Criminal charges were filed Monday against five Los Angeles men allegedly linked to dozens of burglaries in Orange and San Bernardino counties.
Jurandir Endnilson Penate, 24, Erick Daniel Soria, 27, Alvara Ramos, 37, Eugene Yi, 35, and Sergio Soto, 33, were taken into custody Friday without incident.
The alleged thieves stolen about $1.9 million valuables, cash and guns from high-end homes in Fullerton, Anaheim Hills, Villa Park, Lake Forest, Yorba Linda, Buena Park and Irvine, according to Fullerton police Chief Bob Dunn, who said “the common thread (in the burglaries) being a Dodge Durango.”
He said the burglaries started in August in Chino Hills, in San Bernardino County, and continued through February, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted stay-at-home orders.
On Feb. 25 and March 3, officers spotted the suspect vehicle and gave chase, only to lose the SUV because the driver was going too fast to safely pursue it, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer told reporters. In the March chase, the driver reached speeds up to 150 mph, he said.
In four of the attempted burglaries, the suspects were “spooked” when the residents were home so they fled without taking anything, Spitzer said.
He noted that most of the defendants have prison records and blamed AB109, the prison reform legislation, for allowing them to get out of custody and allegedly continue a life of crime.
Spitzer said the case was a “microcosm” of “what’s happening in the state of California.” He contended that crime is increasing because of AB109 and Proposition 47, which allows for some felonies to be reduced later to misdemeanors.
Spitzer also credited detectives working on the case for submitting enough evidence in warrants to arrest the suspects without bail. He vowed his office’s prosecutors will fight any release of the defendants on the so-called zero-bail program allowing for the freeing of many jail inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.
A “significant” amount of the stolen property has been recovered, Spitzer said. Dunn added that investigators are sorting through the property with plans to contact the victims.
Spitzer said he assembled an AB109 task force to focus on parolees who are repeat offenders.
“Our local jails have become a state prison,” Spitzer said of the realignment laws that have some felons serve their sentence in jails instead of prisons. “And that’s why early release from our jails is so offensive to me.”
UC Irvine criminology professor Charis E. Kubrin, who has studied AB109 and Prop. 47 for their effects on crime, said the laws have not had a significant impact on crime rates.
“At the end of the day, the vast majority of evidence we have on these two policies seem to suggest their impact on crime is non-existent for violent crime(s),” Kubrin said. “If there’s any impact it’s very minimal, and it’s for auto theft and minor thefts.”
Crime has also gone down worldwide during stay-at-home orders, Kubrin said.
“We’re releasing folks from jails and prisons in quite large numbers and crime is still going down,” Kubrin said.
“Maybe once we return to normal, whatever that looks like, we’ll see an uptick in crime, but we’re not seeing massive spies in crime upon release,” the professor said, hypothesizing it’s because most of the inmates being released are low-level offenders.
Ramos is charged with 39 counts of burglary and three counts of attempted burglary of an inhabited dwelling.
Penate is charged with 36 counts of burglary, three counts of attempted burglary of an inhabited dwelling and two misdemeanor counts of receiving stolen property.
Soria is charged with 26 counts of burglary and three counts of attempted burglary of an inhabited dwelling.
Soto is charged with 22 counts of burglary, two counts of attempted burglary of an inhabited dwelling and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
Yi is charged with two burglary counts.