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LAPD Operations-Valley Bureau and Operations-West Bureau successfully conduct seven search warrants on residence and business locations of stolen property fencing operators
Los Angeles: In early 2012, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) through its continual crime analysis noted that residential burglaries were spiking very early in the year. Specifically, Operations-West Bureau recorded an increase of over 36% in residential burglaries. Meanwhile, Operations-Valley Bureau noted an increase of nearly 10% in residential burglaries. With this degree of increase in residential burglaries, it was quickly observed that the crime reduction goals of the LAPD may not be met and worse, an increasing number of community members felt unsafe that their homes and valuables were not safe from intruders.
Further analysis determined that a unique Modus Operandi (MO) accounted for over 10% of the crimes committed. Specifically, homeowners and witnesses reported that in many instances the suspects would knock at the front door and await a response from inside. When there was no response, the suspects would either kick in the door or scout around the back of the home for an open door, window, or other easily accessible means to gain entry. Once inside, the suspects would ransack the most common locations within a home where jewelry and small electronics would be kept. Within a matter of minutes, the suspects would emerge with the victim’s property and flee in a getaway car.
As time and crime analysis continued, it was recognized that many of the same suspects that were committing their crimes in Operations-West Bureau were also striking in Operations-Valley Bureau.
As a result of this specific MO and the shared identities of known suspects preying on the same communities, the “Knock-Knock Task Force” was formed in March, 2012, by the Commanding Officers of Operations-West and Operations-Valley Bureaus with the approval of the Chief of Police.
As the task force developed and fine tuned its operations and gathered information, it became apparent that the suspects would quickly seek out a “fence” in order to exchange the victim’s gold jewelry for cash. In many instances, these transactions would be completed within an hour of the crime being committed.
On-going surveillance efforts and monitoring of these suspects led the LAPD to two business locations within the 700 Block of South Broadway, under the business names of Fine Silver Max’s Jewelry and Guadalajara’s Jewelry in downtown Los Angeles. Time and time again, burglary and armed robbery suspects were observed engaging in hasty transactions in which they entered the store with a handful of gold jewelry and reemerged with money.
It should be noted that within the City of Los Angeles, second hand shops and pawn shops are required by law to obtain a fingerprint and record a form of identification when conducting transactions of personal property in exchange cash payments. Throughout the course of this investigation, employees of these businesses were never observed obtaining a fingerprint or recording identification information during their exchanges. This disregard for the established State laws had the result of fueling more burglaries as suspects knew they could exchange gold for cash with “no questions asked.”
As the LAPD began to investigate these business owners, it was apparent that they were overseeing a criminal enterprise and were likely involved in a variety of crimes to include receiving stolen property, suspected tax evasion, and identity theft. Of particular note, the investigation determined that the owner of Fine Silver Max’s Jewelry obtained the social security number of an unrelated juvenile who resides in the Midwest and was using her identity for a variety of activities to secure credit and further his business activities.
As a result, around 10:00 a.m. this morning, detectives and police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department in conjunction with Special Agents from the Immigration Control and Enforcement Service and Internal Revenue Service served simultaneous arrest and search warrants on the homes and businesses of these fence operators.
The owner of Fine Silver Max’s Fine Jewelry, located at 700 block of South Broadway, Ismael Monje, was taken into custody at his business without incident. Monje was questioned and booked on multiple counts of felony identity theft.
Mr. Monje was also identified as the owner and operator of two adjacent businesses, Fine Silver Max Jewelry/Discos Barba Azul, located at 600 block of South Broadway, and Max One Electronics located at 700 block of South Broadway. All three of Mr. Monje’s businesses were searched and all property was seized as potential evidence. Mr. Monje’s home was searched and various valuables identified as potential evidence were seized.
The owner of Guadalajara’s Jewelry, located at 700 block of South Broadway, Mr. Farshad Yaghoobi, was taken into custody at his residence without incident. Yaghoobi was questioned and booked for felony receiving of stolen property. This store was also searched and all property was seized as potential evidence. Yaghoobi’s residence was searched and all items of potential evidence were seized.
All four businesses have been closed and any business licenses within the City of Los Angeles have been cancelled. A seventh warrant was served which froze the personal and business banking account assets associated with these suspects pending further investigation by the LAPD and other federal agencies.
These arrests and asset seizures mark a significant milestone in the successes of the Knock-Knock Task Force. The investigative efforts of the LAPD have closed four businesses that fueled many burglary rings operating within the City of Los Angeles. Additionally, these arrests and asset seizures send a strong message to other jewelry exchanges, second hand stores, and pawn shops that the City of Los Angeles will not tolerate a disregard for State law that have the effect of promoting crime and adversely impacting personal lives and property.
To that end, the investigation and arrest of numerous burglary suspects has continued. As of this date, this task force has produced significant progress in combating this crime through hard work and perseverance. This perseverance is reflected in over 1,400 hours of surveillance. As of September 14, 2012, the task force has arrested 68 suspects. 55 of these suspects were directly involved in residential burglaries and engaged in transactions at the above businesses. The remaining 13 were arrested for a variety of violations ranging from outstanding warrants to probation/parole violations. Over the course of these past six months, the task force has served 41 search warrants, recovered nearly $150,000.00 worth of victim’s property, and seized six firearms.
As a result of this productivity, since March of this year, residential burglaries within Operations-West Bureau have declined nearly over 36% and residential burglaries within Operations-Valley Bureau have declined over 19%. This is a remarkable turnaround.
Despite these successes, this task force remains in place and committed to serving the communities of Los Angeles by seeking out new leads on new suspects engaged in or promoting residential burglaries.
For further information please contact Operations-Valley Bureau Lieutenant Jim Setzer at 818-644-8105. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.