Good news: they found your lost wallet and bad news: you’re going to jail for a felony

A Good Samaritan stopped by Laguna Beach Fire Station 2 on Agate Street Tuesday morning to turn in a found woman’s wallet. Following protocol, the firefighters called police and handed over the wallet for safekeeping.

Looking through the wallet for ID to reunite it with its owner, police looked twice at some documents that it had contained.

“We came across a Mexican Matricula Consular ID card that turned out to be fake,” remarked LBPD Lt. Jason Kravetz. Police also found a business card.

“We called the place of employment and it didn’t take much to conclude that things weren’t on the up and up.”

Police arrested Silvia Trujillo-Delgado, 29 of Dana Point, for a felony charge of possessing/obtaining a false ID card in another person’s name with the intent to defraud. Bail for the charge was $20,000.

Kravetz said she also had used a fake social security number and had obtained California health care services under the fake name.

Police will continue the investigation and consideration of other charges.

Pay point machines on both levels of the City’s Glenneyre parking structure burglarized – twice in eight days causing $35 K replacement costs

The pay point machines in the Glenneyre parking structures were broken into in the wee hours of the past two Sundays. The culprit(s) got away with less than $1000 in cash and coins smashing the machine on the upper lot once and the lower lot twice.

LBPD Sgt. Bob Rahaeuser said last Thursday that the cost to replace the machines after the incidents on Sunday the 17th had totaled $24,000 with $700 taken.

The police log for this past Sunday (July 24) included a 5:45 a.m. incident report stating that the machine on the lower lot had been smashed with a loss of $225 and $11,000 damage. That makes the damage total $35,000 in eight days.

A police source said they know what type of tool had been used and that they will soon have deterrents in place to avoid another incident. What those deterrents are was not disclosed.

Ed. Note: $35,000 is an amount that is about equal to the cost of the July 4 fireworks

Parking rage at Aliso: two wrongs – no rights

That ain’t right – and neither is that.

That is the viewpoint that could be easily taken of both sides of a potentially dangerous situation at Aliso Beach early Saturday afternoon.

US Ocean Safety lifeguards called for police assistance after a beachgoer told them that there was a dispute over a parking spot on the beach side of the Aliso parking lots. Lifeguards soon informed police that a woman and her son were standing in a parking spot and the driver of a burgundy Infinity had “tapped them” with his car.

When officers arrived, they were told that the mother and son had still stood their ground to apparently claim that parking spot as their own despite the “tapping” and that the driver of the Infinity had tapped them a second time.

The male driver had parked (it isn’t known if he got the parking spot wanted by both sides) and was at the beach when police arrived. Lifeguards and cops contacted him and both sides were questioned.

After a discussion and interviews, the woman said she didn’t wish to prosecute.

A police source not authorized to speak on the situation offered this suggestion. “Both of these adults were in the wrong. Even if the guy didn’t mean to tap the boy and his mother, he can’t pull in that close to them and no matter what, when whoever she was waiting for hadn’t arrived before someone else was dead set on parking in that spot, she needed to get on the sidewalk.”

The source also pointed out that police cannot make an arrest for misdemeanors without actually seeing the offense or having the suspect admit to the offense.

“If the boy had been even slightly injured, it’s possible that both the driver and the kid’s mother could have been arrested for felony child endangerment.”

Play miniature golf with one of Laguna’s finest and support Crime Survivors on July 24

The Laguna Beach Police Employees Association (LBPEA) is participating in Crime Survivors’ Miniature Gold Fundraiser on Sunday, July 24, 2011 at Boomers in Irvine.

LBPEA president Larry Bammer said, “We are looking for participants of all ages to golf with us.  All are welcome and individuals or couples or business associates would be paired in fouresomes with two of our LBPEA members for an afternoon of miniature golf and fun.

“The idea of Laguna residents and business owners coming together on the same teams as our members to support such a worthwhile cause excites me.  Crime Survivors’ mission is to ensure the public knows victims’ rights and needs, and to provide resources, support and information to empower crime victims to survive and thrive.  Their vision is for victims of crime to recover from their experience mentally, physically, emotionally and financially, by receiving respect, support, and protection from law enforcement, the judicial system and community.”

The cost is $25 per person and includes the golf tournament, silent auction, opportunity drawing, awards and plenty of fun! LBPEA is also seeking silent auction donation. The event is from 1-4 p.m.

For more information on Crime Survivors visit

Grab and run robbery ends poorly for pair

An employee of Sirous and Son Rug Gallery downtown showed a robbery suspect from Riverside that crime doesn’t pay Thursday afternoon.

Riley Kyle Higgins, 20, and Gary Thomas Finley, 38, both of Riverside, sauntered into the rug store in the 200 block of Ocean Ave early yesterday afternoon and thought they saw an easy mark – an employee’s wallet was sitting on the counter.

Lt. Jason Kravetz said a preliminary investigation reveals that Higgins grabbed the wallet and the two men ran out of the store. The employee raced after them and was able to take the 20-year-old to the ground. They apparently wrestled until the employee grabbed the wallet. He returned to the store as Higgins and Finley ran off.

Officers captured Higgins on Main Beach and took Finley into custody nearby within a few minutes.

Sgt. Bob Rahaeuser explained the charges against the pair. “Finley was arrested for robbery with priors and a no bail parole warrant. He was a parole at large until today. Higgins was also charged with robbery and being under the influence of methamphetamine as well as possession of drug paraphernalia.”

Police said the amount of money in the wallet was not immediately known.

“You can’t do that…” Woman heard that from two police agencies then came to Laguna Beach

An unidentified woman was apparently bound and determined to report her VW Jetta as a stolen car Thursday night. She told Laguna police that the white four-door 2011 Jetta had been stolen from the area of Laguna Ave and Ramona at about 7:30.

Police followed procedure and once it was assured that the car had not been towed for a parking violation or had become a repossession, police completed the required paperwork to enter the stolen car into the statewide computer database.

One item required is a CHP form. Sgt. Joe Torres explained that those who report a stolen vehicle are required to sign the form after being read the language on it that says it is illegal to make a false stolen vehicle report. The woman signed the form.

Once the information was put into the statewide computer, police learned that the Downey Police Dept and the OC Sheriff’s Dept had both requested a vehicle profile earlier in the day. Laguna police contacted those agencies and learned that the woman had also been to both attempting to file a stolen report of the Jetta.

“She had told Downey and the Sheriff’s Dept that she had loaned the car to a friend who hadn’t returned it. She also said she’d heard that the Jetta was damaged. They both explained to her that she can’t do that – it isn’t a stolen car if you’ve loaned it to a friend,” Sgt. Torres said.

Apparently the woman had figured out what not to say by the time she called the Laguna Beach PD.

“We will refer the investigation to the DA for filing by complaint. She would be charged with knowingly filing a false police report.”

Girl, 22, has quick crime spree end quickly

Police corporal Tony White was working this past Saturday evening on bicycle patrol in the downtown area. About 6:45, he spotted a barefoot woman in jeans and a tank top running across Broadway against traffic and head up Beach Street toward Cliff Dr. Obviously, this was exactly the type of situation bike cops take care of…and White detained the woman in short order after she cut across a parking lot and was about to go up the stairs behind Broadway Liquor to Cliff Drive. She was identified as Huntington Beach resident Nicole Yakira, 22.

Nicole Yakira Photo

Booking photo courtesy LBPD

Nicole Yakira

Sgt. Joe Torres said that almost immediately after White began interviewing the woman, the police radio began broadcasting about a female suspect being sought for a vehicle burglary – a block away. Items that were missing according to the dispatcher were similar to ones White saw in the possession of Yakira.

Two minutes before, the owner of a business in the 300 block of Broadway had walked outside and seen a woman inside a white Saturn belonging to an employee. He went over to the woman with brown, wavy hair and told her to get out of the car. The woman instead gave him a hearty shove and he found himself on the ground as she took off running – across Broadway…and into the custody of corporal White.

Other calls began coming into the police dispatch center about thefts in the area. One was the owner of a Scion XB who had left the car unlocked and, strangely enough, someone had taken the purse that was in plain sight…and…a diaper.

Sgt. Torres said the suspect had been wearing a man’s plaid jacket when White stopped her. “She consented to having corporal White search the jacket and he found a passport inside. We contacted the man whose passport was there and he said he had given the jacket to one of our regulars in the downtown area.”

Another officer went to Main Beach and found the man who now owned the jacket and learned that his jacket had been stolen not long before. At least one other victim was located at the beach.

All in all, police know of four victims and all had their property stolen in a period of less than about fifteen minutes, police believe.

Yakira was charged with felony vehicle burglary and theft. Other charges were pending according to police. The burglary charge carries bail of $50,000. She was booked at the police station and later taken to Orange County Jail.

Crime in the OC is no different than what
we see on television

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s officer will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…

Drunken driver with .20 blood alcohol level sentenced to six years in prison for crashing into and killing bicyclist

July 8 – A drunken driver with a blood alcohol level almost three times the legal limit was sentenced today to six years in state prison for killing a man by crashing into him as he rode his bicycle home from work.

Michelle Nicole Stearns, 30, San Juan Capistrano, pleaded guilty to the court March 16, 2011, to one felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

At approximately 2 a.m. on Oct. 15, 2007, Stearns was driving in Dana Point while under the influence of alcohol. The defendant approached a curve in the road but failed to turn and instead drove onto the sidewalk and crashed into a street sign. Stearns’ vehicle began to spin and she struck victim Jose Barranco-Patino who bussed tables at a local restaurant and was on his way home from work. The defendant’s car then crashed into an electric box and came to a stop.

The Orange County Sherriff’s Department responded to the scene and contacted Stearns, who displayed objective signs of alcohol intoxication including bloodshot and watery eyes, unsteady balance, and emitting an odor of alcohol. She had a blood alcohol level of .20 percent, almost three times the legal limit.

Barranco-Patino suffered severe injuries to his head and brain and his body tissue was left on the road and sidewalk. Barranco-Patino was pronounced dead at the scene.

Deputy DA Nancy Hayashida of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.

Man faces trial for sexually assaulting woman while pretending to give acupressure therapy

July 8 – A man faces trial Monday for sexually assaulting a woman in his Santa Ana home under the pretense of performing acupressure therapy.

Thuan Van Nguyen, 56, Santa Ana, will be arraigned on an amended complaint for one misdemeanor count of sexual battery by fraud and two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

On July 3, 2010, 38-year-old Jane Doe went to the Nguyen’s Santa Ana home to receive acupressure therapy. The victim’s mother had met Nguyen at a pharmacy in Westminster and he is accused of claiming to be able to help her with her physical ailments by proving acupressure treatment.

Nguyen is accused of taking the victim into a bedroom, which contained no medical or massage equipment, and instructing Jane Doe to remove her shirt and lie on her stomach. He is accused of massaging the victim’s back and then beginning to rub her breasts. The startled victim got up and left the room.

Nguyen is accused of following Jane Doe and convincing her to return to the room by claiming that she will end up with arthritis and back problems if she did not complete her treatment. He is accused of having the victim lie on her back and continuing to sexually assault her by fondling her breasts and vaginal area and rubbing his pelvis against hers. The defendant is accused of telling Jane Doe that the touching was part of the treatment.

Jane Doe reported the sexual assault to the Santa Ana Police Department the following day. Deputy District Attorney Brad Schoenleben is prosecuting this case.

Additional charges filed against woman for shooting-murder of husband and attempted murder of 9 and 16-year-old sons

July 5 – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed additional charges today against a woman accused of murdering her husband and attempting to murder her 16 and 9-year-old sons in the family’s Tustin Ranch home.

Annamaria Magno Gana, 41, unincorporated Tustin, is now charged with one felony count each of special circumstances murder by lying in wait, two felony counts of attempted murder, and sentencing enhancements for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death and the personal discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury. If convicted, she faces a sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Gana is being held without bail.

At approximately 4:30 p.m. on May 8, 2011, Gana is accused of arming herself with a firearm and shooting a bullet into the ceiling of a bedroom in her Tustin Ranch home. When the defendant’s 72-year-old husband Antonio Potenciano Gana and their 16-year-old son John Doe #1 ran into the bedroom in response to the gunshot, Gana is accused of turning the firearm toward her husband and murdering him by shooting him in the chest.

The defendant is accused of intending to also murder her two sons. She is accused of shooting at John Doe #1 as he turned and attempted to escape from the bedroom. The victim was shot in the arm but was able to get out of the home and call 911 on his cell phone.

Gana’s other son, 9-year-old John Doe #2, witnessed his mother holding the firearm and was able to wrestle it away from her and take it outside.

The Orange County Sheriff’s department, who investigated this case, arrived at the scene and arrested Gana. She was transported to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries sustained while shooting the firearm.

The defendant’s two sons are currently in the care of a family member. Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Karen Harvey, police and fire dispatcher here for 30 years, retires – trained 31 dispatchers

The senior public safety dispatcher in Laguna Beach, Karen Prigge Harvey, is retiring after 33 years in emergency communications, 30 with Laguna Beach.

She will work for another year as a part-time employee after some time off traveling with her family for an annual reunion, which has happened in the same location for the past 30 years.

Harvey, 55, began as a dispatcher with the Cypress PD in 1977 then came to Laguna Beach from 1979-81 before working in Newport Beach until 1983. She came back to Laguna after that and has been here ever since. She has also had part-time stints with the Westminster and Tustin police departments.

“I have worked in five different cities,” she said. “Laguna Beach has had my heart – both residents and my co-workers.”

New Console Photo

25-year-old Karen with the new dispatch console installed in 1981

She was in the dispatch center (Laguna’s dispatchers handle both police and fire calls) during the three notable floods: 1995, 1997-98 and 2010, the 1993 Mystic Hills landslide, countless traffic pursuits, burglaries in process, fires and serious medical emergencies as well as every other call one can think of.

When people dial 9-1-1 with an emergency, dispatchers such as Harvey answer the call and are the first contact they have. Dispatchers are trained to handle certain types of medical emergencies and to instruct callers in fire or safety situations. But it is the innate sense and sensitivity that comes into play when callers are dealing with deep personal difficulties.

Until 2005, it wasn’t uncommon for only one dispatcher to be on duty handling the 9-1-1 callers (often multiple reports are made for fires, traffic crashes, etc.) and getting the responding units on the way. Today two or three dispatchers man the center at all times.

Karen Harvey PhotoWhen asked about the one incident where she feels she made a major difference, Harbey didn’t hesitate in describing a 1986 call when she was on duty by herself. “A caller complained about a reckless driver on Canyon Acres Drive. It was a routine call early in the morning and I sent two units. They didn’t find the vehicle and one radioed that he would be checking out into the canyon.” She explained that this would be a routine response for such calls.

“A few minutes later, one of the units said they were checking a possible match then all I heard was a click of a mic after that.” When calls to the units went unanswered, Harvey dispatched additional officers to assist. “When the first backup arrived, the two officers were wrestling on the ground with a suspect that turned out to be an escaped convict. He had grabbed one officer’s gun and fires shots at them. The backup officer was able to fire a shot that killed the escapee who had the gun and was trying to shoot the officers at close range.”

Harvey’s quick response to the clicking sound may have saved an officer’s life.

Friends, fellow employees and her husband Rex (an IT expert) will celebrate her 33 years in communications at Dave and Buster’s in the Irvine Spectrum Saturday July 16 from 3-8 p.m. Those who would like to attend are asked to RSVP to Laura Ulrich (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) by tomorrow.

Man, 23, struck by DUI driver at Aliso

Police said the victim was “severely injured”

A 23-year-old Los Angeles man was “severely injured” when he was struck from behind as he walked with friends along the shoulder of Coast Hwy on the inland side near Aliso Beach Park at 7:35 last evening. The impact sent the victim airborne onto the northbound lanes.

Lt. Jason Kravetz said another LA man, Michael David Ash, 31, was driving the vehicle that hit the victim. Ash was arrested for felony DUI causing great bodily injury and Kravetz said he had a prior conviction for DUI in 2005. Bail was set for Ash at $100,000.

The victim was in surgery late last night at Mission Trauma Center in Mission Viejo. His name has not been released.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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