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19 Arrested, 250 Catalytic Converters Recovered In Multi-Agency Operation

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Over a dozen people were arrested and 250 catalytic converters — valued at about $750,000 — were recovered in an operation on Wednesday, stemming from an investigation in Santa Clarita.

In a proactive approach to lower catalytic converter theft, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Crime Impact Team (CIT) led a search warrant operation on March 10, centered in the City of Los Angeles, according to Deputy Natalie Arriaga, spokesperson for the station. 

“Theft of catalytic converters has been a growing trend in 2020, with a 400% increase throughout Los Angeles County, and a significant increase in the Santa Clarita Valley as well,” Arriaga said.

Catalytic converters are attached to the exhaust system of a vehicle. They contain precious metals and can be “scrapped” for a quick profit, according to the spokesperson.

After countless hours of follow-up investigation, multiple locations within the city were believed to be related to thefts occurring in the Santa Clarita Valley, as well as several Los Angeles County areas, according to Arriaga. 

Numerous resources and law enforcement partners assisted with the operation including SCV Sheriff’s Station Detective Bureau and Special Teams, Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, Century Sheriff’s Station, Walnut Sheriff’s Station, Major Crimes Bureau, Los Angeles County Probation, Aero Bureau, Task Force for Regional Automobile Theft Prevention and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.  

Search warrants were served at four different locations, which resulted in: 19 individuals arrested, 250 catalytic converters recovered, valued at an estimated total of $750,000, as well as one “ghost” handgun, and approximately $100,000 seized, according to Sheriff’s officials. 

“At this time, the investigation is still ongoing and recent victims are encouraged to contact the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Detective Bureau,” Arriaga said. 

The LASD urges residents to park in well-lit areas with surveillance cameras and weld the bolts on their catalytic converter shut to prevent theft.

Motorists can also engrave or etch the license plate number onto their catalytic converter, according to Arriaga. 

“Always report suspicious activity. If you see something, say something,” she said. 

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station has partnered with the City of Santa Clarita and launched the “Guard That Auto” campaign to combat the increase in grand theft auto and catalytic converter thefts.

The campaign educates the community regarding safety tips on how to keep your vehicle and its contents safe, according to Arriaga. 

Those with any information regarding the theft of catalytic converters are encouraged to contact the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station at 661-255-1121.  

Anonymous tips can also be submitted through “LA Crime Stoppers” at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or here.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Rick

    March 12, 2021 at 7:46 am

    So you’re saying you can get $3000 for 1 scrapped catalytic converter? 🤣 seems like if that was the case everyone would just invest in buying up all the catalytic converters at $170 brand new and scrapping them for a huge return. Someone’s exaggerating a bit on those numbers. 🤦🏼‍♂️

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Crime

Chiropractors Charged In $2.5 Million Auto Insurance Fraud, Kickback Scheme

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Los Angeles Courtroom-2

A dozen chiropractors have been charged in a $2.5 million insurance fraud and illegal kickback scheme involving automobile collision medical claims.

The scheme’s alleged ringleader, Yury Chernega, 49, of Studio City, faces four counts each of the aforementioned charges as well as one count of money laundering, according to Pamela Johnson, spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The charges include allegations of taking more than $500,000 from about 30 insurance companies through fraud and embezzlement.

“Defrauding insurance companies is a serious crime that costs all of us in the form of higher premiums,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “We will continue to work with local, state and federal regulators to protect consumers from financial crimes.”

Prosecutors have charged the defendants with nine felony counts, including insurance fraud and participating in patient referral rebates when licensed in the healing arts or as a chiropractor, according to the D.A.’s Office. 

Three other San Fernando Valley residents were arrested in connection to the scheme including Bruce Householder, of Burbank, Alexander Royzman, of Granda Hills, and Payam Shayan, of Tarzana.

Canyon Country resident Luzan Madain was also charged with the alleged fraud, according to prosecutors. 

From 2014 through 2019, Chernega allegedly offered to refer new patients to other chiropractors in return for an illegal referral fee, through which he collected about $2.5 million, prosecutors said. The patients allegedly had been involved in automobile collisions. 

The defendants also are accused of filing false claims for medical services they never provided. The case stems from an ongoing case involving Chernega and 14 additional chiropractors filed in 2019. 

The case remains under investigation by the District Attorney’s Auto Insurance Fraud Division and Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the California Department of Insurance, the California Franchise Tax Board, the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Arraignment for all but one defendant has been scheduled for June 29 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Arraignment for Royzman is expected to take place the following week. 

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Tujunga Man Charged With Domestic Violence Kidnapping, Murder Of Good Samaritan

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North Hollywood Shooting Kidnapping
Devon Miller / The Valley Post

A Tujunga man has been charged with kidnapping his ex-girlfriend and fatally shooting a man who tried to intervene in North Hollywood. 

Shane Winfield Rayment, 37, faces one felony count each of murder, kidnapping, criminal threats, injuring a girlfriend, first-degree residential burglary with person present and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón. 

“It’s especially tragic when a good Samaritan becomes a victim,” Gascón said in a statement.  “I send my heartfelt condolences to his family. Mr. Fletes will always be remembered for his heroic actions on behalf of another.”

On June 6, Rayment went to the North Hollywood home where his ex-girlfriend was staying and struggled with her when Roberto Conjeo Fletes attempted to intervene, prosecutors said. Rayment is accused of fatally shooting Fletes, 42, before fleeing with her. 

The woman was found on June 8 during a traffic stop in Hemet and Rayment was arrested. 

Hemet officers conducted a felony traffic stop and took Rayment into custody without incident.  

“The victim of the kidnapping, Jenny Downes, was discovered in the vehicle, battered and bruised, but alive,” investigators said.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.

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Crime

Detectives Investigating Deadly Sun Valley Shooting

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Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Valley Bureau Homicide are investigating a fatal Sun Valley shooting.

On June 9, about 11 p.m., LAPD Foothill patrol officers responded to the report of an assault with a deadly weapon on the 7900 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Sun Valley, according to the department in a statement.

Moments later, a second radio call was received just a few blocks down Laurel Canyon Boulevard for a traffic collision involving a 2021 Land Rover.

The preliminary investigation revealed that the victim was involved in a dispute that ended in a shooting. 

The victim drove away from the scene and collided with parked vehicles on the 7600 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard, according to detectives. 

Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded and transported the victim to a local hospital where he died during surgery.   

The victim is described as a 43-year-old, male from Los Angeles. The identity has not been released pending notification of next of kin.

As of Thursday, there are no suspects identified, according to the LAPD.

Anyone with additional information is urged to call Detective Steve Castro, Valley Bureau Homicide, at (818) 374-1925.  During non-business hours, or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-527-3247.  

Those wishing to remain anonymous should call the L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or go directly here.

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