Cops arrest grandmother, her two adult children and grandson for counterfeiting

Police say the adults were in the country illegally and the 63-year-old grandma has a felony record going back to 1976

Money Photo

Photos courtesy LBPD

A 16-year-old boy tried to pass a bogus bill at the Mobil Mart downtown at about 10:45 Wednesday night and an observant clerk immediately questioned the boy who ran from the store and jumped into a 1996 Chevy Camaro. The clerk called 9-1-1 with a description and a partial plate number and Laguna cops made a felony car stop on Coast Hwy at West Street.

Rosa Mojica, 63, Tania Santoya, 33, Roberto Jose Rodriguez, 33, and the 16-year-old boy were taken into custody at the scene. Mojica is the mother of Santoya and Rodriguez and the boy’s grandmother. Police said youth’s parents were not in the car.

A search turned up $5000 in counterfeit small denomination bills stuffed into the pants of Santoya.

Thugs Photo

LBPD booking photos

In a press release Thursday, LBPD Lt. Jason Kravetz said, “All of the money appears to have been made with a high quality printer and produced on a type of news print which makes the currency looked used.  The group is suspected of making the money and traveling to fast food restaurants and mom and pop stores in order to have the 16 year old go inside and pass the counterfeit money.

“The four suspects were arrested and brought to the Police Department for booking.  The United States Secret Service also responded in order to provide assistance.  They notified us that there has been a rash of these bills being passed in Orange and L.A. Counties.”

Kravetz added that Laguna Beach detectives served a search warrant on the suspects’ Santa Ana residence early Thursday morning and seized more fake money and “…items used in the production of counterfeit currency…”

The four were charged with commercial burglary, conspiracy, possession of fraudulent items and counterfeiting. The women also had felony burglary warrants and Mojica’s was a no bail warrant.

According to the press release, the adults will be taken to county jail later Thursday afternoon and the boy will go to juvenile hall.

“Immigration officials have placed a “hold” on the adults due to their illegal status in the United States,” Kravetz said.


Rescue of trapped teen at Aliso Beach was a “slow, delicate procedure” Monday afternoon

Rescue 1

Photos courtesy Laguna Beach Police Dept

Firefighters, paramedics and lifeguards worked for nearly an hour to extricate a teenager after a large rock toppled down and pinned his leg in soft sand

A 15-year-old boy became trapped under a large rock after a sand berm he had been climbing across collapsed pinning his leg on the south end of Aliso Beach yesterday. Police and fire units responded at 12:34 p.m. to assist lifeguards from U.S. Ocean Safety.

“Once our first units arrived on scene and assessed the situation, it became clear that it could become a dangerous situation,” fire department Division Chief Dan Stefano explained. There were concerns about swells that could reach where they were working that could undermine the soft sand even though the high tide wasn’t a concern. “A few swells did come up that hit the workers on the beach.”

Stefano added that concerns about the soft sand and possible swells led him to notify the Orange County Fire Authority. “Aliso is a county beach and we felt it best to call for their Urban Search and Rescue response. They sent a heavy rescue unit and Truck 9, which is a technical rescue unit, to assist. We had three engine companies including our Engine three with cliff rescue gear. Captain Gary Ganger of Engine three was the lead officer along with his crew, Engineer Jeff Priest and Firefighter Tom Burdick. They coordinated the work using air bags and cribbing…[the use of hardwood to brace]. He was extricated in about 50 minutes.”

Firefighters were concerned that the soft sand might loosen allowing other large rocks to fall on the boy. Paramedics stabilized him with IVs and transported him via ambulance to Mission Trauma Center in Mission Viejo.

His injuries weren’t deemed to be serious.

Rescue 2


Forgetful burglar nabbed after a DNA match on water bottle

Several wooden storage bins were ransacked when broken into overnight on Jan 11, 2011 in an underground parking area in the 2000 block of S. Coast Hwy.

Police said at the time that among other things tools valued at $600 had been stolen out of one of the bins.

The culprit forgot to take away a plastic water bottle he had been drinking from as he went about his efforts. Police submitted a DNA sample from the bottle to the California Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Matching samples in the CA CODIS (the third largest database of its kind in the world) takes time and earlier this month, Laguna detectives learned that a positive match had been made by the database on the Jan 11 case.

John Griffeth Beck, 50, from Capistrano Beach, was arrested after an interview Thursday afternoon and charged with felony burglary.


Vacationing Virginia man charged in rape case

Berkan Muzaffer Kansu, a 23-year-old Dulles, Virginia resident, was arrested Friday afternoon by Laguna Beach detectives and charged with rape. Police said he was visiting here on vacation and staying in a local hotel. Detectives made the arrest in the 100 block of N. Coast Hwy.

Lt. Jason Kravetz said in an emailed statement that Kansu had met a 31-year-old Laguna Hills woman in a Laguna restaurant earlier in the week and went to his hotel where it is alleged by the victim that Kansu had sex with her against her will.

The victim went to a doctor on Thursday and police were notified. An investigation began immediately and Kansu went to Starbucks after police used an undisclosed ruse to get him there. He was contacted and arrested without incident.

After booking here, he was taken to county jail with bail set at $100,000.

Kravetz said the victim was physically unharmed.


Smoke alarm kept Friday night fire damages from an unattended candle to a minimum

Division Chief Dan Stefano of the Laguna Beach Fire Department credited a working smoke alarm with limiting actual damages and potential risk to people when an unattended candle started a fire in a bathroom Friday night. It was contained in the first floor bathroom of a 20-unit apartment building in the 2100 block of Catalina Street.

Catalina Fire Photo

Photo courtesy LB Fire Department

Firefighters make sure the fire was out after the flames had been extinguished

A 9-1-1 call was received at 8:33 from a nearby neighbor who heard the smoke alarm activation.

The first of four fire engines and a ladder truck responding to the structure fire response was able to put out the fire in the bathroom. Damages were estimated to be $10,000. Other firefighters and police made sure that neighbors in the complex were evacuated as a precaution. All but the occupant of the affected apartment were able to return to their units Friday night. The American Red Cross responded to the scene to assist the fire victim.

Chief Stefano wrote in an email, “This incident is a perfect example of how a working smoke alarm can save lives and minimize property damage. It also provides a valuable opportunity to reaffirm the importance of candle safety.”

He also provided tips on candle safety – Download a PDF


Pair of spectacular crashes – minor injuries

Two traffic crashes Monday looked much worse than they turned out to be as far as injuries were concerned.

Crash Photo

Staff photo by Faye Chapman

The Toyota SUV on its side above was t-boned at Glenneyre and Brooks Street. Police received a first 9-1-1 call at 9:51 and both fire and police responded. Sgt. Louise Callus said the preliminary information indicated the Toyota, driven by a Laguna Beach man, 19, was heading toward Coast Hwy on Brooks Street when it was struck by a second vehicle driven by a 28-year-old male from Costa Mesa traveling northbound on Glenneyre. The impact flipped the SUV onto its side. Sgt. Callus said it appeared that the pickup driven by the Costa Mesa man had failed to yield for a stop sign. She added, “Luckily, there were no injuries.”

LCR PhotoPhoto courtesy of LBPD

The Mustang (left) hit a pole at Laguna Canyon Rd and El Toro Rd at 2:45 p.m. As police responded to the intersection, witnesses called 9-1-1 reporting that four teenagers were running away from the scene. Police located the four juveniles, two boys and two girls, about a half-mile away on El Toro. The girls both had minor facial lacerations and were taken to hospital. Sgt. Callus said that a search of the car gave rise to officers on the scene that the Mustang may have been stolen but that had not been confirmed as of last night. The scene wasn’t cleared until about 4:30 and traffic was snarled from Coast Hwy to the Toll Road.


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.”

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