No-Luck Bandits Arrested

March 14, 2007

Los Angeles: Detectives arrested two men and one woman yesterday after solving an Echo Park robbery in which 3,000 scratcher lottery tickets were taken from a small store. The suspects were identified in an unusual way when the woman tried to redeem some of the tickets the same day, but at a different store in Cypress Park.

"High-quality surveillance video played a big roll in identifying the suspects," said Lieutenant Tom Brascia of the Central Police Station. "But it was a clever detective who thought to take the footage of the woman redeeming the tickets to a local elementary school."

Just after 6 PM on February 20, 2007, two men robbed Sunny’s Market, located at 1033 Alpine Street, just above China Town. Video of the robbery showed the robbers’ brutality and brazenness. They beat the elderly owner as his wife watched and took $400 in cash and 3,000 lotto tickets.

Unbeknownst to the robbers, the tickets have serial numbers, which were reported to the Lottery Commission. A few hours later, a woman tried to redeem a $15 winning scratcher ticket in Cypress Park. The lottery system alerted the store owner, who called police.

Footage from the Cypress Park store showed a small boy accompanying the woman. Police assumed it was the woman’s son. Detective Peter Lee took a novel approach and showed the picture to officials at local elementary schools. One school administrator recognized the child and identified the mother, too. After a few days of confirming the information, detectives got a search warrant and served it on March 13, 2007.

The family lived near the school. When detectives searched the home, they found scratched lottery tickets discarded behind the couch and others yet to be scratched. The mother was identified as Leticia Garcia, 29. Her husband turned out to be one of the robbers from Sunny’s Market, 32-year-old Jesus Gonzalez. Further investigation led detectives to the second robber, Alberto Hernandez, 32, who lived a few blocks away.

Hernandez, Gonzalez, and Garcia were booked for robbery. Over 60 lotto tickets were seized, along with a starter’s pistol. One suspect appeared to be armed in the robbery video.

Garcia’s children were placed with relatives by social workers with the Department of Children and Family Services.