Laguna Beach

Police Files (Cont.)

Smoker carrying can of gas arrested for stolen car

On Thursday, March 28, at 9:35 am, LBPD officers were dispatched to the area of S Coast Highway and Eagle Rock Way in reference to a suspicious male walking in the roadway carrying a gas can. 

“Officers observed the male smoking and detained him for the LBMC violation. He was identified as Huntington Beach resident Trent Paxton. A record check revealed Paxton was on active probation,” Sgt Cota said. “Officers conducted an investigation and determined the vehicle Paxton was retrieving gas for an unreported stolen vehicle from an auto repair shop in Huntington Beach.”

 Trent Eric Paxton, 23, of Huntington Beach, was taken into custody for vehicle theft and for violating his parole. He was booked and transported to OC Jail.

No bail was set.

Animal Files

PMMC’s 2019 rescue count is up to 71, compared to just 33 at this time last year

On Friday, March 29, at 10:40 a.m., at the 600 block of Cliff Drive, between Shaw’s Cove and Boat Canyon, Pacific Marine Mammal Center received a call about in injured pinniped. 

The call came in from one of PMMC’s volunteers who said she spotted a very small seal being washed into shore at Fisherman’s Cove. PMMC immediately responded, discovering the pinniped was an endangered Guadalupe fur seal. 

“Our team asked for assistance as the public was encroaching on the animal, unaware of the severity of the issue. Animal Services graciously educated the public after the team headed back to PMMC,” said Krysta Higuchi, public relations coordinator. “Once back at PMMC, he was checked in and weighed in at only 17 pounds.”

According to Higuchi, Guadalupe fur seals need special permits for rehabilitation and a specific isolation unit that PMMC does not currently have. 

The animal was stabilized at PMMC then transported to Sea World on Saturday, in hopes they would finish his rehabilitation and release him back into the wild. 

Not thirty minutes later, on Friday, March 29, at 11:03 a.m., at the 100 block of Thalia Street, PMMC received another call about an injured pinniped.

“While the team was responding to the animal at Fisherman’s Cove, we received another call at Thalia Street,” explained Higuchi. “A photo was sent and we discovered it to be a Northern Elephant seal pup.”

“As soon as our team returned from Fisherman’s Cove they were sent back out to respond to Thalia. While the animal was reported to be active, elephant seals are not native to the shores of Orange County,” Higuchi said.

According to Higuchi, once brought back to PMMC, the animal was determined to be only 109 pounds (it should be closer to 150-175 pounds), malnourished, and dehydrated.

“These animals are birthed at 75-90 pounds and should double their weight the first months of life. Most pups we have been seeing have been coming in below birth weight,” said Higuchi.

“Sadly this little one also died [on Monday] morning. A necropsy will be performed to determine the full cause. It goes to show the animal may look okay but those who beach themselves where people are present, is an indication that they forgo their basic instinct to stay away from people, and something internally may be going on.”

PMMC has rescued 71 animals in 2019 so far, compared to just 33 at this time last year.

To donate to the nonprofit, visit

Woman held captive in bathroom by large winged bug

On Thursday, March 28, at 9:57 a.m., at the 400 block of Glenneyre Street, LBPD received a call about a large hornet like insect flying inside the caller’s home. 

The insect was described as being a couple of inches in size with a charcoal or black body. The caller was unsure what the large winged pesky pest was.

According to police records, the caller told dispatch officers she was unable to get the insect out of her home and that she was hiding inside her bathroom.

Besides LBPD, Animal Services and Beach Patrol were also notified. 

The insect eventually flew out of the woman’s home.

-By Suzie Harrison

Police Files

Vacationing teens from Minnesota caught shoplifting from six downtown stores, reports LBPD

On Friday, March 29, at 2:24 p.m., at the 400 block of S Coast Highway, three teenage girls from Minnesota were caught stealing clothing and jewelry items from six separate businesses: Hobie Surf Shop, Things & Carats, Molly Brown’s, Attu, Art for the Soul, and Sunny Days, according to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota.

At one point, one of the suspects was seen “cutting off the tags” of various items in one store. 

 “Two of the businesses were desirous of prosecution. Each of the girls were issued citations and released to their parents at the scene,” Sgt Cota said. “They were vacationing from Minnesota. The subjects were teenage girls ages 18, 17, and 15.”

According to police reports, all three suspects had blonde hair and were on vacation with their families.

Local woman arrested after allegedly stomping on officer's foot, according to LBPD

On Friday, March 29, at 12:23 a.m., officers responded to reports of an alleged fight in progress at Thalia Street and South Coast Highway. According to Sgt Cota, officers arrived and contacted Laguna Beach resident Kyra Pitt and multiple male subjects. One of the male subjects was seen writhing on the ground after reportedly being kicked in the groin by Pitt. 

“Officers detained Pitt and asked her for her name. Pitt replied, ‘Suck my ****.’ She refused to tell the officers what had happened,” Sgt Cota said. “The male victim placed Pitt under private person’s arrest for battery. Upon being handcuffed, Pitt stomped her right foot onto the foot of one of the officers. Pitt was wearing cowboy boots.”

“The officer sustained a bruised toe as a result of the stomp. Pitt physically resisted being placed into a patrol car and repeatedly kicked the shins and thighs of the officers. Once in the patrol car, Pitt repeatedly kicked the bars protecting the rear windows. 

“The Watch Commander was on scene and witnessed the repeated assaults on the police officers. Because of Pitt’s assaultive behavior, she was directly transported to OC Jail. Officers and jailers recognized Pitt from an arrest three weeks ago. During that prior incident, she kicked an officer in his chest and used her knee to strike a jailer’s thigh.”

Kyra Celeste Pitt, 39, Laguna Beach, was arrested for battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest, and battery.

Her bail was set at $25,000

She has since been released from jail pending formal charges.

Read more Police Files on Front Page II – click here

Police Files

Intoxicated woman enters Justin Beiber's Montage room uninvited, reports LBPD

On Tuesday, March 26, at 12:17 p.m., LBPD officers responded to Montage resort to assist hotel security with a female guest who had been escorted off the hotel property, only to return and be found trespassing in Justin Bieber’s hotel room. 

LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota reports that the suspect was intoxicated and supposedly walked into Bieber’s room accidentally.

“She was a guest of other people at the resort and was kicked out of the room earlier and then returned thinking that his room was the room she was previously in,” Sgt Cota said. “She returned and entered the room that belonged to celebrity Justin Bieber. He demanded she leave the room; his security team followed her as she fled the hotel.” 

Sgt Cota continued, “It is unknown how she gained access into his room but it is our belief he was waiting for room service and had the door slightly ajar. The female and her guests were asked to leave by security [earlier] because they were being too loud and disruptive in the room.

“The Montage is a world class resort and handled the incident swiftly and professionally. The female was arrested based on her actions and the likelihood it would continue. It was the right decision.” 

LBPD officers located her across the street from the hotel. She was arrested for trespassing and transported to LBPD where she was booked and later released.

According to police records, the suspect is a Huntington Beach woman in her late 30s, 5’ 8” with blonde hair, and was wearing a floral dress at the time of the alleged crime.

Bail was set at $500.

Man assaulted by unknown suspect at Sleepy Hollow

On Monday, March 18, at 4:05 p.m., a male subject was at Sleepy Hollow Beach, at the 600 block of S Coast Hwy, when an unknown suspect punched him and then fled.

 “Officers responded and conducted an area check but were unable to locate the suspect,” Sgt Cota said. “The suspect was described as a white male, in his late 30s, wearing a blue short-sleeve shirt and jeans, and carrying a dark backpack.”

Mock forensics at Thurston with LBPD is exciting for middle schoolers

On Tuesday, March 19, at 9 a.m., SRO Cornelius Ashton, patrol officers, and detectives assisted Thurston Middle School’s forensics class with investigating a mock crime scene at Alta Laguna Park. 

Police Files Thurston Crime Scene

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of LBUSD

Thurston students learn the ropes with LBPD at their forensics class

“The mock crime scene was well controlled and the students received guidance from PD personnel on crime scene management and evidence collection,” LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said.

Police Files Thurston Police scrubs

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of LBUSD

Thurston students make a great forensic team at mock event at Alta Laguna Park

Thanks to an “Innovation in Education” grant awarded to teacher Michelle Martinez by Cox Charities, a philanthropic arm of Cox Communications that is funded through employee donations and a company match, the students have been learning about forensic science with various hands on learning exercises both out in the field and at school. 

The forensic event received media attention so Sgt Cota was present to assist with comments.

LBPD SRO Ashton and local 16-year-old Riley Russo honored at awards ceremony Thursday

LBPD Cpl Cornelius Ashton and 16-year-old Laguna Beach resident Riley Russo were honored last night at the 2019 TIP-Heroes with Hearts awards at the Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove.

 “Riley is the youngest Trauma Intervention Program volunteer ever and Cpl Ashton was LBPD’s award winner,” Sgt Cota said yesterday. “Very well deserved to the both of [them].”

Police Files Youngest Trauma Prevent Program Volunteer

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of LBPD

(L-R) LBPD Cpl Ashton, TIP volunteer Riley Russo, and Sgt Cota

According to the TIP OC website, TIP is a group of specially trained volunteers who provide emotional aid and practical support to victims of traumatic events and their families in the first few hours following a tragedy. TIP Volunteers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

They are called by police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and hospital personnel to assist family members and friends following a natural or unexpected death; victims of violent crime including rape, assault, robbery, or burglary; victims of fire; disoriented or lonely elderly persons; people involved in motor vehicle accidents; people who are distraught and seeking immediate support; and survivors of suicide.

For more information on TIP, visit

LBPD’s Sgt Cota and Stu News’ Shaena Stabler raise over $2,400 and counting for KX 93.5 “takeover”

LBPD Sgt Jim Cota and Stu News’ leader extraordinaire Shaena Stabler have raised over $2,400 and counting as part of KX 93.5’s “takeover” fundraiser for Laguna’s cherished community radio station.

The two hosted a show together live on the radio on Tuesday from noon to 2 p.m. Click here to hear their podcast.

To make a donation in their names or in someone else’s, visit

KX Takeover is a friendly-but-stiff competition where the guest DJ that raises the most money receives the coveted “Silver Tongue Award.” 

Sgt Cota and Stabler are currently in second place in the competition, a few dollars ahead of jewelry mogul Cookie Lee in the standings; Tyler Russell’s mother Liz McCusker is in first place and Councilman Peter Blake is in fourth.

As of this morning, the station had raised over $41,000 with the goal being $50,000. Listen in live at

-By Suzie Harrison

Police Files

Suspicious man arrested with 40 grams of meth

On Wednesday, March 20, at 1:58 a.m., LBPD officers responded to the 2900 block of Mountain View Drive in reference to a suspicious vehicle. Officers contacted Riverside resident Corey Alberty inside his dark gray Prius. 

“Alberty was behaving suspiciously. A search of Alberty and his vehicle revealed a folding knife and BB gun on the passenger seat,” LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said. “Over 40 grams of methamphetamine was also found in the center console.”

According to, the average street value for a gram of meth is $180 or $7,200 for 40 grams. 

Corey Jermaine Alberty, 33, of Riverside, was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.

“Alberty was also on probation,” Sgt Cota said. “Alberty was taken into custody for possession of a controlled substance and later released.”

Bail was set at $500.

Transient charged with battery, elder abuse and false imprisonment

On Thursday, March 21, at 8:24 a.m., an LBPD officer was dispatched to Mission Hospital – Laguna Beach in reference to an assault report, which allegedly occurred the night prior.

The reporting party, a 76-year-old man who routinely sleeps behind the Main Beach Toys store according to LBPD, reportedly got into an argument with transient Daniel Troen over a minor issue. 

The victim reportedly tried to waive Troen off and walk away from the argument. According to police records, the victim believed the suspect was high on meth.

Police Files Troenb“Troen grabbed him from behind and body slammed him to the asphalt causing injuries,” Sgt Cota said. “He held him on the ground for several minutes while threatening him and preventing him from leaving.”

 Eventually Troen let him go. The victim went to the ER, where he was treated for a cut on his hand, a large wound on his upper arm, and complaint of pain from his neck to his hips. 

Troen was detained, at approximately 10:04 a.m., and brought to the station for questioning. Troen was also identified by his picture and the fact that he was wearing a bright red flight suit at the time of the crime and arrest. 

Daniel Mossing Troen, 32, of Maryland, was taken into custody at 11:13 a.m., for elder abuse, battery, and false imprisonment. Both subjects reported no fixed addresses.

Bail was set at $95,000.

CVS bandits busted following thefts of “teeth whiteners and toiletry items”

On Wednesday, March 20, at 8:30 p.m., an LBPD officer responded to CVS, at 30800 S Coast Hwy, for the report of a theft that had occurred earlier in the evening. The store manager was notified that a suspect had entered several CVS locations in south Orange County to commit thefts that evening.

“The manager remembered that a similar subject had set off the shoplifting alarm at about 6 p.m.,” Sgt Cota said. “Upon review of the surveillance video, the manager found that the suspect had stolen a large number of over-the-counter medications, teeth whiteners, and other toiletry items.” 

While the officer was on scene taking the report, he was advised that OCSD had taken two suspects in custody. 

The officer met with deputies and the two suspects in San Clemente. The suspects were in custody for thefts from three CVS stores in Laguna Niguel, one in Dana Point, and one in San Clemente. A deputy had heard the reports of the thefts from the other CVS location on the radio. 

“He staked out the CVS in San Clemente and caught one of the suspects leaving the store with stolen property in hand. A search of the suspects’ car revealed several large bags filled with stolen items,” Sgt Cota said. “An inventory of the items showed that the loss from the Laguna Beach CVS was approximately $2,200.” 

The two suspects were Eric Camacho, 22, and Shane Pacheco, 22, both Los Angeles residents. OCSD retained custody of the suspects.

“One admitted to the thefts and said they were stealing anything they could easily sell,” Sgt Cota said.

-By Suzie Harrison

Police Files

Woman arrested on suspicion of DUI in injury crash

On Tuesday, March 19, at 2:14 a.m., LBPD and LBFD personnel responded to the Big Bend area of Laguna Canyon Road in reference to an injury traffic collision. 

“Officers contacted the driver, Cypress resident Marie Markarian, who hit an Edison pole on her way back to Cypress after dropping off a friend,” LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said. “Markarian’s front right passenger…needed to be transported to Mission Hospital Mission Viejo for her injuries.”

According to Sgt Cota, the passenger suffered a laceration to her forehead and left ear due to the collision. The vehicle was towed from the scene and Edison was contacted regarding the damage to the pole.

Samantha Marie Markarian, 24, Cypress, was arrested for felony DUI. 

Bail was set at $100,000.

Traffic stop sends Oceanside man to jail for myriad offenses

On Sunday, March 17, at 11:08 a.m., an LBPD officer initiated a vehicle stop on North Coast Highway at Emerald Bay. 

“The driver handed the officer a fake driver’s license. The driver was later arrested for presenting the false identification to the officer,” Sgt Cota said. “The driver was booked for a felony because the driver’s license number came back to a real person.”

Jose Alfonso Gomezresendiz, 41, Oceanside, was arrested for false impersonation, driving without a valid license, driving without a valid license, and possession of controlled substance paraphernalia.

Bail was set at $21,500.

 Guest leaves firearm behind at Montage, LBPD reports

On Monday, March 18, at 1:23 p.m., at the Montage Resort, at the 30800 block of S Coast Highway, security called to report that a guest had checked out of a room and left a firearm behind. The weapon was found by housekeeping. 

LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said, “An officer responded and took custody of the handgun. The firearm was booked in at the police department for safekeeping.”

Police Files

Man reportedly tries to throw meth pipe on roof, instead lands next to LBPD officer

On Friday, March 15, at 7:21 p.m., an LBPD officer conducted a pedestrian stop on a male subject, later identified as Darren Gallagher, at the 200 block of Broadway Street. 

“While the officer was talking with the subject, Gallagher attempted to throw a glass object onto the roof of the Whole Foods store. The glass object did not land on the roof and fell next to Officer Meyer and Gallagher,” LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said. “The object was found to be a methamphetamine pipe.” 

Darren Lawrence Gallagher, 50, of Costa Mesa, was arrested for possession of narcotic paraphernalia and destruction of evidence. 

“It was later found that Gallagher originally gave a fictitious name and was also charged with violation of giving a police officer a false name,” Sgt Cota said.

Bail was set at $15,500.

Sad song, violin and parts stolen valued at $53,500 

On Thursday, March 14, at 10:10 a.m., a report was taken at the LBPD station concerning a possible burglary from Stephen R. Davey Violins at 31662 South Coast Hwy. The reporting party said that about two to three weeks ago during the rainstorms, he noticed an antique violin and miscellaneous violin parts missing from his shop.

“The missing violin was valued at $50,000, which was on consignment,” Sgt Cota said. “The violin parts are valued at approximately $3,500.”

According to Sgt Cota, there is no surveillance video available and there are no witnesses to the crime.

The total loss is estimated at $53,500.

Paparazzi reportedly stalk Justin Bieber at Montage pool

On Saturday, March 16, at 11:26 a.m., LBPD received a report of paparazzi trespassing and stalking a VIP at the Montage, at the 30800 block of S Coast Highway.

According to police records, a “high priority VIP on the property in the pool area” was being stalked by paparazzi. The star-struck subjects reportedly took off running toward the celebrity. Once LBPD arrived, the subjects were advised not to come back on the property.

According to Sgt Cota, “It was Justin Bieber. The paparazzi were trying to get photos.”

-By Suzie Harrison

Police Files (Cont.)

Mercedes crew arrested for meth and more

On Sunday, March 10, at 8:29 a.m., LBPD officers responded to a suspicious vehicle in the 30600 block of Marilyn Drive. 

According to police records, the caller advised officers of what appeared to be some type of drug activity, stating that LBPD responded approximately a week ago, at which times the suspects allegedly fled when units arrived.

Five occupants were contacted in a black Mercedes SUV, including three males and two females. According to LBPD, two of the males were in possession of drug paraphernalia and issued citations. 

“One male was identified as Fernando Najar. He was in possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia,” LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said. 

He was issued a citation and taken into custody on a probation hold. 

“The females were identified as Amy Allan and Imiko Maki. Both females originally falsely personated another person because they each had outstanding warrants,” Sgt Cota said. “They were taken into custody for impersonation and the outstanding warrants.”

Fernando Najar, 27, of San Juan Capistrano, was arrested for violating parole and being in possession of methamphetamine and controlled substance paraphernalia. No bail was set.

Imiko Ariel Maki, 22, of Laguna Beach, was arrested on warrants for possession of a controlled substance, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia, and possession of methamphetamine. Maki was also arrested for false impersonation, and again for possession of a controlled substance and possession of controlled substance paraphernalia.

Bail was set at $51,000.

Amy Elizabeth Allan, 35, of Laguna Beach, was arrested on warrants for driving with a suspended license due to a DUI and for a DUI. At the time of the incident, Allan was also arrested for false impersonation.

Bail was set at $50,000.

Lexus stolen after woman reportedly leaves doors unlocked and keys in car

On Tuesday, March 12, at 7:33 p.m., an LBPD officer responded to a parking lot in the 1900 block of South Coast Highway for a stolen vehicle report. 

According to Sgt Cota, “The unlocked vehicle was a white 2006 Lexus 430 and the ignition key was left in the center console. The vehicle has personalized plates with a bedazzled license plate frame.”

A report was taken.

Local man hits utility pole and city-owned electronic sign board in the Canyon

On Wednesday, March 13, at 7:23 p.m., LBPD and LBFD personnel responded to the 2000 block of Laguna Canyon Road for the report of a traffic collision involving a vehicle that had struck a utility pole. 

“Emergency personnel arrived and found that an inbound Toyota had struck a city-owned electronic sign board and a utility pole. The sign board was knocked onto its side, but the utility pole did not appear damaged,” Sgt Cota said. “The driver of the Toyota was identified as a 44-year-old Laguna Beach resident. He was examined by paramedics but declined transportation to the hospital.”

The sign board was transported to the city parking lot and a report was taken. Inbound traffic was diverted into the center double left turn lane. The road was cleared and traffic was back to normal within 20 minutes.  

-By Suzie Harrison

Police Files

Locals charged in largest college bribery scandal in history

On Tuesday, March 12, more than 50 people were charged by the Department of Justice in the largest college admissions scam in US history. Dubbed “Varsity Blues” by the FBI, the arrests include Laguna Beach residents, prominent business executives Douglas Hodge and Robert Flaxman, as well as fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli and his wife, actress Lori Loughlin, who owned a home in Laguna Beach for many years.

According to the 204-page affidavit, dozens of individuals indicted and arrested, including 13 defendants in Orange County and Los Angeles, were allegedly involved in the nationwide conspiracy that aided admission of students to elite universities through facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and purported athletic recruits.

Suspects allegedly paid bribes to sports coaches and administrators to help get the students admitted to top college institutions, including University of Southern California, University of California Los Angeles, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and Wake Forest University, among others, regardless of athletic or academic abilities. At this time, no university admissions personnel are suspected of any wrongdoing or crimes. 

At the center of the scandal is Newport Beach resident William “Rick” Singer, 58. Singer has acknowledged collecting approximately $25 million dating back at least a decade, through his for-profit college counseling and preparation business company, Edge College & Career Network, also known as “The Key,” and a nonprofit corporation he started as a purported charity.

Singer was charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.

Those with Laguna Beach ties facing charges include Douglas Hodge, 61, Laguna Beach, former CEO of prominent investment management companies. According to reports, prosecutors allege Hodge used bribery to get his children admitted to USC and Georgetown as purported athletic recruits.

Hodge was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. The defendant appeared in Boston on Wednesday, March 13, and was released on conditions including a $500,000 secured bond. 

Founder and CEO of real estate development firm Robert Flaxman, 62, of Laguna Beach, was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. His initial appearance in federal court in Boston is set for March 29 at 2:30 p.m.

Fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, 55, and his well-known actress wife Lori Loughlin, 54, of Los Angeles, were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. The defendants made their initial appearance in the Central District of California and were each released on $1 million bail. 

Loughlin and Giannulli used to own a home in Laguna Beach, which they reportedly listed for sale in 2009 for $12.99 million.

According to court documents, Giannulli and Loughlin submitted to USC’s admissions offices photos of their daughters on rowing machines. The couple allegedly paid $500,000 to have their two daughters attend the university by way of the school’s crew team, even though neither was reportedly a crew athlete.

Loughlin, known for her role as Aunt Becky in Full House and Fuller House, has also starred on Hallmark Channel on myriad projects, including When Calls the Heart. It was announced yesterday that Loughlin has been fired from Hallmark Channel and Netflix, according to reports.

Also charged for her alleged involvement in the scheme is Golden Globe-winning actress Felicity Huffman, among the 33 parents and 13 coaches and associates of Singer’s businesses, including two SAT and ACT test administrators. 

The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

-By Suzie Harrison

Read more Police Files on our Front Page II – click here

Animal Files

More rescues for PMMC, nonprofit calls on community for donations to help

On Thursday, March 7, at 4:20 p.m., the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) responded to a live dolphin at Crystal Cove State Beach. 

“PMMC had people in the back bed of our RAM rescue truck holding the dolphin, so we called police to let them know. They in turn gave us a police escort to get the dolphin and the team back to PMMC as quick and safe as possible,” Krysta Higuchi, PMMC Events and Public Relations Coordinator said. “Once back at PMMC our team was able to fully examine her. She had multiple seizures and it was deemed humane euthanasia was the best course of action.”

On Saturday, March 9, at 12:28 p.m., at the 31500 block of Bluff Drive, LBPD and PMMC received reports regarding a whale close to shore.

According to Jim Beres, LBPD Civilian Services Administrator, “A whale in distress was reported to be in the water near the sand at West Street Beach. The reporting party thought the whale might be injured.” 

“The whale swam back out,” Higuchi said. “Right now it is migration season for gray whales so it is fairly common to see these whales off our shores. The moms tend to stash their calves close to shore while they go off and forage.”

Donations badly needed at PMMC to help save pinnipeds

In all, PMMC rescued four pinnipeds over the weekend, including three sea lions from Huntington Beach and one elephant seal from Newport Beach, bringing PMMC’s 2019 rescue count up to a record-high 46.

Higuchi said that donations are badly needed.

“The animals just keep coming in and we have not even hit our typical peak time yet,” Higuchi said. “Right now we are going through fish, medical supplies and funds faster than anticipated. Any amount is greatly appreciated.”

Animal Files bath

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of PMMC Instagram

California sea lion that was rescued by PMMC

Donations can be made at check out PMMC’s wish list at for other items in need. 

For more information about PMMC, call (949) 494-3050.

PMMC is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd.

Police Files

Two virtual kidnapping scams in 24 hours have Laguna parents on high alert

On Thursday, March 7, a Laguna Beach resident reported to LBPD that he had become the victim of a fraud involving the fake kidnapping of his daughter.  

“At 2:30 p.m., the victim received a cell phone call from a suspect who stated he had kidnapped the victim’s daughter and was holding her, and wanted $5,000 or he would kill her. The suspect ordered the victim to stay on the phone with him throughout the incident,” LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said. “The victim became fearful for his daughter and after briefly hearing a female scream into the phone stating she had been kidnapped, he went to his bank and withdrew $5,000.”  

The victim was then directed to go to various wire transfer locations outside the city where he transferred the money to an account in Mexico.  

“At about 6:30 p.m., as the victim was completing the last transaction, he received a call from his daughter who was fine in Laguna Beach,” Sgt Cota said. “His daughter had not been kidnapped and had no knowledge of what was occurring.”

The father had just completed the last transaction and could not stop the transfer of the funds.

LBPD thwarts wire transfer in second virtual kidnapping scam

Then, the next day, on Friday, March 8, at 11:42 a.m., LBPD received another virtual kidnapping call similar to the one received on Thursday.

“The incident involved another Laguna Beach resident withdrawing money, however, we, LBPD, were able to intervene prior to the money being wired to an account in Mexico,” Sgt Cota said. “The resident contacted her daughter, who is a college student in Chicago and found out she was safe.”

“SRO Ashton created an information piece that was immediately sent to all of the schools in Laguna Beach, including private schools, for dissemination to the parents,” Sgt Cota said. “Two virtual kidnapping incidents within 24 hours is unacceptable. Luckily, we were able to stop the second one.”

The success of a virtual kidnapping scheme depends on speed and fear. Criminals know they have a limited amount of time before the victim catches onto the scam or law enforcement gets involved.

If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place or you believe a ransom demand is a scam, please contact the Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701.

Signs of a virtual scam:

--Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line

--Calls do not come from the supposed victim’s phone

--Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim

--Callers include demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfers to Mexico; ransom amount demands may drop quickly

If you receive a phone call from someone demanding a ransom for your family member, the following should be considered:

--In most cases, the best course of action is to hang up the phone

--If you don’t want to risk ending the call, drive to the nearest police station

--Try to remain calm and slow the situation down

--Do not share any information about your family during the call and don’t use the alleged victim’s name

--If you hear the a voice or screaming in the background, try to ascertain if it really is your child

--Attempt to contact the “kidnapped” victim via phone, text, a messaging app or social media to see where they are and if they are safe

--Ask to speak to the victim

--Ask questions that only the victim would know

--Ask the caller to call back using the victim’s phone

--Try to buy time by repeating the caller’s demands and telling the caller you need to write things down or need time to complete the transaction

--Don’t challenge or argue with the caller

--Write down the phone number the caller is calling from

For additional information, please contact School Resource Officer Cpl Cornelius Ashton at (949) 497-0773.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

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Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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