A 25-year-old Hawaiian Gardens man is behind bars today on suspicion of breaking into a vehicle parked outside restaurant in Cerritos and stealing more than $5,000 worth of scuba diving equipment, most of which was eventually returned to its rightful owners with help from a Cerritos sheriff's detective.
Victor Aguirre was arrested at his home on Aug. 3 and is currently facing five felony counts of burglary, possession of stolen property and credit card fraud, said detective Rich Kent.
Aguirre is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 23 and is currently being held in lieu of $40,000 bail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Inmate Information website.
The events leading to the suspect's arrest began on Aug. 2 at about 10:30 a.m. when a vehicle burglary was reported outside the restaurant located at 19011 Bloomfield Ave. in Cerritos, said Kent.
The victims -- a husband and wife visiting from Phoenix, Ariz. who had just went diving in Catalina -- told the responding sheriff's deputy that their Toyota Sequoia had been broken into and several personal items were missing, including a purse with the wife's credit cards and some scuba diving gear, said Kent.
"Some of the gear that was taken included a wrist diving computer, in total there was over $5,000 worth of equipment stolen," Kent said.
While the deputy was completing the burglary report, the female victim was notified by her credit card company that her card had just been used at on South Street for a $717 purchase of an Apple iPad and case.
Target Surveillance Photo Leads to Startling Discovery
After obtaining a store surveillance image of the suspect making the purchase, the deputy returned to the station with the evidence and a startling discovery was made.
"When she showed me the surveillance photo, I immediately recognized the person from a previous case," Kent said, adding that the suspect whom he identified as Aguirre, happened to be the same man involved in a check fraud case in Cerritos about two years ago. "I remembered his face and his distinct haircut, which he kept the same way ... it was just a stroke of luck."
Kent said at that point, he put together a photo lineup and "ironically the suspect had just been arrested on July 21 on another check fraud case so he had a fresh booking photo in the system," noting that when he returned to Target, witnesses were able to quickly point to Aguirre as the person who made the fraudulent purchase.
The following day, the detective learned that Aguirre was already on probation for burglary, which allowed for a probation search to be done at his home in Hawaiian Gardens.
"During the search we were able to recover a large portion of stolen property from the victims' vehicle, including the wife's bag, her credit cards and medication, as well as most of the diving equipment," Kent said.
However, the search also resulted in the discovery of other items -- checkbooks, paperwork, insurance cards, a car registration, and a coin purse -- allegedly taken during a car burglary that occurred at 3 a.m. on Aug. 3 in Long Beach, the detective added.
Aguirre, who was immediately arrested, admitted to committing both burglaries and was booked at the Cerritos Sheriff's Station, Kent said.
Man Who Buys Fraudulently Purchased iPad Also Caught in Strange Twist
In a strange twist, while Kent was presenting the photo lineup to witnesses at Target on Aug. 2, he was alerted by store employees that a man had just tried to return the iPad that was purchased with the stolen credit card.
"We learned that after buying the iPad, the suspect went home and posted an ad on Craigslist to sell the item," Kent said. "He then sold it to this guy (who responded to the ad) at the Hawaiian Gardens Casino parking lot for $425. So while we were in Target, the man who bought the iPad was detained and arrested for possession of stolen property."
Kent said it was unclear whether the individual would be facing any charges for purchasing the iPad.
Emphasis Remains: Keep Valuables Out of Plain Sight inside Your Vehicle
According to Cerritos Station statistics, the year-to-date weekly average in vehicle burglaries currently stands at 7.6 -- proving to be the most commonly reported felony crime in the city. Deputies report that the main cause of vehicle break-ins is the visible placement of items within the passenger compartment, which enables would-be thieves to quickly target their victims.
"I think the emphasis once again is to hide all property in the vehicle's trunk or somewhere where it can't be seen," said Kent.
For more safety and crime prevention tips, visit safercerritos.com