Police Bust Major Southern California Burglary Ring
Police in southern California have arrested more than 70 people and dozens of their suspected associates in connection with hundreds of residential burglaries.
Costa Mesa Criminal Defense Attorney Houman Fakhimi understands that there are literally 11,000 pieces of jewelry that police are attempting to link with owners - who would then be potential witnesses in the course of the pending criminal cases.
Earlier this year, L.A.'s Westside and the San Fernando Valley reportedly saw a ballooning number of home burglaries. This prompted officials to form a task force.
This is the first in what may be several burglary busts in the area. Police also arrested individuals believed to be buying the stolen items from alleged thieves. These individuals divided the jewels from the gold, and in many case, melted the gold into bars.
Unfortunately for the suspects, many have been identified as active gang members who, in addition to the jewelery and cash, also allegedly stole firearms. These are two elements that can serve to greatly enhance a defendant's sentence if he or she is convicted.
First of all, while theft can generally be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the item and the circumstances surrounding the incident, stealing a gun is always considered a "grand theft" under California Penal code 487. This means it will always be considered a felony. A conviction of grand theft firearm under California Penal Code 487(d)(2) can result in a prison sentence of anywhere from 16 months to three years. That's in addition to whatever burglary charges you may additional face.
Gang enhancements are defined under California Penal code 186.22(b). In order to prove this element, prosecutors have to show that you committed the felony for the benefit of or at the direction of or in association with or with the intent to promote a criminal street gang. This particular statute is not a crime in and of itself, but rather, acts as an aggravating factor in the underlying crime of which you are accused - in this case, grand theft of a firearm. This could result in several more years being tacked on to whatever sentence might have been handed down for the original crime.
What this means is that individuals facing gang enhancements need a skilled defense attorney to help them fight the basis of the underlying crime, which, if successful, would then eliminate the gang enhancement.
In this case, investigators reportedly used undercover surveillance and informants to help lead them to the individuals who were dividing and selling the jewelry at stores they owned in downtown L.A. Many of the 11,000 pieces that were recovered by detectives were found at one of those stores.
These store owners reportedly dealt with "crews" of robbery and burglary suspects that detectives say came to the shop in waves to do business. The owners reportedly failed to follow city law that requires pawn shops and secondhand stores to obtain fingerprints and ID when exchanging property for money.
So far, some 50 people have come forward to identify their property. However, that only accounts for a fraction of the items recovered.
Those who have been arrested need to seek the help of an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you have been arrested in Costa Mesa.