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Laguna Beach

Police Files

Frightened mom pays out thousands to suspected cartel members while on vacation in Laguna Beach

On Tuesday, May 1 at 7:25 a.m., an officer spoke with a frightened and distraught female victim in the front lobby at LBPD. The woman, who was vacationing in Laguna Beach from Nebraska, had fallen victim to a virtual kidnapping scam that has been circulating around town in recent weeks.

 “She was a victim of the virtual kidnapping scam via telephone. She received a phone call from a Nebraska area code and the suspect stated he had her son,” said LBPD Spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota. “She attempted to contact her son, but was unable to do so. This increased her fears and she ultimately wired $3,000 to the suspect via Western Union.”

The woman recounted her horrifying story. On the call she heard a voice that sounded like her son plead, “Mom, it’s serious.” 

She was told if she did not wire the requested amount of money immediately, she would find her son in the river.

The suspects are two Hispanic males with suspected cartel connections, according to the victim’s statement

“There were two guys who went back-and-forth on the phone, “John Morales,” with a Spanish accent, who sounded about 20 years old. He claimed to be affiliated with the cartel,” said Sgt Cota.

“Victor,” the second suspect, also had a Spanish accent, according to the victim, and sounded approximately 40 years old.

“At one point, one of them said, ‘It won’t take much more to end this. You won’t find your son in the Missouri River.’”

She did the right thing by going to LBPD. 

Kathie Gross from Laguna Niguel is still suffering from PTSD, after enduring the trauma of being a victim of a virtual kidnapping scam thinking someone had taken her daughter. 

“I immediately heard what I thought was 100 percent my daughter’s voice. It sounded exactly like her. She said, ‘mom,’ and I said yes. ‘Mom I have a problem.’ She sounded very frantic. I said, ‘yes,’ thinking something happened at school. And then she said, ‘they took me, I’m in a van, and I don’t know where I am.’ I was just silent and then I said, ‘My God, where are you Jordan?’”

Gross explained, “Her name is Jordan which is often mistaken for a male’s name. I think at that point, they wrote her name down.”

Gross asked her daughter again where she was.

“’She said I don’t know, I think I am on the freeway and there aren’t any windows,’” Gross said. “At that point, a man got on the phone and asked, Is this Kathie Gross and I said yes. And he said, listen missy, you better not hang up, you better not be calling the police. My guys have got him.”

She said that right then he made the mistake of referring to my daughter as a boy.

“And at that point my radar sort of went up, still thinking it’s very possible she’s in that car. Because I heard her voice,” Gross said.

She said there were two things that raised red flags, the mistake of calling her daughter a boy and her daughter being in a school where the security is incredibly safe.

“I was thinking, if I hang up they’ll just think that I dropped the call. And in that time, they’ll call me back and I will have verified that she’s at the school,” Gross said. “So I hung up. I was absolutely out of my mind. It was a miracle I didn’t have an accident.” 

She called the school, however, it wasn’t as simple as that; her daughter stayed late at a class, so the school couldn’t locate her. 

“So they kept calling back and I kept hanging up calling the school,” Gross said. “As the moments went by I became more and more terrified.”

Luckily, the virtual kidnappers didn’t have her daughter. But, it has become her mission to get the word out so other parents won’t have to endure what she has. She found out that it has become a billion dollar national scam.

She said, “Shouldn’t people know about this?”


Big truck crashes on Nyes causing massive five-car collision, barely missing a driver head on

On Tuesday, May 1 at 11:42 a.m., LBPD received a call about a traffic collision involving a large truck that occurred on Nyes Place. 

When they arrived on scene they found the formidable 14-foot box truck turned on its side. 

“A 14’ box truck crashed in the 200 block of Nyes Place causing a massive five-car and one-structure collision,” said Sgt Cota.

The truck was turned on its side, as seen in photos below. Traffic in the area was heavily congested for hours. Thankfully, there were only minor injuries for the two occupants.

The truck was loaded with debris, thankfully no chemicals. 

Longtime Laguna Beach resident Johnny Miller recounted what he saw from his residence, a 270-degree fishbowl view of what happened after the point of impact, a collision he said was close to being deadly.

“These guys were doing construction at South Street, they’ve been doing it a couple of days. Suddenly, I hear this big noise and I look out of the window and someone had just smashed into the construction guy’s car in a driveway and the truck rolled over,” Miller said. 

He couldn’t believe his eyes.

“It was like watching a Hollywood movie. I didn’t think cars actually did that. This huge truck rolled over,” Miller said. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of LBPD PIO Twitter Page

Big truck hammers, hits a car, flips on its side and careens going sideways nearly hitting the driver straight on

After seeing what happened, he put the pieces together. 

Miller surmised that the semi-truck’s brakes went out at the very top of the hill at Nyes Place.

 “I guess on the way down, he smashed into a parked car and pushed it off the road. He totally plowed into it; the back end was totally off,” Miller said. “He kept going, plowed into the car down the hill that was parked in the driveway of the construction guy, rolled over, and then another car came out as soon as he rolled over.”

He said another car was coming up from under the tunnel at Victoria Place underneath Coast highway.

“The side of the truck hit the front of the car. If he hadn’t rolled over and kept going straight, he would have plowed straight into the driver’s side door and killed him,” Miller said. 

Miller said the driver was lucky the truck rolled over, instead of being seriously injured or worse.

Immediately everybody ran over to help the victim get out.

“They had to climb on the truck and open the driver’s side door and pull him out from the top of the truck to get him out,” Miller said. “And then the EMT’s came and like four police cars and firetrucks.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Johnny Miller

Big truck causes a big scare after plowing down Nyes Place taking out five cars and a structure

He said it all happened really fast. 

“I’m lucky I turned my head when I heard it, otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen it turn over,” Miller said. “I go, whoa, that was weird and it was really loud.”

He said that it took about three hours to figure out how to haul away the big truck, “I mean there were four tow trucks towing it.”


Driver plows down a cement wall near beach entry 

On the evening of Tuesday, May 1, a driver in a black Toyota Prius pulled over and was taking a break from driving for some chill time at the 100 block of Moss Street and Ocean Way.

The driver tried to stretch inside the vehicle to get comfortable. “While stretching, he took his foot off the brake, believing the vehicle was in park,” said Sgt Cota. “The vehicle started rolling forward and he could not react quick enough to break.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of LBPD PIO Twitter Page

A driver accidentally drove through this concrete wall on Tuesday

Thankfully, there were no reported injuries, other than the 8-foot wall.

Police Files

Running a red light on foot at 3:15 a.m. on Cinco de Mayo while stashing meth is not a good idea

On Saturday, May 5 at 3:15 a.m., a Laguna Beach Police Department officer made a pedestrian stop after seeing two males cross the street against a red light at Laguna Avenue and South Coast Highway.

The males were identified as Jordan Escobar, 25, and Juana Hernandez-Perez, 30, both of San Clemente.

LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said, “LBPD found out that both men had warrants for their arrest. Escobar had an OC warrant for drug charges ($5,000) and Hernandez-Perez had an OC warrant for vehicle code violations ($2,500).”

According to Sgt Cota, both men were taken into custody and were admonished about the additional charge if any contraband was brought into the jail. 

“Once inside the jail, a jailer observed a white piece of paper protruding from Escobar’s buttocks. Escobar claimed it was nothing. A strip search was conducted and revealed that inside the paper was 4.4 grams methamphetamine worth about $350,” said Sgt Cota.

 A felony charge was added to Escobar’s initial warrant charge, and both subjects were transported to OC Jail. Bail was set at $25,000 for Escobar.


Hit by a car, motorcyclist ends up in the hospital 

On Saturday, May 5 at 12:58 p.m., officers were dispatched to a traffic collision with injuries involving a vehicle and a motorcycle at South Coast Highway and Ocean Avenue. The motorcycle was down. Officers blocked three lanes of traffic at the intersection, two northbound lanes of Coast Highway and one southbound lane.


Click on photos for larger images

Courtesy of Marshall Aren/Angela Russick

A motorcyclist went down and ended up in the ER after a traffic collision on Saturday

“The motorcycle rider was transported to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach with orientation concerns due to head trauma,” said Sgt Cota. “Traffic was impacted for approximately 40 minutes. The driver of the vehicle was placed at fault.”


Not your ordinary Joe, LBPD saddened by passing of former LBPD Police Chief Joseph Kelly at age 99

On LBPD’s Facebook page this week, the team expressed their grief after the loss of one of their own, Joseph Kelly, former LBPD Police Chief, 1971 to 1973.

“Members of the Laguna Beach Police Department are sadden (sic) by the passing of former Chief of Police Joseph Kelly at age 99. Chief Kelly lived a life as a public servant, first as a Marine where he retired in 1970 as a Colonel, and then as a Chief of Police in both the cities of Laguna Beach and Tustin. Thank you for your service! #RIP.”

Joseph John Kelly, age 99, Col., U.S.M.C. Ret., passed away May 1, 2018 in Laguna Woods. 

Kelly was born June 1, 1918, in the Bronx, N.Y., the son of Joseph Francis and Selma Kelly. He attended Fordham Prep in the Bronx and graduated in February, 1935 at age 16. Joe enlisted in the Marines in January, 1942, beginning a 28-year career both in enlisted and officer’s positions. 

He married the former Patricia Ann O’Connor on September 5, 1942. They were married 57 years, raising a family of nine children that eventually grew to18 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of LBPD Facebook 

Former LBPD Police Chief Joe Kelly, who cracked down on the drug epidemic during his tenure in the early ‘70s, passed away on May 1 at age 99

During his tenure as LBPD Police Chief, Kelly (along with his predecessor, LBPD Chief Neil Purcell) was known for cracking down on drugs in Laguna Beach.

Police Files

Not this time: Virtual kidnapping scam is thwarted

For over three consecutive weeks, several women in Laguna have been targeted in a virtual kidnapping scam, a billion-dollar crime that’s sweeping the country. 

On Monday, May 7 at 3 p.m., LBPD received a call from a woman reporting that she was threatened with the virtual kidnapping scam.

“It was another kidnapping scam but was unsuccessful,” said LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota.

The woman who reported the attempted crime does not have kids, so she did not fall for the scam. 

“She knew about the scam from the LBPD warnings,” said Sgt Cota.

Thanks should go out to our helpful and proactive police department for getting the word out about this growing cyber crime.

In most cases, the best course of action is to hang up the phone and call 9-1-1.

For more tips and information, contact Sgt Cota at (949) 497-0701 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Asleep at the wheel with a foot on the brake still equals a DUI

On Tuesday, May 8 at 7:42 p.m., what started out as a welfare check did not fare well for a Mission Viejo man who was reportedly found passed out behind the wheel of his car at the 200 Block of Broadway Street.

When LBPD officers arrived on scene, Vincent Lee Daugherty, 30, was reportedly slumped in the driver’s seat of his black Honda Accord. He was parked east bound on Broadway Street in close proximity to a local liquor store. 

“A male was passed out inside his vehicle with the vehicle in drive and his foot on the brake,” said Sgt Cota.

“He was contacted and a DUI investigation was conducted,” Cota said. “He was arrested and this was his second DUI.” 

Because the suspected DUI was Daugherty’s second, bail was set at $10,000

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