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Laguna Beach


Police Files

Kitchen fire on Catalina Ave “damages entire house” 

On Friday, Jan 25, at 3:40 p.m., LBFD and LBPD personnel were dispatched to a report of smoke coming from a residence in the 31500 block of Catalina Avenue.

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “LBFD extinguished the fire in the kitchen. The kitchen sustained minor fire damage, but the entire house was damaged by the smoke. The homeowners were not on scene initially but arrived soon after being called by neighbors. No injuries were reported.”

Man attempts to bring ecstasy pills into jail, reports LBPD

On Sunday, Jan 26, at 2:37 a.m., LBPD officers conducted an occupied vehicle check in the 200 block of Crescent Bay Drive. 

According to Sgt Cota, “Costa Mesa resident Michael Romero, 35, was placed in custody for false impersonation after providing a false ID belonging to his brother in attempt to avoid being arrested for an outstanding warrant.”

 Sgt Cota said, “During the booking process, Romero attempted to hide an unknown item inside of his mouth. The item was located and determined to be a plastic package containing several ecstasy pills. The charges of possession of a controlled substance and bringing contraband inside a jail facility were added to his charges.”

Bail was set at $20,000.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every suspect is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Spate of graffiti incidents strike town, tagger vandalizes every single step at Thousand Steps 

On Monday, Jan 20, at 7:45 a.m., at the 800 block of Manzanita Drive, LBPD received a call about a home that was vandalized with graffiti on the garage, driveway, and mailbox. 

Later, on Wednesday, Jan 22, at 6:49 a.m., an LBPD officer was dispatched to Thousand Steps Beach for a vandalism report in reference to a tagging incident using black and blue paint. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “The RP stated someone had spray painted graffiti on every single step going to and from the beach. Officers arrived on scene and confirmed there was graffiti on every step.”

There are 220 steps total at Thousand Steps.

Sgt Cota said, “OC Parks arrived on scene and stated the damage was estimated at $3,000. Pictures were taken as well as a report to document the incident.”

-By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Local arrested in alleged $3.2 million sober living fraud scheme

Laguna Beach resident Steven Lomonaco was recently charged, along with four other Southern California defendants, with multiple felonies for allegedly preying on vulnerable substance abuse patients to defraud an insurance company out of millions.

A joint effort by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) and the California Department of Insurance shut down the alleged $3.2 million healthcare fraud ring led by Lomonaco, 61, Mahyar “Christian” Mohases, 37, of Santa Ana, Robert Williams, 41, of Murrieta, Nicholas Reeves, 42, of Aliso Viejo, and James Frageau, 29, of Temecula. The defendants have been charged with multiple felony counts including insurance fraud and money laundering in connection with the scheme.

Police Files Steven Lomonaco

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Courtesy of OCDA

Steven Lomonaco

Mohases, Frageau, Williams, and Reeves are accused of finding patients across the country who were seeking help for substance use recovery and flying them to California to enter treatment at Casa Bella International Inc., which was owned and operated by Lomonaco in Laguna Beach. Now permanently closed, the sober living facility was located at 31365 Monterey St.

 In order to obtain payment from the insurance company for these patients, Mohases, Frageau, Williams, and Reeves allegedly directed employees to fill out policies for the patients using false information.

They are accused of lying on the insurance applications, stating that patients lived in California, when in actuality the addresses were for employees or businesses related to the co-conspirators. Lomonaco allegedly paid the other co-conspirators upwards of $10,000 per patient who stayed enrolled in treatment for more than 30 days.

“Sober living homes are valuable resources designed to facilitate recovery and healing for patients battling potentially life-threating addiction issues,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. 

“Instead of helping these patients, these individuals [allegedly] preyed on extremely susceptible people and exploited their addictions for profit. Working closely with the California Department of Insurance, we are cracking down on these [alleged] criminals and their predatory operations in order to protect substance abuse patients from unknowingly being trafficked, as well as protect their loved ones, and insurance companies from these unscrupulous operators,” Spitzer said.

In order to pay the insurance premiums, the defendants are accused of developing a massive money laundering scheme in which they filtered money through nonprofit, StopB4UStart, by providing “donations” from Mohases, Frageau, Williams, and Reeves under their corporation, Nationwide Recovery. These “donations” would be cashed out, it is alleged, and the owner of StopB4UStart would receive cashier’s checks in specified amounts based on the information he received from one of the other co-conspirators. More than 800 checks in total were allegedly used to pay the insurance premiums on the fraudulent policies.

Police Files exterior

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Courtesy of Google

Laguna Beach-based sober living facility is now closed

Lomonaco has been charged with two counts of committing medical insurance fraud, one count of fraudulent written claim to an insurance company, one count of medical insurance fraud, and one enhancement for aggravated white collar crime over $200,000. He faces a maximum sentence of 8 years 4 months if convicted on all charges.

Mohases, Williams, Reeves, and Frageau have each been charged with two counts of committing medical insurance fraud, one count of fraudulent written claim to an insurance company, two counts of money laundering in excess of $150,000, four counts of money laundering, and one enhancement for aggravated white collar crime over $200,000. They each face a maximum sentence of 14 years if convicted on all charges.

“The heartless nature of these [alleged] crimes [is] appalling,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “These suspects [allegedly] trafficked vulnerable substance abuse patients to California just to make a quick buck from the insurance company, with no regard for their lives, health or recovery. Thanks to the efforts of Department of Insurance investigators, and our close work with District Attorney Todd Spitzer’s office, there is one less fraud ring preying on unsuspecting patients.”

Mohases has pled not guilty and is out on $250,000 bail. He is scheduled for a pre-trial on February 5. Reeves has pled not guilty also. He is out on $100,000 bail and is scheduled for a pre-trial on January 22 and a preliminary hearing on February 13. Frageau is out on $250,000 bail and is scheduled for a continued arraignment on February 7. Williams turned himself into Huntington Beach Police Department on January 15. No arraignment date has been scheduled for him yet.

Futher details about whether Williams and Lomonaco are in custody were not available as of press time.

According to the Manta website, Casa Bella Recovery was established in 1990 and had 10-19 employees. 

According to a November 23, 2019 story in dailydemocrat.com, parents of a 20-year-old former resident of Casa Bella who died two days into his stay filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Casa Bella and its staff. According to court documents obtained, a notice of judgment was entered in favor of Casa Bella and its staff on November 25, 2019.

The article states, “The wrongful death lawsuit filed by his parents lays the tragedy at the feet of the rehabs and their workers. It also apportions blame for the nurse who, they feel, rendered services that weren’t medically necessary, and with the oversight of a doctor who never saw him. At Casa Bella, Harrison was prescribed a lethal stew of drugs that depressed his breathing and killed him according to the suit.”

The psychologytoday.com website shows there are six sober living facilities in Laguna Beach and dozens in Orange County, especially along the coast. Together with LA County, the posh area has been dubbed “Rehab Riviera.” 

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every suspect is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court. 

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files (Cont.)

Kidnapping and assault suspect sought

Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators are seeking the public’s help in identifying a suspect who assaulted and kidnapped a 22-year-old female victim in Aliso Viejo yesterday, January 21, at approximately 6 p.m.

The woman told deputies that while she was skateboarding at Woodfield Park in Aliso Viejo, an unknown man attempted to talk to her and then unexpectedly attacked her. He grabbed the victim who fought and screamed during the incident. The suspect threw the victim on the ground, dragged her into the bushes, and then fled in an unknown direction.

Police Files Suspect

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Submitted photo

Authorities seek public’s help in identifying kidnapping and assault suspect

The victim described the suspect as a light-skinned black or Hispanic man in his 40s with dark hair, 6’0”, medium build, wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and possibly shorts.

If you have any information or may be able to help identify the suspect, contact the Special Victims Detail at (714) 647-7419. Anonymous information may be provided through Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.

Liquor thieves steal bounty of booze from local grocery store

On Friday, Jan 17, at approximately 9 p.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to Pavilions, 600 N Coast Hwy, in reference to an alleged theft that had just occurred. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “The reporting party advised that two subjects, both described as black males, had stolen a large amount of liquor and had fled the location in two different vehicles.” 

Sgt Cota said, “The reporting party was unable to give a direction of travel or description of the vehicles at the time of call. The total loss was estimated to be over $1,000. Newport Beach PD had two similar incidents within an hour after our theft.”


Police Files

TV star reportedly eats a deceased baby dolphin at Aliso Beach

Survivalist Gary Golding, a veteran of the Discovery Channel’s Emmy-nominated Naked and Afraid series, has ignited a firestorm after he reportedly found a deceased baby dolphin on the sand at Aliso Beach and decided to slice, dice, and eat it, reportedly capturing it on video and then posting it on social media for the world to see. 

TMZ obtained the video and broadcasted it here. 

In his opening remarks, the man appearing to be Golding assimilates his mindset with seagulls. “I have a dolphin in the background and the seagulls are scavenging it. And if I was in the wild, I can relate to those seagulls, I would be doing the same thing.”

And so he did, tearing out the dolphin calf’s heart with his bare hands and cutting specific pieces to eat.

According to Laguna Beach Marine Safety Capt Kai Bond, “On Sunday the 12th of January that video aired on TMZ and was posted online, and was brought to the attention of the Marine Safety Department. The video appears to show that an individual cut a dolphin calf open on a south Laguna beach. After that, he appears to process, cook, and eat the dolphin meat at the Aliso Beach parking lot.” 

Capt Bond said the actual date and time of when the actual video took place is still unknown.

“It appears it could be a possible publicity stunt because he posted it on social media for public viewing,” Capt Bond said. 

“The Marine Safety Police Department, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and NOAA Fisheries are investigating the incident. If it’s determined to be a violation of federal or state regulations, the authorities will take the appropriate action,” Capt Bond said.

He added, “A portion of the City of Laguna Beach is considered a protected area. It appears that a potential violation took place in the area that covers the Marine Mammal Protection Act.” 

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was enacted on October 21, 1972. The MMPA established a national policy to prevent marine mammal species and population stocks from declining beyond the point where they ceased to be significant functioning elements of the ecosystems of which they are a part. In Laguna Beach, the MMPA was enacted on January 1, 2012, according to Capt Bond. 

Justin Viezbicke, NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal California Stranding Coordinator, West Coast Regional Office, said the case was turned over to the proper authorities.

“We turned over the information to the NOAA office of law enforcement. What they are doing, I do not know,” Viezbicke said.

Viezbicke advised that if someone finds a stranded marine mammal to call NOAA’s hotline. 

“They should call the stranded hotline at 1-866-767-6114. Anywhere in California, you can call this hotline number and they can connect you to your local network responder and they will come out there and take a look at it,” Viezbicke said.

According to the NOAA Fisheries website, all marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Some are also protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Three federal entities share responsibility for implementing the MMPA. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the protection of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions.

“That’s what we want if people see these marine mammals on the beach. To contact us, because they are very valuable as far as information goes,” Viezbicke said. “They’re opportunities to kind of get a glimpse into what’s going on in the ocean. We feel it’s very important and we would really appreciate notification from the public.”

Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) Public Relations Coordinator Krysta Higuchi said the center is not involved in the incident. 

“Right now, unfortunately, there’s not much information to share at this point. PMMC is aware of the video, but we do not have much information about it, since the animal never came or was reported to PMMC,” Higuchi said. “The appropriate agencies, including Laguna Beach Marine Safety and Police Department, Department of Fish & Wildlife, NOAA, and OC Park Rangers, are actively investigating the case.

Higuchi said PMMC isn’t normally involved in the legal side of these situations.

“If determined to be a violation of federal, state, or local regulations, authorities will take the appropriate actions. We are not sure if that would be jail time, fines, etc.,” Higuchi said.

From a PMMC standpoint, Higuchi said, “Laguna Beach is a marine protected area and it is illegal to take a marine mammal from the water or the beach without a permit. Since PMMC was not made aware of the animal, we could not respond to do an exam or necropsy and therefore do not know its age, gender, cause of death, etc.” 

Unfortunately, the number of stranded dolphins on local beaches is on the rise.

2019 was a record year for PMMC dolphin responses.

“We responded to 17 dolphins, 16 common dolphins – all were adults or juveniles and two were calves, along with one bottlenose dolphin,” Higuchi said. 

Ten were stranded within 30 days from February and March and the other seven were stranded between April and September.

“We actually responded to our first dolphin of the year, 2020, [yesterday] Thursday, Jan 16, at Main Beach. It was a female adult Pacific white-sided dolphin. Sadly, by the time PMMC arrived, the dolphin had passed on its own,” Higuchi said.

A full necropsy will be performed to hopefully determine the cause of death in the coming days. Marine Safety reported the dolphin had seized shorty before PMMC’s arrival.

In 2018, PMMC responded to 12 dolphins, including one bottlenose and one striped adult dolphin, and 10 common dolphins. Six of the 10 rescued dolphins were newborns or calves. They were stranded between January and July with one patient in December.

In 2017, PMMC responded to four dolphins, one bottlenose newborn, and one adult and two newborn common dolphins, stranded between May and August.

The pattern is alarming.

“The survival rate is a sad statistic. None of the dolphins have survived,” Higuchi said. Historically we do not see the ‘mass strandings’ on the West Coast like you do on the East Coast. It’s normally just a single dolphin.”

She said when a dolphin strands people’s first instinct is to push it back out to the ocean. But here, that can cause much more harm than good. 

“When a dolphin strands on the West Coast it’s usually as a last resort because it is extremely sick or injured. Less than two percent of cetaceans or dolphins that strand survive,” Higuchi said. 

PMMC has increasingly seen more stranded dolphins over the years.

“Last year, February through April was a very trying time for PMMC. Not only did we see the majority of dolphins strand during that time, but also a majority of our seal and sea lion patients stranded during that time,” Higuchi said. “Let’s just hope [Thursday’s] response doesn’t foreshadow more to come.”

Golding, who goes by “Tarzan of Los Angeles,” seems to have second thoughts about his actions. On Wednesday, Jan 15, he posted on Twitter:

“Educational opportunity: I never knew you couldn’t pick up dead animals off the beach. DO NOT EVER DO IT. I would NEVER harm a Marine Mammal and I NEVER have. I would never touch or harm a Living Dolphin in or out of a protected area and I would never condone anyone harm any Marine Animal EVER. That is absolutely not acceptable behavior.”

Orange man busted for alleged gun and drug charges following “underground art party”

On Sunday, Jan 12, at 7:32 p.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to the business complex in the 400 block of North Coast Hwy in reference to alleged suspicious activity.

The reporting party advised LBPD that several people frequent the location and that in order to enter, a private invitation from a phone must be shown to security.

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “Officers contacted people exiting and learned an underground art showing/marijuana sales party was being held. The male working in the capacity as security was observed leaving the location in a truck which had a marijuana bong and smoking pipe in plain view.” 

Sgt Cota said, “An enforcement stop was conducted in the area of North Coast Hwy and Ledroit Street. The male driver was identified as Braulio Figueroa. He was in possession of cocaine and two firearms, a Sig Sauer pistol and an assault rifle.”

According to Sgt Cota, “The Sig Sauer pistol was loaded with a high-capacity magazine. The assault rifle was disassembled, but had four high-capacity magazines within proximity, and the high capacity rifle magazines were loaded with armor-piercing bullets.” 

Braulio Jose Figueroa, 24, an Orange resident, was arrested for alleged possession of cocaine, possession of a concealed firearm, and possession of a controlled substance while armed.

Bail was set at $21,000.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every suspect is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Burglary suspect arrested in Whittier following video ID

On Tuesday, Dec 31, at 10:31 a.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to a burglary report in the 900 block of South Coast Hwy. The reporting party stated a safe was stolen from inside of an office at the business. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “Officers conducted an investigation and discovered the suspects entered through the front door at about 4:45 a.m., with a key from the lock box attached to a pole next to the business entrance. They then took the safe and exited through the back door onto the 100 block of Thalia Street.” 

Police Files Matt GauvinSurveillance footage captured the alleged suspects entering the front door with possible video footage of the vehicle. A report was taken and forwarded to the Investigations Division. 

Sgt Cota said, “On Thursday, Jan 9, at 8:21 a.m., detectives responded to the City of Whittier in order to execute an arrest warrant for a suspect who is wanted fo a commercial burglary in the City of Laguna Beach.” 

Sgt Cota said, “The suspect, Matt Gauvin, was scheduled to meet with his probation officer and when he arrived at the location, detectives took him into custody. Matt James Gauvin, 45, of Whittier, was transported back to LBPD for booking and later taken to OC Jail.”

Bail was set at $60,000.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every suspect is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

Home burglarized in “cinder block break-in” 

On Thursday, Jan 9, at 10:45 p.m., an LBPD officer was dispatched to a residence in the 400 block of Panorama Drive in reference to a burglary report.

According to Sgt Cota, “The reporting party advised that they left the residence at approximately 6 a.m. and when they arrived on home at approximately 10:35 p.m., they discovered a cinder block was thrown through the back glass door and the master bedroom appeared ransacked.” 

Sgt Cota said, “Several pieces of jewelry were stolen and an approximate loss was determined to be $5,000. The homeowners cleaned up the crime scene prior to contacting the police department.”

 A report was taken by LBPD.

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Sea lion found shot by unknown suspects is humanely euthanized after rescue efforts fail

Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) rescued a female California sea lion in distress from the Wedge in Newport Beach on the morning of Monday, Dec 16, after being reported by Newport Beach Animal Control. 

During her check-in, she was observed to have two distinct wounds, one of which was a draining abscess on her dorsal back causing her pain and discomfort and limiting her ability to move normally. While conducting radiographs to obtain further information on the extent of the animal’s injury, her chest indicated two gunshots, most likely from a pellet rifle. 

The one-and-a-half-year old sea lion, named Mandalorian by her rescuers, was carefully monitored throughout the next week, and despite treatment, her health continued to decline. At that point, a difficult decision was made, and the animal was humanely euthanized on December 22. 

Police Files Sea Lion

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Courtesy of PMMC

Mandalorian, a California sea lion found shot by unknown suspects; unfortunately, she had to be euthanized due to the extent of her injuries

A necropsy revealed that one of the bullets impacted between the rib and adjacent vertebrae. This entry wound most likely became infected, leading to severe muscle necrosis around the impact site and an accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity. The second gunshot was lodged in the musculature between the ribs. 

The gunshot pellets have been recovered and will be sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement (NOAA NMFS OLE) for further investigation. 

“Unfortunately, what we saw is taking place up and down the Pacific Coast. These are disgusting and intentional acts, many of which are pre-meditated. We know there are many out there that feel like they are competing with the sea lions for the same resources. However, there’s a pathway for us to cohabitate with these precious marine mammals and shooting them is not the way,” said Peter Chang, CEO at PMMC. 

The penalties for killing a sea lion can be up to a year in prison and or a fine of up to $25,000.

Pacific Marine Mammal Center is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd. For more information or to make a donation, call (949) 494-3050 or visit www.pmmc.org.

Three women allege man aggressively approached them and solicited sex

On Tuesday, Jan 7, at 9:09 p.m., three separate female residents on Cypress Drive reported that, “an unknown male aggressively approached them and solicited sex,” according to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota

According to Sgt Cota, “Officers searched the area and contacted homeless subject Robert Oxier, 38. He was arrested for disorderly conduct: lewd conduct in public.” 

Bail was set at $1,000.

Man arrested for allegedly throwing objects/substances at a vehicle

On Monday, Jan 6, at 4:49 p.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to a patrol check for a male subject walking into the roadway and allegedly kicking parked vehicles. 

Officers located the subject as he continued walking northbound nearing the intersection of Cleo Street and South Coast Hwy. 

According to Sgt Cota, “Officers observed the subject throw objects at a few passing vehicles. The subject was ordered to stop and he complied. Additional officers arrived and detained him in handcuffs.” 

Sgt Cota said, “The subject was being uncooperative and would not provide his name to officers. He was eventually identified as Matthew Joseph Britton, 31, and arrested for violation of throwing objects/substances at a vehicle.”

Bail was $20,000.    

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every suspect is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

Animal Services Officer saves seagull caught in fishing line

On Wednesday, Jan 8 at 2:25 p.m., an Animal Services Officer responded to Fisherman’s Cove beach in reference a bird trapped on the balcony of an apartment building. 

According to Sgt Cota, “A seagull was hanging by fishing line from the roof of an apartment in the 600 block of Cliff Drive. The ASO contacted the building manager and they located the apartment unit to access the seagull.”

Sgt Cota said, “The bird was entangled in fishing line. The bird was secured in a towel by the ASO and the fishing line was cut to free the bird.”

The ASO transported the seagull to the Wetlands Wildlife Center for treatment.

-By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Man reportedly jumps from rear of Sandpiper and lands in hospital with head injury 

On Sunday, Jan 5, at approximately 1:50 a.m., LBPD officers were on foot patrol at the Sandpiper, 1183 S Coast Hwy, when they were alerted to a fall victim to the rear of the location. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “The investigation revealed the subject jumped off a second-floor balcony of the Sandpiper and landed on his face. Paramedics were requested to the scene. Based on his head trauma, the victim was ultimately taken to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo due to his head injury.”

Cut and rescue collision involves allegedly intoxicated driver

On Sunday, Jan 5, at 8:52 p.m., LBPD officers responded to the 700 Block of Park Avenue in reference to a cut and rescue traffic collision. 

Sgt Cota said, “A Toyota Corolla was travelling up Park Avenue east and collided with two parked vehicles. This caused the Corolla to overturn and come to rest on the hood. The Corolla was occupied with three males who admitted to consuming alcohol at a downtown Laguna Beach bar.”

Police Files 1 7 20

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Courtesy of LBPD

Cut and rescue traffic collision on Sunday

The driver was identified as a 32-year-old Anaheim Hills man.

Sgt Cota said, “He was transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo and admitted for observation. He was arrested for [alleged] DUI and released at the hospital. His two passengers were intoxicated and uninjured.”


Police Files

Suspect tries to pass off phony letter from DA to 

get car out of impound, arrested for felony fraud

On Tuesday, Dec 31, at 5:53 p.m., a male subject came into the LBPD station with a letter he said was from District Attorney Todd Spitzer. 

Police Files Brett TostonLBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said, “He claimed Spitzer provided him with the letter so the police department would release his impounded vehicle. When officers looked over the letter it was very apparent it was fraudulent.”

Sgt Cota said, “An officer later found evidence in his belongings which consisted of paperwork he used to cut and paste the fraudulent letter together with. 

“The subject was identified as Long Beach resident Brett Edward Toston, 53. He was arrested for felony fraud,” Sgt Cota said. 

Bail was set at $20,000.

LBPD detectives nail suspect in local bike heist

Police Files Joseph MendivilOn Friday, Dec 27, an LBPD officer was dispatched to a residence in the 900 block of Park Avenue in reference to a theft of an electric bike from an open garage. The women’s bicycle was white in color and valued at $1,550. 

According to Sgt Cota, “This report went to the Investigations Division. The bicycle was quickly listed up on Offerup.com for $150. Undercover detectives agreed to meet with the seller, Joseph Mendivil, in the city of Irvine for the purchase.” 

Sgt Cota said, “Detectives contacted Mendivil and detained him in Irvine. Joseph Jonathan Mendivil, 30, was subsequently arrested for possession of stolen property, a felony.” 

The bike was returned back to the owner. 

Bail was set at $20,000.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every suspect is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Laguna Canyon Road closed in both directions today following rockslide

This morning, Friday, Dec 27, Laguna Canyon Road will be closed between Woodland and Canyon Acres in both directions from approximately 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. to allow Caltrans to remove loose rocks from a roadside slope. 

According to Cassie Walder, Community Information Officer for the City, “The rocks became loose during a small slide on the west side of Laguna Canyon Road just south of Canyon Acres on December 26. A Caltrans engineering and geotechnical team completed its evaluation of the conditions. They have recommended that both inbound lanes remain closed until the loose rocks are manually removed from the slope.”

Police Files boulders falling

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Courtesy of LBPD

Caltrans will be closing Laguna Canyon Road today between Woodland and Canyon Acres in both directions to make the area safe in response to storm damage and falling rocks

Sgt Cota said, “Caltrans will be closing Laguna Canyon Road to work on the unstable boulders on the hillside in the 1100 Block. Caltrans will be handling the road closure and inbound will be closed at the 73 Toll Road.” 

 Walder said, “Caltrans will coordinate to get residents on Milligan Drive in and out.” For more information, see the City’s website: https://bit.ly/361Wiwv.

Editor’s Note: On an unrelated note, Third Street Hill will also be closed today, Friday, Dec 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for tree trimming.

Massive storm hits OC, locals receive emergency tornado alert

As a massive storm pummeled Orange County late Wednesday night, many locals and OC residents literally received a wakeup call Thursday around midnight via an emergency text alert from the National Weather Service about a possible tornado in Orange County, including in parts of Laguna Beach. 

The alert said: “Emergency Alert – NWS: TORONADO WARNING in the area til 12:30 a.m. PST. Take Shelter now. Check media.” 

The emergency warning was dispatched to many Laguna Beach residents in addition to nearby communities, including Newport Beach, Irvine, and Costa Mesa, among others.

Fortunately, the tornado warning was canceled about 10 minutes later after the storm dissipated. But many residents were still on edge, taking to social media to express their concern since tornadoes are quite atypical for Southern California.

Sea lion that fell 30 feet onto S Coast Hwy still in critical condition at PMMC

The sea lion that jumped from the pedestrian bridge at Aliso Circle on Monday, Dec 23, plunging 30 feet onto South Coast Hwy, is still in critical condition according to care experts at Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC).

PMMC animal care coordinator Wendy Leeds said, “Lords-a-Leaping is still considered to be in critical, but stable condition. Initial radiographs showed no signs of fractures; however, he is still emaciated and dehydrated.”

Police Files Sea Lion Jumper

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Courtesy of PMMC

Lords-a-Leaping is hoping for a holiday miracle after falling 30 feet

She continued, “As is done with all of our patients here at PMMC, our veterinarian and animal care team will continue to monitor him closely. Lords-a-Leaping has started eating fish and is in a pen with two other sea lion pups that were recently rescued.”

On Monday, LBPD Civilian Services Administrator Jim Beres explained what precipitated the perilous plunge of the sea lion. The pinniped “somehow climbed up the Aliso Beach pedestrian bridge at Aliso Circle that crosses South Coast Hwy just north of the entrance to The Ranch.” 

According to Beres, “The sea lion got to the south wall of the inland side of the bridge where it jumped off after approximately 40 minutes of sitting on the bridge.” 

Police Files Skywalker, Lords a Leaping and Tinsel in back

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Courtesy of PMMC

Sea lion that plunged onto S Coast Hwy from pedestrian bridge is still in critical condition; he’s the sea lion pictured in the middle, with new friends

Animal Services Officer John Thompson was on scene along with staff from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. 

Beres said, “After the sea lion jumped off the bridge, it wound up on the right shoulder of the northbound side of South Coast Hwy. Once on the ground, ASO Thompson and PMMC staff were able to capture the sea lion and transport it to the PMMC facility in Laguna Canyon.”

During 2019, PMMC has had 210 rescue and response incidents, including 139 for sea lions, 35 for elephant seals, 11 for harbor seals, and six for fur seals. For more information or to donate to PMMC, visit www.pacificmmc.org. 

-By Suzie Harrison

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

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