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Laguna Beach

Police Files

Jaw-dropping scam on Glenneyre takes bite out of victim’s bank account

A heavy-set man in his thirties or early forties, wearing navy blue medical scrubs, recently conned a victim on the 1100 block of Glenneyre Street into buying vouchers for three teeth-whitening kits, including the promise of discounts for dental procedures.

“He paid $328.41 on his credit card,” said Sgt Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “When he called and made an appointment with a Laguna Niguel dentist’s office, that’s when he learned that the vouchers were fraudulent.”

Unfortunately, it looks like the victim is just going to have to grin and bear the loss, because the suspect has not been located.

Police Files

High times on Glenneyre end in dispensary bust

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, the saying goes, or in this case, a marijuana dispensary. Last week, a Laguna resident smelled something, well, highly suspicious while walking along the 900 block of Glenneyre. That person also saw a number of people leaving the building carrying white bags, furtively, one imagines.

Building on 900 block of Glenneyre

Turned out that the so-called “Divine Church of Gardens, Laguna Beach,” a tenant in the building, which also houses Sunset Drug, was indeed a place of worship – but the church part was bogus. The deity in question was not God, but weed in all its many manifestations.

“We arrested a man who claimed to be a volunteer for the church. He told officers that he had only been working there for three days, and that marijuana was used as a sacrament in the church’s rituals,” Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson, told Stu News.

After the officers located approximately 20 plus pounds of marijuana on the premises, along with codeine, and $3,000 in cash, the “volunteer” didn’t have a prayer. Lucas Seth Dichiara, age 31, of Irvine was arrested for possession and sales of marijuana and also for the illegal operation of a marijuana dispensary in Laguna Beach.

The landlord arrived on the scene and was flabbergasted. The Divine Church of Gardens was soon excommunicated from the property. (The name of the lessee of the property was not available at this time.)

Officers confiscated all of the contraband and booked it into evidence at the Laguna Beach Police Department.

“It appears there will be no church services this weekend at that location,” Sgt. Cota added.


Early morning reckless driver reported by 12 people

On the morning of Jan 15, Martin Luther King Day, a motorist driving a silver Jeep Liberty up Coast Highway was reported for reckless driving by twelve different callers, with reports ranging from driving on the wrong side of the road, not abiding by the speed limit, not stopping at red lights, and swerving their vehicle.

The first call, which came in at 8 a.m., reported that a woman was driving very fast, while the second reporting party described the driver running red lights. The third reporting party stated that the driver was driving the wrong way on the road in an attempt to pass other motorists near Wesley. 

A fifth reporting party pulled over to avoid the driver and called to say that the driver was in the southbound lane of the road. The sixth reporting party stated that the driver was northbound on Legion at a high rate of speed. After more calls about her heading northbound on Broadway, taking a turn to head southbound on Cliff, the driver was detained.

The woman was arrested for reckless driving.

Police Files

Accused dealer is caught with lots of drugs and baggies, and she’s only 19

On Saturday, Jan 20, Laguna Beach police officers made a vehicle stop at 2:24 p.m. in the 600 block of South Coast Highway. The officers contacted the driver, Alexis Lynn Fukaye, 19, of Fountain Valley, when they noticed a smell of marijuana coming from her car, a black Toyota Scion.

Upon searching the vehicle, over 13 ounces of packaged marijuana (374.87 grams), 201 Xanax bars, 16 Lorazepam pills, marijuana paraphernalia, and other individual prescription pills were confiscated. According to LBPD’s Sgt Jim Cota, Fukaye claimed that she worked for a marijuana dispensary, “but could not provide details about her employer”. About $715 was confiscated from the vehicle as well.

When asked to clarify California’s marijuana laws, Sgt Cota explained: “Possession of marijuana at your house and on your person is legal as long as its under the specified amount. Possession of marijuana for sales is not legal.” Cota further explained that in this case, the presence of “around 100 Ziploc baggies” in the car was one of the key factors in determining that Fukaya intended to sell the drugs.

Fukaye was arrested for possession of marijuana for sales, and for possession of a designated substance (Xanax) for sales. Her bail was set at $25,000.

Police Files

High risk traffic stop leads to million dollar bail, discovery of missing youth

On Saturday, Jan 20 at 2:28 a.m., a white 2018 Toyota Camry reported stolen from Lake Forest was seen heading southbound on Laguna Canyon, about to turn northbound onto Pacific Coast Hwy. LBPD officers pulled the car over on Aster, initiating a high risk traffic stop. 

One by one, starting with the driver, each of the four occupants was ordered out of the vehicle, and then detained. 

As is customary with high risk stops of this kind, officers called for K9 support, but none was available. Fortunately arrests were able to be made without incident.

“The occupants of the car were not aggressive,” said Sgt Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

The driver, Luis Fernando Reynasoto, 18, of Lake Forest, was arrested for possesion of a stolen vehicle, as well as for probation violation, and held without bail. One passenger, Noah Dillon Guerrero, 18, Lake Forest, was arrested on a warrant out of Riverside Court for battery and bail of $1,000,000, as well as for stolen vehicle and for DUI, bail $15,000. 

One juvenile passenger was found to be in possession of 27 Xanax bars. The juvenile had been reported missing. The juvenile was cited and released to a parent. A fourth juvenile passenger was also released. 


LBPD releases statement on scam that threatens your life if you don’t pay up: ignore those emails!

In this day and age, [people] have to be aware of the various scams going around. [The LBPD] was recently alerted to a new scam going around involving the use of cryptocurrency. 

Would-be victims are receiving emails from a person claiming to be a hit man (or woman), who tells them they have an order to kill them. In order to save themselves from their impending doom, victims are directed to deposit funds via Bitcoin into an account in order to find out information about who [issued that order]. 

The hitman [offers supposed] learning resources by directing victims to Google information regarding Bitcoins.

Here at the Laguna Beach Police Department, we want you to be aware so as to keep you and your bank accounts safe from hitmen [and con-men].

From the LBPD Facebook page

Interim Fire Chief Kirk Summers reaches the end of his term and the search is on for a new fire chief

Stu News contacted Fire Chief Kirk Summers this morning to ask about a recent vegetation fire – and Chief Summers, responsive as always, let us know the details – but also reminded us that his term is coming to an end in two weeks. Chief Summers, we hardly knew ye! 

The time has gone by so quickly since he was appointed, and we’ve not had any major fires, fortunately, though Chief Summers has presided over a department that has done sterling duty in helping battle the Thomas Fire and other California blazes.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

A great fire engine photo because, why not?

Here’s the deal about the fire last week in Laguna, for starters, at the 2300 block of Hillview Drive. (Arson is not suspected.)

“It was a small fire that had lots of potential,” Chief Summers told us. “Our guys jumped on it hard and kept it small. Captain Maxon and the first arriving crew of Engine 3 did a great job knocking down the fire.  The cause of the fire is undetermined at this point.

“It was nice to get some rain a couple of weeks ago but with the warm, dry weather we have been experiencing, we are right back in to fire season (still beats Chicago!),” Summers added. “Our residents need to use the same degree of caution that they would in August or September. Even in the absence of a severe wind, a slope driven fire in one of our canyons could cause great damage.  Our residents need to keep fire safety in mind all year round and keep native vegetation cut back and ornamental vegetation trimmed and well-watered.”

We hear you, Chief. But what’s up with you, we asked? And who will succeed you?

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Interim Fire Chief Kirk Summers

“All is good here. I am wrapping up my last couple of weeks here at LBFD. I am teaching an Incident Command class next week at the County EOC and then the week of the 12-15, that will be it! Then back to retirement for a while…I keep saying that.”

Stu News called City Manager John Pietig to find out how the search for a new fire chief is going. He tells us that since Feb 15 is Chief Summers’ last day, plans are already in place for Division Chief Tom Christopher to serve as interim chief until an appointment is made. Christopher will handle the day-to-day fire chief responsibilities until a permanent fire chief comes on board.

“We are still reviewing the final candidates and it’s going to be a month or so before we are able to make an announcement,” Pietig said.

We wish Chief Summers all the best for his retirement, though we suspect this will be another short retirement for this dedicated firefighter.

--Lynette Brasfield

Police Files

Scam alert: Letter claims to know about “secrets you are keeping from your wife”

A reader sent us a copy of a letter he received from a scam artist and would-be blackmailer, delivered via snail mail. The reader knew he had no reason to be concerned but was shocked, naturally, that this scam was in play. He dropped the letter off at the police station.

Stu News asked police to comment but at press time had not heard back. Common sense suggests that residents ignore these demands and advise police should they hear from “BadBird-93.”

Here are excerpts from the letter:

“My name is BadBird-93 and I know about the secret you are keeping from your wife and everyone else. More importantly, I have evidence of what you have been hiding. I won’t go into the specifics here in case your wife intercepts this, but you know what I am talking about. “

“You don’t know me personally and nobody hired me to look into you. Nor did I go out looking to burn you. It is just your bad luck that I stumbled across your misadventures while working a job around Laguna Beach. I then put more time than I probably should have. Frankly, I am ready to forget all about you and [redacted] and let you get on with your life. So I am going to give you two options that will accomplish that very thing. These two options are to either ignore this letter, or to simply pay me $8,150.

Let’s examine those two options in more detail. 


Option 1 is to ignore this letter. Let me tell you what will happen if you choose this path. I will take this evidence and send it to everyone in your life, especially [redacted] And as insurance against you intercepting it before she gets it, I will also send copies to her friends, family, associates, and all your neighbors on and around [where you live/redacted]. So even if you decide to come clean to your wife, it won’t protect her from the humiliation she will feel when everyone she knows finds out your sordid details from me. 

Option 2 is to pay me $8,150. We’ll call this my “confidentiality fee.” Now let me tell you what happens if you choose this path. Your secret remains your secret. You go on with your life as though none of this ever happened. Though you may want to do a better job at keep your misdeeds secret in the future. 

“Letter cannot be traced to me”

At this point you may be thinking, “I’ll just go to the cops.” Which is why I have taken steps to ensure this letter cannot be traced back to me. So that won’t help, and it won’t stop the evidence from ruining your life. I’m not looking to break your bank. I just want to be compensated for the time I put into investigating you. 

“Confidentiality fee”

Let’s assume you have decided to make all this go away and pay me the confidentiality fee. In keeping with my strategy to not go to jail, we will not meet in person and there will be no physical exchange of chas. You will pay me anonymously using bitcoin. If you want me to keep your secret, then send $8,150 in BITCOIN to the Receiving Bitcoin Address listed below. Payment MUST be received within 9 days of the postmark date on this letters envelope. If you are not familiar with bitcoin, attached is a “How-To” guide. You will need the below two pieces of information when referencing the guide.”

The letter then goes on to explain exactly how to pay the scammer via Bitcoin.

Don’t be taken in. We’ll update this story when we hear from the LBPD.


Bookkeeper charged with defrauding Laguna Beach business owner of over $265,000

On January 22, 2016, Laguna Beach Police Detectives began a grand theft investigation against Nhora Johanna Tellez, a resident of Costa Mesa. The investigation began when a Laguna Beach business owner identified his bookkeeper/office manager, Tellez, as the person who defrauded him of over $80,000 from his marketing business, Laguna Coast Corporation.

Tellez was the bookkeeper and office manager at the victim’s business and had access to the victim’s financial information. It was discovered that Tellez had accessed and changed the login information for all of the victim’s investments and credit card accounts. Tellez created passwords for each online account and notifications of access or fraud to these accounts was rerouted to an email address held by Tellez.

This lengthy investigation revealed that Tellez devised and executed a scheme to defraud and obtain money from Laguna Coast Corporation by gaining the trust of the owner, who allowed her to gain control over the financial accounts. Documents and business records obtained in this investigation were forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney Major Fraud Unit, which, upon further review, determined that Tellez had embezzled approximately $265,390.67. Tellez used the money embezzled from the victim for a variety of personal expenses including veterinarian visits, entertainment expenses, living expenses, and vacations that involved the purchase of airline tickets. Cash advances were also conducted at various ATM’s throughout Orange County. Images of the ATM cash advances were obtained, and Tellez was positively identified as being the individual who completed the fraudulent transactions. To date, none of the embezzled funds have been returned by Tellez to the victim.

On January 24, 2018, Laguna Beach Police Department Detectives arrested Nhora Johanna Tellez in the City of Costa Mesa for California Penal Code 487-Grand Theft.

“This lengthy and time-consuming investigation serves as a reminder that our police department will pursue any individual(s) in positions of trust who take advantage of businesses and innocent victims. We brought in every available resource, including our partners from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, to ensure that this case would be appropriately investigated, prosecuted, and justice would be served,” said Captain Jeff Calvert, LBPD.

Police Files

Graffiti on the rise in Laguna? LBPD says no, but it happens, and if you see it, report it

Walls, trees, you name it, are susceptible to graffiti. Even plants, sometimes. We’ve all seen writing on some of the succulents in Heisler Park.

According to LBPD’s Sgt Jim Cota, these markings are not on the rise in Laguna Beach, despite recent reports, for example of the graffiti at Victoria Beach. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Aurora Clabaugh

Recent graffiti at Victoria Beach

However, they want to be sure, as we all do, to keep our town as free of graffiti as possible.

The LBPD suggests that anyone who happens to observe someone in the act of applying graffiti should call the police immediately, but not make any sort of contact with the suspects.

If suspects are caught, they face a misdemeanor vandalism charge (if the damage is under $400). 

If graffiti is seen after the fact, police will ask the reporting party to explain as much information as they can about the case.

Either way, the community is urged to be vigilant to prevent our beautiful beaches and buildings from being vandalized.

Officer-involved shooting rattles community: Woman had gun in hand upon emerging from vehicle

At 2:41 p.m. on Sunday, Feb 11, the Laguna Beach Police Department received a call about an apparently distressed woman in a blue gray Lexus SUV driving erratically.

“More than one call came in. At least one (or more) caller(s) indicated that this person appeared to have a handgun visible in her possession,” said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota.

While officers were responding, another caller reported speaking to a woman who had a gun in the area of St. Ann’s and Gaviota. The woman with the firearm had asked the bystander to call the police because she wanted to take her own life.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Police gather at the crime scene

Officers arrived in the 100 block of St. Ann’s and made contact with the distressed woman, later found to be a 36-year-old Huntington Beach resident. She was parked at the far end of the cul de sac on Saint Ann’s facing the beach, alone in her car.

“She was initially uncooperative with the officers,” said Sgt Cota. “One officer approached her on foot. The other officer pulled up behind her vehicle and exited on foot. Then the woman emerged from the car with a gun in her hand. The officer on foot discharged his weapon. The woman was struck in the upper torso.”

Officers immediately rendered aid and called paramedics, who also worked on her. She was transported to Mission Hospital – Mission Viejo, where she underwent surgery.

As of last night, she remained in critical condition. 

No officers were injured during the incident. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Kim Pearson

A bullet penetrated a window at the Laguna Riviera: The room was unoccupied

It appears that at least one bullet went through the window of an unoccupied room at the Laguna Riviera hotel during the incident, as seen in this photo provided by hotel owner Kim Pearson. LBPD is not commenting on the number of bullets fired.

Sgt Cota tells us that the Laguna Beach Police Department will conduct an investigation and review of this incident through a multi-step process that evaluates the legal, policy, and tactical considerations surrounding the event. 

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office responded as standard protocol and will conduct a parallel and independent investigation.

--Lynette Brasfield

Police Files

Man urinates on street, refuses to cooperate with police: Forgets he has a large firecracker in his pants

On Saturday, Feb 10 at 12:52 p.m., on the 1100 block of S Coast Hwy, Randy R Sison, 41, of Mission Viejo, was cited for urinating in public – normally a relatively minor infraction – but he refused to sign the necessary citation. 

“If you don’t sign a citation, you automatically get arrested and go to jail,” LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota told Stu News.

That’s when things got interesting.

After Sison was taken into custody and prior to entering the jail, officers asked him if he had any contraband on him, otherwise he would be charged with an additional crime.

“Upon booking him, officers found a large firecracker in his possession,” Sgt Cota said.

The firecracker was an M-250, with a fuse three inches long, measuring three quarters of an inch in diameter – that is to say, a large firecracker.

And the large firecracker was in his right front pant pocket.

“I forgot I had it on me,” Sison said, according to LBPD.

Sison was charged with “possession of a dangerous [and illegal] firework or explosive,” in jail with him.

He was transported to Orange County Jail and faces a felony charge.

Police Files

Update on officer-involved shooting: audio and video recorded the interchange between cops and distressed woman

The 36-year-old Huntington Beach woman who was shot by police on Sunday after emerging from her vehicle with a gun in her hand, has been medically upgraded from critical to stable condition, said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota on Wednesday. 

“LBPD will seek charges against the female suspect,” said Sgt Cota.

An investigation is currently underway by both LBPD and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the incident. Video and audio recordings from patrol vehicles and residences are being reviewed, which will shed light on the interchange between cops and the distressed woman, who is reported to have threatened to take her own life, as well as the number of bullets fired.

 “Officers verbally attempted several times to let them help her with her ongoing issues,” said Sgt Cota. “(They) were very patient and attempted to help her.”

Stu News will continue to follow and report on this story in the coming weeks.


Three suspects arrested and charged in connection with assault at The Saloon

On August 11, 2017, at 1:30 a.m., Laguna Beach Police Officers responded to a fight in progress in the 400 block of South Coast Highway. Officers contacted two separate victims of an assault and began an investigation into who committed these acts of violence. 

At the conclusion of the initial investigation, it was determined that three male subjects assaulted two male Laguna Beach bar patrons and a Good Samaritan female who tried to intervene. Both male victim sustained injuries, including broken bones and lacerations. The female victim sustained minor injuries.

Laguna Beach Police Detectives began a lengthy investigation in the search for the individuals responsible for the assault. Over a dozen interviews were conducted during the investigation and hours of video reviewed. At the conclusion of the investigation, three male suspects were ultimately arrested for Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Battery with Serious Bodily Injury.

The three males were identified as City of Ontario resident Jeremy Bishop (pictured here), Daniel Little (not pictured), and Joshua Little (not pictured). Both Daniel and Joshua Little reside in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

“This lengthy and time-consuming investigation serves as a reminder that our police department will pursue any individual(s) who commit acts of violence in Laguna Beach. Our Investigations team did an outstanding job identifying, locating, and arresting these three suspects,” said LBPD Captain Jeff Calvert.

--From a press release


Laguna Beach enjoys an overall reduction in crime for 2017, although burglary is up 10 percent

The Laguna Beach Police Department is happy to report a reduction in crime for 2017. The Police Department tracks crime and a number of other statistics on a yearly basis in an overall effort to evaluate their effectiveness as well as identify areas of community outreach and enforcement.

While larcenies have dropped significantly, there has been an increase in residential burglaries. These burglaries are attributed to unlocked doors and open garage doors. “This is a reminder that we can prevent a majority of property crime by taking the time to properly secure our homes,” said Chief Farinella. The decrease in larcenies are directly related to the increased staffing of Beach Patrol Officers which were funded through Measure LL and the Strategic Plan. These once part-time positions are now full-time, providing a much-needed added layer of presence on the beach, which is where we saw the decrease in the crimes.

Other highlights:

No fatal traffic collisions: Second year in a row

Traffic collisions are down 12%

Total calls for service are up 4%, equaling 1,919 additional calls

Citations are up almost 100%, which is attributed to the additional Beach Patrol Officers enforcing local municipal codes such as no alcohol and glass on the beach.

CERT is now over 300 members strong, CERT Academy graduated Class #9

Citizen Academy participates are now over 400 strong with the graduation of Class#24

The below are Laguna Beach statistics for 2017 Part I Violent Crimes, as compared to previous years. 

Tables courtesy of LBPD

The below are Laguna Beach statistics for 2017 Part I Property Crimes, as compared to previous years. 

Every police department is mandated to report Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on a yearly basis, so that increases and decreases in crime can be tracked and evaluated on a national level. The reporting of crime is separated into two classifications, Part I and Part II. Comparing these statistics year-to-year can tell a story both locally and nationally, and help police agencies strategically focus their resources. Part I crimes are the only crimes that are mandated to report. Reporting of Part II crimes is not mandated, and include crimes such as forgery, vandalism, and drug abuse violations. The Laguna Beach Police Department does track these crimes in an effort to identify trends.

--From a press release

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