 at 8:51 p.m. As we reported in Police Beat Friday, police followed a trail of leaked motor oil (below leaving the scene) to a home on Skyline Drive where they arrested a 24-year-old Laguna man for DUI and hit and run into property. No one was injured.

We thank Kurt Grosz for these photos.

Cooper Photo 2

Skateboarder, 15, crashes into moving vehicle

A 15-year-old boy skateboarding near his home crashed into a moving vehicle at Shadow Lane and Catalina Tuesday evening. Police received a 9-1-1 call at 6:35.

Sgt. Louise Callus said the boy, whose name was not released, “…was bombing …westbound on Shadow and failed to stop for the stop sign at Catalina as he turned right onto Catalina.” She added that he took a wide right turn and ran into the right front end of the moving vehicle.

The skateboarder flew onto the hood of the vehicle then rolled off and struck his head on the roadway.  Callus commented, “Although there was no visible injury to the skateboarder, he was taken to Mission Hospital Mission Viejo due to the complaint of pain to his head.  [He] was not wearing a helmet or pads.  His mother was contacted and she responded to the scene before the skateboarder was transported.”

Crime in the OC is no different than what
we see on television

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s officer will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…

Two men to appear in court for illegally importing $2 million in counterfeit Disney pins from china to sell over the Internet

May 12 – Two defendants will be in court tomorrow for illegally importing $2 million in counterfeit collectable Disney pins from China and selling them over the Internet.

Robert Edward Smyrak, 52, Anaheim, is charged with one felony count of manufacturing and sale of counterfeit mark and faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison if convicted. Smyrak is out of custody on $50,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, Friday, May 13, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. in Department N-3, North Justice Center, Fullerton.

Co-defendant Larry James Allred, 57, Walnut, is charged with one felony count of manufacturing and sale of counterfeit mark and sentencing enhancements for two prior strike convictions for rape in 1975 and kidnapping in 1978. Based on his two prior strike convictions, Allred faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted. He is out of custody on his own recognizance and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing tomorrow, Friday, May 13, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. in Department N-3.

Smyrak is accused of masterminding a fraudulent operation and selling counterfeit Disney pins over the Internet while passing them off as collectibles. Allred is accused of working with Smyrak and assisting in the scheme. The defendants are accused of sending legitimate collectible pins to a manufacturer in China to be replicated and having the fake pins shipped back to them. During the course of the scheme, Smyrak and Allred are accused of receiving approximately 80 shipments of counterfeit pins from China with an approximately value of $2 million.

The fraudulent operation was discovered in February 2011 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and import specialists intercepted a parcel at Los Angeles International Airport addressed to Smyrak containing more than 150 pounds of counterfeit Disney pins.

Smyrak and Allred were arrested April 14, 2011, by the Anaheim Police Department (APD). At the time of his arrest, Smyrak is accused of being in possession of more than 100,000 counterfeit pins. Defendant Cynthia Lynn Pratt Vedder, 43, Smyrak’s former girlfriend, was also arrested at that time and charged with one felony count of manufacturing and sale of counterfeit mark (Case # 11NF1478) for independently engaging in the same type of scheme.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) and APD.

“American businesses and American brands are under assault from counterfeiters,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in Los Angeles. “The sale of counterfeit products robs Americans of jobs, stifles American innovation, promotes crime and introduces substandard and sometimes harmful products into commerce. The only ones who benefit from schemes like this are the counterfeiters and they’re getting rich at America’s expense.

“Collaboration with agencies such as ICE, the Anaheim Police Department and the Orange County District Attorney is essential to successfully combat crimes involving counterfeiting and piratical goods,” said CBP Acting Director of Field Operations Los Angeles, Carlos Martel. “Our cooperative efforts serve as a force multiplier in thwarting the attempts of those who try to enter illegal goods into the commerce of the United States. Through these partnerships, we work to protect America’s innovation based economy and the health and safety of its consumers.”

DUI driver to be arraigned for killing passenger by crashing into tree and electrical pole after speeding over 100 mph

May 12 – A drunken driver will be arraigned tomorrow for killing his passenger by crashing into a tree and electrical pole after driving at speeds over 100 mph.

James Ralph Huff, 46, Buena Park, is charged with one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison if convicted. He is being held on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, Friday, May 13, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. in Department N-12, North Justice Center, Fullerton.

At approximately 4:20 a.m. on March 29, 2009, Huff is accused of driving while intoxicated at speeds over 100 mph in a 1996 Porsche. He is accused of having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit of .08 percent while driving. Huff’s friend, 28-year-old Miguel Barahona, was riding in the passenger seat. The defendant is accused of losing control of his vehicle on Valley View Street in Buena Park and colliding with the curb. He is accused of crashing into a tree, causing it to uproot, and then hitting an electrical pole.

The defendant’s vehicle caught on fire and bystanders called 911 and attempted to put out the fire with extinguishers. Witnesses were able to remove Huff from the burning vehicle. The defendant was transported to the hospital to be treated for internal injuries and third degree burns.

As a result of the crash, Huff is accused of killing Barahona, who was still in the passenger seat of the burning vehicle when paramedics arrived. Barahona died at the scene due to multiple traumatic and thermal injuries.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Susan Price of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Newport Beach man charged with raping and threatening to kill woman before initiating 7-hour standoff with police

May 11 – A man has been charged with raping, sexually assaulting, and threatening to kill a 29-year-old woman in his home before engaging police in a 7-hour standoff.

David Charles Wilson, 48, Newport Beach, is charged with one felony count each of aggravated assault, criminal threats, forcible oral copulation, false imprisonment by violence, three felony counts each of forcible rape and sexual penetration by foreign object by force, and one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 58 years in state prison.

At approximately 10 p.m. on May 9, 2011, 29-year-old Jane Doe went to Wilson’s Newport Beach home at his invitation after meeting him a few months earlier and speaking with him several times on the phone. As soon as Jane Doe entered the house, Wilson is accused of choking her and threatening to kill her if she did not cooperate.

Wilson is accused of raping Jane Doe in his bedroom and other rooms of the house. He is accused of forcing her to orally copulate him and sexually penetrating her with his fingers, a pen, and a toothbrush. Wilson is accused of refusing to let Jane Doe leave and keeping her in his home against her will.

Prior to going to meet the defendant, Jane Doe told a friend that she was going to meet Wilson. Beginning at approximately 12:30 a.m. Jane Doe’s friend tried calling the victim but was unable to reach her. At approximately 3 a.m., after several failed attempted to reach Jane Doe and becoming concerned for Jane Doe’s safety, the victim’s friend drove to Wilson’s house and called out for her friend from outside. Jane Doe was able to escape through a window and run to her friend’s car.

A neighbor heard yelling and called 911. The Newport Beach Police Department, who investigated this case, responded to the defendant’s home. Wilson is accused of barricading himself inside his house and refusing to comply with the officers’ orders to come out. After an almost 7-hour standoff, Wilson is accused of finally coming out of his home at 9:40 a.m.

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Lou Gutierrez at (714) 347-8794.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.

Woman charged with shooting-murder of husband and attempted murder of 16-year-old son

May 9 – A woman has been charged with murdering her husband and attempting to murder her 16-year-old son by shooting them in the family’s Tustin Ranch home.

Annamaria Magno Gana, 41, unincorporated Tustin, is charged with one felony count each of murder and attempted murder with sentencing enhancements for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death and the personal discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 82 years to life in state prison. Gana is being held on $1 million bail.

At approximately 4:30 p.m. on May 8, 2011, Gana is accused of arming herself with a firearm and shooting a bullet into the ceiling of a bedroom in her Tustin Ranch home. When her 72-year-old husband Antonio Potenciano Gana and their 16-year-old son ran into the bedroom in response to the gunshot, Gana is accused of turning the firearm toward her husband and murdering him by shooting him in the chest.

She is also accused of then shooting at John Doe as he turned and attempted to escape. The victim was shot in the arm but was able to get out of the home and call 911 on his cell phone. Gana’s other son, age 9, witnessed his mother holding the firearm and was able to wrestle it away from her and take it outside.

The OC Sheriff’s department, who investigated this case, arrived at the scene and arrested Gana. She was transported to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries sustained while shooting the firearm.

The defendant’s two sons are in protective custody. Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Masseur arrested for attempted rape at spa

Mark Peregil Valenzon, 35 of Lake Forest, was arrested on a charge of attempted rape Sunday afternoon at his workplace, Massage Envy Spa, in North Laguna. Valenzon works at the spa as a masseur, police Sgt. Louise Callus said.

According to the police log, an unidentified woman called 9-1-1 at 5:22 p.m. from a nearby parking lot to report that while she was receiving a massage while laying on her stomach, the suspect allegedly pulled down her underwear. The dispatch police log stated: “…when she turned around, he had his pants down.”

Officers interviewed the woman at the parking lot before making contact with the suspect. After interviewing Valenzon, he was arrested and taken to Orange County Jail with bail set at $100,000.

Sgt. Callus said this week that no other such reports at spas in town have been made in the past.

Boy, 14, injured while skateboarding near Riddle Field

An unidentified 14-year-old Laguna Beach boy broke his collarbone, a hand and suffered a collapsed lung when he crashed into the rear end of a stopped pickup last Tuesday just before dusk.

Witnesses told Stu News Laguna that five boys were started their skate run on High Drive. One boy was ahead of the others and, a witness said, passed the pickup as he turned off High Dr onto Hillcrest Dr next to Riddle Field where a Little League game was being played.

The witness added that the truck stopped when the boy passed him crossing over to the oncoming lane. The 14-year-old victim smashed into the back of the truck. He was taken to Mission Hospital trauma center in Mission Viejo. Police said he is expected to make a full recovery from his injuries.

No charges were made against the driver according to police.


ot;margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 16.0px 'Times New Roman';">In the 800 block of Bluebird Canyon Drive

Unintended advantage: raising speed limit to use radar leads to arrest of three on multiple charges

Complaints about speeding on Bluebird Canyon Drive over the past few years created an unlikely scenario for Laguna Beach police. When they ticketed several motorists for exceeding the posted 25 mph limit in 2009, the court threw the tickets out because the street was considered an arterial roadway and no average speed survey was on record.

When that survey was completed, it was learned that the average speed was about 35 mph. The City Council then did the unthinkable – it raised the speed limit to 30 mph this year, which allows the police department to use radar.


Read more: In the 800 051011

This was apparently a mismatch

When an unidentified man found his match on, the Internet singles connection site, he probably felt confident based upon the ads for the site and its mission of matching people on so many fronts. After all, there have been thousands of successful relationships started through

In his wildest imagination about his first date with Kristen James, 30, from Newport Beach, it is a pretty safe bet he never saw this scenario coming.

At 9:20 Friday night Laguna police received a 9-1-1 call reporting that a hit and run traffic crash had just occurred on South Coast Hwy at Bluebird Canyon Drive. Police found the suspect vehicle driven by James about a block away.

“She stopped when she crashed then took off leaving her date at Bluebird. He was a very good witness,” said LBPD Sgt. Louise Callus, who didn’t identify the witness.

James was subsequently arrested for DUI and driver in possession of marijuana. Sgt. Callus said she became “physical with officers at the station” and had to be physically restrained. A charge of resisting arrest was added.

“When she sobered up, she was very cooperative and we were able to book her,” Callus explained.

No one was injured in the traffic crash.

LBPD reports 10% downturn in major crimes for 2010

The Laguna Beach Police Department announced that crime stats for 2010 show a 10% decrease in major crimes and a 14% decrease in other crimes.

The announcement said:

“While this downward trend is not unique to Laguna Beach and has been occurring across the nation, some locally implemented measures are believed to have contributed to the decline.  Factors impacting the crime figures likely include:

•Three Strikes law in California and other states.

•Proliferation of state laws requiring DNA samples from criminals and efforts by the Police Department to utilize available DNA information to solve recent and past crimes.

•Petty criminal behavior moving from traditional property crimes to Internet fraud, identity theft and mail order fraud, all of which are less likely to be reported to law enforcement.

“In the areas of officer-initiated activity, citations issued and warrant arrests, decreases are noted and are likely due to the programs provided or supported by the City to address matters associated with homelessness.  Those numbers have dropped back in line with the historical average for those categories.

“DUI arrests have steadily increased over the past four years due to the focus of programs in this area and state funded DUI grant programs.”

The causes of the decreases in rape, assaults, threats, vandalism and juvenile crime are not clearly identifiable.  Changes in the economy, alcohol consumption, bad weather and other unknown factors likely all play a part.

“A 59% increase in the number of written animal services warnings was due to a policy change during our annual licensing campaign.  An enforcement officer was assigned to contact individuals who had not renewed their dog licenses, which resulted in an increase in these warnings.”

Download a PDFLBPD Annual Report 2010

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

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