Police Files

Caught red-handed at Cleo: teamwork by cops leads to arrest of man who burgled local businesses

Reed Swingley, 54, of Sun City, thought he’d just, you know, swing by Laguna Beach last Sunday – but it turns out that it isn’t such a good idea for a suspected criminal to revisit the scene of a crime.

Especially with stolen goods inside his truck.

“During the first two weeks of July, we investigated three separate commercial burglaries and a residential burglary,” Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson, told Stu News Laguna. “The businesses included Mozambique Restaurant, Tortilla Republic and an architecture business downtown.”

Items stolen included a safe, a large amount of cash, an antique saxophone and a bronze statue.

According to Sgt. Cota, a review of surveillance video from one of the businesses, as well as the residence, identified a person of interest and a suspect vehicle. 

Then, on Sunday July 16 at approximately 5 p.m., LBPD officers learned that suspect vehicle was seen in the city. 

Patrol officers located the vehicle and initiated a high-risk traffic stop on Coast Highway and Cleo.

“This arrest was a true team effort by both Patrol Officers and Detectives. Patrol handled the high-risk stop and detectives took over the investigation. Truly a combined effort,” Sgt Cota notes.     

The vehicle driver, 54-year-old Reed Swingley of Sun City, was detained after officers saw what they believed to be some of the stolen property from these burglaries inside the truck. 

Swingley was arrested for burglary, possession of stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, as well as other theft related charges. He was booked at the Laguna Beach Jail and transported to Orange County Jail. 

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation should call the Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701.

And the day before, our cops had a red-letter day at Ruby’s

Despite working countless overtime hours on a spate of criminal activity and high risk vehicle stops in Laguna Beach – stops often initiated by sharp-eyed cops noticing a stolen vehicle cruising through our town – 25 LBPD police officers took the time to raise an astonishing and wonderful record-breaking $46,000 to support the Special Olympics, working alongside 12 athletes from Laguna Hills Hawks to serve customers at Ruby’s Diner on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Jennifer Mills, who manages volunteer and special events for the Special Olympics, was quoted as saying that “law enforcement usually raises about $5,000.”

Laguna’s police officers earned nine times as much. 

Thursday chase ended with crash on Wave Street

Last Thursday, Newport Beach Police pursued a driver heading south along Coast Highway. At 5:28 p.m., Casey Adamczyk, 28, of Corona del Mar, who was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon, crashed into a power pole at Wave Street.

Click on photo for a larger image

Reader Scott Methvin submitted this photo of the dramatic crash

Laguna Beach PD officers responded and assisted with the investigation. Adamczyk was arrested by Newport Beach PD and taken back to their PD for booking.


Police Files

Former employee Christine Black embezzles $65,000 from Laguna Nursery

On March 17, 2016, Economic Crimes Detectives opened a fraud investigation into a former employee of Laguna Nursery, who was accused of embezzling money from the business. 

“The year-long investigation revealed that Christine Black, 47, issued checks to herself and reported the checks as payments for various vendors,” Sgt Cota, LBPD spokesperson. 

Black embezzled more than $65,000, Sgt Cota added. 

The investigation also revealed Black was on probation for a similar case in Rockingham County, North Carolina. In that case, she embezzled approximately $100,000. 

On July 5, Black pled guilty to 38 felony counts of forgery and identity theft in Harbor Court. She was sentenced to 16 months in jail, restitution, and is scheduled to be extradited to North Carolina at the conclusion of this case. 

“This case is yet another reminder that when you victimize small business owners and innocent people in our city, the Laguna Beach Police Department will investigate it thoroughly and bring in the resources necessary to work toward successful prosecution of the case,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD Investigations Division. 

The case was prosecuted by Senior Deputy District Attorney, Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit. 

Looking for someone to talk to? Don’t call 911

On Tuesday, July 11, officers received a call from a man reporting a domestic violence incident. 

Unfortunately for him, there was no such incident.

“He made up the call to have officers respond so he could have ‘someone to talk to,’” explained Sgt. Jim Cota. “He was advised that this was misuse of 911.”

The man, Brennan Afrasiabi, 19, Laguna Beach, was arrested for misusing 911. But that wasn’t the end of it for him.

“During the booking process, he became aggressive and caused a disturbance in the jail,” said Cota. “He spat in the face of the jailer.”

Afrasiabi was subsequently charged with using violence to resist officers and was transported to Orange County Jail. 

 Snake too cool to move 

On Saturday, July 8, at 11:45 a.m., a man with a zipper cooler bag entered the library and went to the computers. 

Inside that cooler bag was a live rattlesnake.

Rattlesnake perp pic, courtesy the Internet. Not the actual perpetrator

“The man intended to sell it at the city library,” explained Sgt. Jim Cota. “He was also in possession of methamphetamine.”

The man, Robert Holsinger, 57, Santa Ana, was cited for possession of methamphetamine and possession of a feral/exotic animal. 


Police Files

Parolee on a rampage drives vehicle onto crowded Main Beach sidewalk

Israel Chavez resists arrest, attempts to shove officer into traffic, spits, is tased; police find an eight-year-old girl in the vehicle

Last Sunday evening at 7:21 p.m., LBPD received multiple reports of a possible DUI driver and a vehicle on Coast Highway swerving dangerously in and out of traffic, at one point almost hitting a bicyclist. 

“An officer observed the vehicle making an illegal left turn from northbound Coast Highway onto the 100 block of Laguna Ave,” Sgt Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson told Stu News. 

“The driver then turned onto El Paseo, hit a parked car, and continued north. He drove onto the cobblestones at Main Beach, then over the grass area, across the sidewalk, which was crowded with pedestrians. It’s amazing that no one was injured.”

The driver, later identified as Israel Chavez, 39, of El Monte, headed south on Coast Highway. Police officers caught up with him near Third Ave on PCH and conducted a high-risk car stop. Officers learned that Chavez was on parole for carjacking,

“Chavez showed signs of alcohol intoxication. He exited the vehicle as requested by officers but then became increasingly uncooperative, attempting to shove the officers back into the traffic,” Sgt Cota says. “Officers were shocked to see that there was an eight-year-old girl seated in the right rear passenger seat.”

Chavez challenged officers to fight and spat at one of them, becoming increasingly combative.

“An officer deployed his Taser. After a struggle on the ground, with Chavez kicking and trying to twist away, officers were able to handcuff him but he continued to fight,” Sgt Cota said.

OC Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene to assist and Chavez was finally put in the back of a patrol car. A spit mask was used to prevent him spitting at the officers.

Chavez was taken to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach for a medical clearance. After being cleared, he was taken straight to Orange County Jail and booked on charges of violating his parole, fighting/resisting officers, and child endangerment.

The child was released to her mother and grandmother. 

Chavez, the LBPD has learned, is not the child’s biological father.


Police Files

Sometimes a suitcase is just a suitcase…

Sometimes a suitcase is a just a suitcase, but these days nothing is certain. On Monday, July 3 at 12:18 p.m., a concerned citizen reported seeing a suitcase locked to a stop sign at Temple Hills Drive & Alta Laguna Boulevard. 

“Due to the suspicious nature, the bomb squad was called,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “They responded and determined the suitcase was not a dangerous device, but it was destroyed during their investigation.”

Officers are not sure how long the new looking suitcase had been there.

…but sometimes, a cell phone is actually a knife

On the evening of Sunday, July 2, officers responded to the 300 block of Y Place after a resident said his neighbor had threatened him with the 12” hunting knife he had in his hand.

“The suspect stated he did not have a knife, but only his cell phone in his hand,” said Sgt. Jim Cota of the LBPD. “A video recording proved otherwise.” The video showed the suspect making threats with the knife in his hand. 

Martin Edens, 53, Laguna Beach, was arrested for criminal threats and brandishing a knife. He was held with $50,000 bail. 

 

DUI saturation patrols will be on the streets this weekend between 5 p.m. & 3 a.m.

Officers from the Laguna Beach Police Department’s DUI Enforcement Team will be deploying this weekend to stop and arrest alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in the Department’s ongoing traffic safety campaign. 

DUI Saturation Patrols will deploy Friday, July 7 & Sat, July 8, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. in areas with high frequencies of DUI collisions and/or arrests. 

When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving, which now accounts for a growing number of impaired driving crashes. Studies of California drivers have shown that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had one or more drugs in their systems. 

If you are impaired by drugs or alcohol, hand over your keys or get a ride home

Everyone should be mindful that if you’re taking medication – whether prescription or over-the-counter – drinking even small amounts of alcohol can greatly intensify the impairment affects. Law Enforcement emphasizes the preventable nature of drunk driving, reminding everyone that all it takes is a little planning ahead. 

Drivers caught driving impaired can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to include jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes, license suspensions and other expenses that can exceed $10,000 not to mention the embarrassment when friends and family find out. 

Funding for this DUI operation is provided to the Laguna Beach Police Department by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Driving – Call 9-1-1.

For further information, contact Lieutenant Tim Kleiser at (949) 464-6655 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Police Files

Sunday sees a rash of crime in Laguna and plenty of arrests: LBPD warns residents to be vigilant

Early Sunday morning at 5:09 a.m., LBPD foiled a burglary and made two arrests for possession of stolen items, burglary tools and meth.

At 12:35 p.m. police officers took four people into custody, two of them charged with grand theft and conspiracy to commit a crime.

At 4:45 p.m., police officers pursued a man in a stolen car who tried to escape arrest by gunning his car toward police officers, who then fired two shots, which didn’t stop the car thief – but the man, identified as Richard Lewis, 54, was cornered not long after and captured near the high school. 

Details about all three incidents are contained below.

Car thief arrested in residents’ backyard after shots fired

“Police officers began a pursuit of a silver Toyota Corolla suspected to have been stolen in Palm Springs the previous day,” Sgt Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson said. “The driver turned into the 100 block of Thalia, which dead-ends at the beach. Police officers attempted to block his exit route with their cruisers but the man did a sharp U-turn and aimed his car in their direction.

“A female had jumped out - we later determined she wanted no part of it. 

“One of the officers, as the car headed toward him, feared for his and his partner’s life and the safety of people on Coast Highway, so he fired two shots.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut 

Police cars line Thalia

The shots didn’t stop the car thief, later identified as Richard Lewis, 54, a parolee at large wanted on an outstanding no-bail warrant, who then drove toward Cuprien Way. 

A police helicopter circled above the area near the high school, warning people to stay in their homes and be on the lookout for a man in his fifties with a moustache, wearing a plaid shirt.

“The suspect abandoned the vehicle on the 600 block of Cuprien and was cornered in a backyard on Glomstad Lane after jumping fences,” Cota said.

Cota says once in custody, the man complained that his leg hurt, “Not surprising after jumping all those fences,” Cota commented.

Resident Kay Metis said, “We were in the epicenter of helicopter circle with the suspect ultimately apprehended 100 yards from our home. We had ordered a pizza from Gina’s Pizza and they called us back to tell us there was an “active shooting” and they couldn’t get to our home.”

Metis added, “It was a harrowing time for a bit but Laguna Beach pulls together in these rare moments which ultimately results in a feeling of safety.”

(And Gina’s Pizza delivered as soon as the commotion died down, Metis adds…)

Sgt Cota noted, “LBPD will be handling the investigation as the DA’s office won’t get involved because there were no injuries. The OC Sheriff and Newport Beach PD helped out, in a great example of community collaboration.”

Getaway car doesn’t get suspects away

Earlier, at 12:35 p.m., officers responded to citizens’ calls about a theft from Robin’s Jean at 264 Forest Ave. The suspects had grabbed several pairs of jeans and other items and were running toward the US Bank parking lot. 

LBPD booking photos

A waiting car, a white BMW, picked them up and headed south on Glenneyre. Officers located the vehicle after a short pursuit when the BMW turned on Cress. A high-risk vehicle stop ensued. 

Four people were detained. Joshua Hoover, 20, of Inglewood and Jodan Hongocollins, 18, of Los Angeles were charged with grand theft and conspiracy to commit a crime; Maasai Lopez, 21, on a count of petty theft; and charges are pending for Laneice Barnes, who had a stolen ID in her possession. 

U-Haul contains oddly-dressed thieves and their haul

Earlier on Sunday at 5:09 a.m. a resident called to report a white U-Haul with back doors wide open on the 400 block of Panorama Drive.  

“Something seemed suspicious about the vehicle and the RP was correct, there was something not right at all,” Sgt Jim Cota said “Thank goodness for alert residents.”

Inside the vehicle, LBPD patrol officers found a man, 33, and a woman, 23, both dressed oddly - he wore a firefighter’s outfit and she was dressed in some kind of emergency worker’s gear. 

Officers found meth and a meth pipe inside the vehicle, along with burglary tools - and plenty of stolen goods, including clothing and firefighting gear that had been stolen from an out-of-town firefighter staying at a local hotel.

LA resident Travis Alexander, 33, and Buena Park resident Robin Griffin, 23, were arrested for possession of stolen items, burglary tools and meth; in addition, Griffin was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, a felony.

Detectives are combing through the property to identify which items have been reported stolen.

“We stopped a residential burglary about to take place,” Sgt Cota tells Stu News. “I can’t say enough about the patrol officers who did a great job and the residents who were doing exactly what we ask everyone to do - if you see something, say something. They deserve huge credit. That’s pretty awesome to be willing to get up and do something at that time of the morning.”

How Laguna residents can help

Sgt. Cota adds:

“The citizens of Laguna Beach need to be vigilant. We have terrific residents and the more they help the better off we all are. The Laguna Beach Police Department needs your support and backing as we take on people who come into the city to commit crimes,” he said on Monday as he detailed the crimes for Stu News Laguna. 

“We are prepared for any event or incident that they may bring. Laguna Beach and surrounding cities have changed over the years and that’s not the fault of Laguna or the citizens, it’s that society has changed and criminals head to specific cities for opportunities. 

“The Laguna Beach Police Department is committed 100 percent to its citizens and the people who come to this city on vacation or to just spend the day.”          

--Lynette Brasfield


Police Files

Man eats meth – or tries to

On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., a concerned caller reported fears that an angry man might attempt to vandalize her vehicle. The man had threatened the RP that “he’d tear the whole place up if she called the police,” according to the police log.

Officers arrived at the 300 block of Broadway Street and detained Ralph Francis Bowers III, 47, Huntington Beach, who “attempted to swallow a baggie of methamphetamine in front of them,” said Sgt. Jim Cota.

Unfortunately for Bowers, the arresting officer was a former narcotics detective and identified the drugs.

Bowers was ultimately arrested for possession of a controlled substance, resisting officers, and parole violation.

Even death certificate is stolen in document burglary

On Monday afternoon, a resident in the 1200 block of Brangwyn Way came home to discover someone had been in his home and had gone through personal items. 

Amongst the missing items were a $1,000 camera lens, various CDs, a jar of change, an antique camera, prescription sleeping pills, and a filing container with auto insurance documents, birth certificates, vaccine records, and more.

A neighbor reported seeing a woman on the property in search of the victim, but it is not clear if this is related. 

Remember, if you see something, say something – you could prevent a crime.


Police Files

Stalker sneaks into Laguna home, wakes resident, is arrested

Laguna Beach Police Officers responded to a residence after one of the occupants awoke to find a man in her room. He was identified as 28-year-old Gregory Murray of Laguna Beach, someone that the occupant’s sister, who lives in the same home, dated for just a few few months back in 2015. 

Since that time, Murray reportedly sent more than 150 harassing emails to the woman he’d dated, as well as threatening text messages and messages over social media to the victim and members of her family, as recently as March 2017.    

When LBPD officers interviewed Murray on June 23 at his home, he confessed to stalking. He was arrested without incident for stalking, criminal threats and burglary. He was booked into Orange County Jail where he is being held on $50,000 bail.  

“The Laguna Beach Police Department encourages victims of domestic violence to report incidents to local law enforcement,” said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota. “Call the Laguna Beach Police Department or The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).” 


Police Files

ID theft suspect is ID’d, still being sought

Detective Jordan Mirakian, financial crimes, who was a key part of the investigative team leading to federal charges being brought against Laguna embezzler Elizabeth Mulder, is currently working on another case of identity theft/check fraud that occurred at the Bank of America in Laguna Beach. (Mulder will be sentenced October 16 and is facing 23 years in prison.)

“Seems things are getting quite interesting,” according to Detective Sergeant Jim Cota, who says that tips from the public have been a great help. 

Det Mirakian says he’s ID’d the suspect, but added, “I don’t know if she knows that yet. She has an open case from the Sheriff’s Department, similar circumstances, so I am working with the District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Department to prosecute that case with our case. She seems to be living out of motels so finding her may be a bit tricky, but we will eventually find her.”

 

Do you know this man?

LBPD needs residents’ help in identifying the man in this photo. Call them at 949-497-0370 if you recognize him. 

“He was captured on video surveillance stealing two, 2016 Commencal Meta Trail Ride 650B mountain bikes from the Aliso Creek Golf Course back in mid-May,” Cota said. “The bikes are orange and black and are estimated to have a value of $2,200 per bike.”  LBPD are hoping that this photo will help them nab the thief.


Man says he doesn’t feel well, likely feels worse after cops arrive

Braden Bolton, 38, walked into Brussels Bistro on Forest Ave on June 18 complaining that he was not feeling well. 

He no doubt felt even worse a little while later after making threatening gestures and statements and finding himself under arrest for being drunk in public and resisting arrest. Bail was set at $20,000.

 

How to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft

To prevent identity theft happening to you, Det Mirakian offers these five key tips:

Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online. 

Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home for several days. 

Review your receipts. Promptly compare receipts with account statements.

Watch for unauthorized transactions.

Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.

Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work.

“I’d say the most important tip I have is shredding documents and regularly checking your mail for credit offers,” Mirakian says. “We have seen an uptick in mail theft and identity thieves have been known to dig through trash to find important ID information.  

“Identities are sold person to person for a value nowadays, so it’s incredibly important to avoid leaving personal information on paperwork or other applications without shredding it first.”


Police Files

IRS scammers are at it again

Be wary of phone calls from individuals who claim to be from the IRS. A recent Laguna Beach victim provided $2,600 worth of Walmart gift cards to callers who said they were from the IRS.

Often, these phone calls are accompanied by threats of imprisonment. 

According to the IRS website, the IRS “does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuit, imprisonment or other enforcement action.” In addition, the IRS will not ask for gift cards or other prepaid cards.

If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of a phone call, hang up and find and call the agency’s official phone number. Or, contact a tax professional. 

 

Man mugged off Coast Hwy

At 5:15 on Saturday morning, an Uber driver picked up a fare in the 31100 block of Coast Hwy and took the man to Mission Hospital. 

The driver reported that his rider had been beaten up by another man. His wallet with $140 in cash, a driver’s license and a debit card was stolen. 

No suspect information was available.


Police Files

Robbery arrest made at Husky Boy Burgers

At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14, officers received a call that a robbery had just occurred at the Mobil gas station in the 100 block of N. Coast Hwy. 

“Four suspects entered the gas station and took beverages from the store,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “When they were confronted by the sales clerk, one of the four struck him in the face and took his cell phone. They fled in a Chevy Camaro.” The crime was captured on surveillance video.

An immediate area search was conducted and the suspect vehicle was located at the Husky Boy Burgers parking lot. Inside the vehicle were four juveniles and one adult, all from San Bernardino County. The four juveniles were taken into custody; one of them (the main aggressor) was charged with Robbery, Theft, and Assault.

According to Emergency Operations Coordinator of the LBPD, Jordan Villwock, at no time did the police department believe the community was at risk. 

Detectives identify individuals responsible for rash of vehicle burglaries

On June 3, LBPD Officers responded to multiple vehicle burglary reports throughout North Laguna Beach. LBPD Detectives were called in to assist with the investigation. During their follow-up two suspects were identified in the case, Rachel Alvarez and Johnny Cervantez.

LBPD booking photos

Rachel Alvarez and Johnny Cervantez

On June 8, LBPD Detectives went to the City of Redlands and interviewed Alvarez, and she confessed to her involvement in the burglaries and relinquished the stolen property in her possession. The stolen property included a laptop that belonged to a schoolteacher, which contained the only copy of her student’s grades.  

Alvarez and Cervantez were booked for possession of stolen property, drug, and theft related charges. Alvarez has already plead guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, three years of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution. 

This investigation is ongoing, and LBPD Detectives are still pursuing additional suspects in this case. 

“In almost all of these cases, the victims left their vehicles unlocked. Crooks enjoy the path of least resistance, and it is much easier to target victims who do not protect their property. The best way to prevent crimes of opportunity is to secure your belongings and hide valuables from the public view,” said Captain Jeff Calvert.

Anyone with information related to this case is encouraged to contact Sergeant Jim Cota at (949) 464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . To submit tips anonymously, please contact Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS or 855-847-6227. You can also reach Crime Stoppers online at www.crimestoppers.org.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

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