Local woman victimized $120,000 by house sitter

Good detective work by LBPD nets three arrests in June jewelry, credit card theft

(Laguna Beach, Tuesday Aug 9, 2011) It was learned today that Laguna Beach Police detectives initiated the arrest of a woman in Lake Havasu City, AZ Sunday after an intensive investigation of a June 30 crime report in the 400 block of Bluebird Canyon Dr. As reported in StuNewsLaguna on July 5, a resident returned home from vacation and learned that her house sitter and jewelry that eventually was valued at $73,000 were missing.

Robertson MugshotShonte E. Robertson, 27 no fixed address, was arrested Sunday in Arizona. Laguna police previously arrested two other suspects in Orange County.

Police didn’t say in July that other items, including blank checks, credit cards and personal information had also been stolen.

“A team of our detectives followed a trail and reviewed hours of video from targeted locations to identify Robertson and three other conspirators,” said LBPD Detective Sergeant Bob Rahaeuser this morning.

Rahaeuser explained that the work by the detectives led police to a home in Mission Viejo late last month where a search warrant was executed with the assistance of the OC Sheriff’s Dept. “Shonte and others were suspected of hiding out there and we took another suspect into custody. Her name is Cheri Meres of Mission Viejo. Interestingly, when we made contact with Ms Meres, she had memorized the personal info of our victim verbatim and tried to identify herself as such. The raid also led to the arrest in Anaheim of a Fountain Valley man identified by police as Matthew Palmer, 27.

“Unfortunately, we missed Shonte by about 24 hours.”

Information and a paper trail obtained at the raid led police to determine that Robertson was likely in possession of a stolen Kia rental car out of Tustin and that she was hiding out in Lake Havasu City. Police there located the stolen Kia and searched a residence locating Robertson hiding fully clothed inside a bathtub. She had quantities of methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana as well as plastic bags and a digital scale on her person in the tub.

“She had several items belonging to our victim with her when she was taken into custody,” Rahaeuser said.

“They were able to use the victim’s credit cards in various locations, which were later targeted by our detectives, to purchase gift cards and then go on shopping sprees of from $300 to $500 at a time. They also managed to cash some stolen checks despite the fact that stop payments had been placed on all of the stolen checks.

All together as of now, they managed to spend almost $50,000 in those “sprees” and the fraudulent/forged check-cashing scheme, police said. Add to that the loss in jewelry and the victim is out at least $120,000.

Police have not identified the house sitter but did say that other arrests appear to be imminent.


Remote rescue on bike trail demonstrated the benefits for interagency training

Rescue Photo

OCFA copter hoists injured bicyclist from remote bike trail Saturday

Story and photo courtesy of LB Fire Department

A mountain biker crashed while racing down the Telonics Bike Trail that starts near the Big Bend area on Laguna Canyon Rd on Saturday, Aug 6 at approximately 10 a.m. A second biker on the trail found the injured biker and immediately dialed “911.” The Laguna Beach Fire/Police Dispatch Center received the call at 10:02 and dispatched two Laguna Beach Fire engines (one a Paramedic engine) and a Chief Officer.

As the area is located in the wildness area firefighters utilized four wheeled drive vehicles to access the trailhead. Once at the trailhead the firefighters had to hike approximately 1⁄2 down the bike trail carrying full medical equipment.

Contact was made with the patient at 10:37 and it was determined that due to the injuries and terrain there was no way to carry the patient out. A request was made to the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) for a helicopter that would be able to hoist the patient off of the side of the hill.

OCFA was working a second remote rescue nearby at the same time in Aliso and Woods Canyon and advised their helicopter would be delayed for some time. Laguna Firefighters continued to render patient care and stabilize the patient while awaiting the helicopter’s arrival.

At approximately 10:58 OCFA Helicopter 2 arrived on scene with a technical rescue crew from Mission Viejo (Truck 9) on board. Two OCFA firefighters were lowered approximately 150’ from the hovering helicopter to the assist Laguna Firefighters with patient care and packaging.

Once the patient was loaded into a “stokes” basket the patient was hoisted from Telonics Trail into the helicopter where another Laguna Paramedic was on board. The helicopter transported the patient with non-life threatening injuries to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

The complexity of this incident with multiple agencies working in difficult terrain shows that prior training between the two agencies has paid off. Communications and coordination was superb and the patient was transported off the side of the hill in a relativity short period of time.

The Laguna Beach Fire Department urges recreational mountain bikers to exercise caution while biking; to carry a cell phone and know the names of the trails you are on; and to always ride at speeds where you still have control of your bike.


Lifeguards to the rescue – large size

Photos by Julie Appel

South of Main Beach 5:45 – 6 p.m. Saturday

Rescue Photo 1

Thanks to reader Julie Appel for sending in these cool shoots of a powerboat rescued by Laguna lifeguards. In the shot above at least five guards use a towrope to swim the boat out of harms way at the top of a wave break. Witnesses told Julie that they were in the water like that for over thirty minutes.

Rescue Photo 2

Rescue Photo 3

Rescue Photo 4

These next three photos show an OC Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol vessel approaching from Dana Point Harbor and once the guards attach a new towrope the disabled boat gets towed away while the Laguna guards swim back to shore. All in a day’s work!


Good news: they found your lost wallet and bad news: you’re going to jail for a felony

A Good Samaritan stopped by Laguna Beach Fire Station 2 on Agate Street Tuesday morning to turn in a found woman’s wallet. Following protocol, the firefighters called police and handed over the wallet for safekeeping.

Looking through the wallet for ID to reunite it with its owner, police looked twice at some documents that it had contained.

“We came across a Mexican Matricula Consular ID card that turned out to be fake,” remarked LBPD Lt. Jason Kravetz. Police also found a business card.

“We called the place of employment and it didn’t take much to conclude that things weren’t on the up and up.”

Police arrested Silvia Trujillo-Delgado, 29 of Dana Point, for a felony charge of possessing/obtaining a false ID card in another person’s name with the intent to defraud. Bail for the charge was $20,000.

Kravetz said she also had used a fake social security number and had obtained California health care services under the fake name.

Police will continue the investigation and consideration of other charges.


Pay point machines on both levels of the City’s Glenneyre parking structure burglarized – twice in eight days causing $35 K replacement costs

The pay point machines in the Glenneyre parking structures were broken into in the wee hours of the past two Sundays. The culprit(s) got away with less than $1000 in cash and coins smashing the machine on the upper lot once and the lower lot twice.

LBPD Sgt. Bob Rahaeuser said last Thursday that the cost to replace the machines after the incidents on Sunday the 17th had totaled $24,000 with $700 taken.

The police log for this past Sunday (July 24) included a 5:45 a.m. incident report stating that the machine on the lower lot had been smashed with a loss of $225 and $11,000 damage. That makes the damage total $35,000 in eight days.

A police source said they know what type of tool had been used and that they will soon have deterrents in place to avoid another incident. What those deterrents are was not disclosed.

Ed. Note: $35,000 is an amount that is about equal to the cost of the July 4 fireworks


Parking rage at Aliso: two wrongs – no rights

That ain’t right – and neither is that.

That is the viewpoint that could be easily taken of both sides of a potentially dangerous situation at Aliso Beach early Saturday afternoon.

US Ocean Safety lifeguards called for police assistance after a beachgoer told them that there was a dispute over a parking spot on the beach side of the Aliso parking lots. Lifeguards soon informed police that a woman and her son were standing in a parking spot and the driver of a burgundy Infinity had “tapped them” with his car.

When officers arrived, they were told that the mother and son had still stood their ground to apparently claim that parking spot as their own despite the “tapping” and that the driver of the Infinity had tapped them a second time.

The male driver had parked (it isn’t known if he got the parking spot wanted by both sides) and was at the beach when police arrived. Lifeguards and cops contacted him and both sides were questioned.

After a discussion and interviews, the woman said she didn’t wish to prosecute.

A police source not authorized to speak on the situation offered this suggestion. “Both of these adults were in the wrong. Even if the guy didn’t mean to tap the boy and his mother, he can’t pull in that close to them and no matter what, when whoever she was waiting for hadn’t arrived before someone else was dead set on parking in that spot, she needed to get on the sidewalk.”

The source also pointed out that police cannot make an arrest for misdemeanors without actually seeing the offense or having the suspect admit to the offense.

“If the boy had been even slightly injured, it’s possible that both the driver and the kid’s mother could have been arrested for felony child endangerment.”


Play miniature golf with one of Laguna’s finest and support Crime Survivors on July 24

The Laguna Beach Police Employees Association (LBPEA) is participating in Crime Survivors’ Miniature Gold Fundraiser on Sunday, July 24, 2011 at Boomers in Irvine.

LBPEA president Larry Bammer said, “We are looking for participants of all ages to golf with us.  All are welcome and individuals or couples or business associates would be paired in fouresomes with two of our LBPEA members for an afternoon of miniature golf and fun.

“The idea of Laguna residents and business owners coming together on the same teams as our members to support such a worthwhile cause excites me.  Crime Survivors’ mission is to ensure the public knows victims’ rights and needs, and to provide resources, support and information to empower crime victims to survive and thrive.  Their vision is for victims of crime to recover from their experience mentally, physically, emotionally and financially, by receiving respect, support, and protection from law enforcement, the judicial system and community.”

The cost is $25 per person and includes the golf tournament, silent auction, opportunity drawing, awards and plenty of fun! LBPEA is also seeking silent auction donation. The event is from 1-4 p.m.

For more information on Crime Survivors visit www.CrimeSurvivors.org


Grab and run robbery ends poorly for pair

An employee of Sirous and Son Rug Gallery downtown showed a robbery suspect from Riverside that crime doesn’t pay Thursday afternoon.

Riley Kyle Higgins, 20, and Gary Thomas Finley, 38, both of Riverside, sauntered into the rug store in the 200 block of Ocean Ave early yesterday afternoon and thought they saw an easy mark – an employee’s wallet was sitting on the counter.

Lt. Jason Kravetz said a preliminary investigation reveals that Higgins grabbed the wallet and the two men ran out of the store. The employee raced after them and was able to take the 20-year-old to the ground. They apparently wrestled until the employee grabbed the wallet. He returned to the store as Higgins and Finley ran off.

Officers captured Higgins on Main Beach and took Finley into custody nearby within a few minutes.

Sgt. Bob Rahaeuser explained the charges against the pair. “Finley was arrested for robbery with priors and a no bail parole warrant. He was a parole at large until today. Higgins was also charged with robbery and being under the influence of methamphetamine as well as possession of drug paraphernalia.”

Police said the amount of money in the wallet was not immediately known.


“You can’t do that…” Woman heard that from two police agencies then came to Laguna Beach

An unidentified woman was apparently bound and determined to report her VW Jetta as a stolen car Thursday night. She told Laguna police that the white four-door 2011 Jetta had been stolen from the area of Laguna Ave and Ramona at about 7:30.

Police followed procedure and once it was assured that the car had not been towed for a parking violation or had become a repossession, police completed the required paperwork to enter the stolen car into the statewide computer database.

One item required is a CHP form. Sgt. Joe Torres explained that those who report a stolen vehicle are required to sign the form after being read the language on it that says it is illegal to make a false stolen vehicle report. The woman signed the form.

Once the information was put into the statewide computer, police learned that the Downey Police Dept and the OC Sheriff’s Dept had both requested a vehicle profile earlier in the day. Laguna police contacted those agencies and learned that the woman had also been to both attempting to file a stolen report of the Jetta.

“She had told Downey and the Sheriff’s Dept that she had loaned the car to a friend who hadn’t returned it. She also said she’d heard that the Jetta was damaged. They both explained to her that she can’t do that – it isn’t a stolen car if you’ve loaned it to a friend,” Sgt. Torres said.

Apparently the woman had figured out what not to say by the time she called the Laguna Beach PD.

“We will refer the investigation to the DA for filing by complaint. She would be charged with knowingly filing a false police report.”


Girl, 22, has quick crime spree end quickly

Police corporal Tony White was working this past Saturday evening on bicycle patrol in the downtown area. About 6:45, he spotted a barefoot woman in jeans and a tank top running across Broadway against traffic and head up Beach Street toward Cliff Dr. Obviously, this was exactly the type of situation bike cops take care of…and White detained the woman in short order after she cut across a parking lot and was about to go up the stairs behind Broadway Liquor to Cliff Drive. She was identified as Huntington Beach resident Nicole Yakira, 22.

Nicole Yakira Photo

Booking photo courtesy LBPD

Nicole Yakira

Sgt. Joe Torres said that almost immediately after White began interviewing the woman, the police radio began broadcasting about a female suspect being sought for a vehicle burglary – a block away. Items that were missing according to the dispatcher were similar to ones White saw in the possession of Yakira.

Two minutes before, the owner of a business in the 300 block of Broadway had walked outside and seen a woman inside a white Saturn belonging to an employee. He went over to the woman with brown, wavy hair and told her to get out of the car. The woman instead gave him a hearty shove and he found himself on the ground as she took off running – across Broadway…and into the custody of corporal White.

Other calls began coming into the police dispatch center about thefts in the area. One was the owner of a Scion XB who had left the car unlocked and, strangely enough, someone had taken the purse that was in plain sight…and…a diaper.

Sgt. Torres said the suspect had been wearing a man’s plaid jacket when White stopped her. “She consented to having corporal White search the jacket and he found a passport inside. We contacted the man whose passport was there and he said he had given the jacket to one of our regulars in the downtown area.”

Another officer went to Main Beach and found the man who now owned the jacket and learned that his jacket had been stolen not long before. At least one other victim was located at the beach.

All in all, police know of four victims and all had their property stolen in a period of less than about fifteen minutes, police believe.

Yakira was charged with felony vehicle burglary and theft. Other charges were pending according to police. The burglary charge carries bail of $50,000. She was booked at the police station and later taken to Orange County Jail.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

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