A Huntington Park man who has been arrested more than a dozen times during the coronavirus pandemic is facing charges stemming from the thefts of 13 vehicles in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Jose Enrique Esquivel — also known as Jose Esquibel — is charged with 13 felony counts of driving or taking a vehicle without consent and one count of second-degree burglary of a vehicle.
The criminal complaint alleges that the 24-year-old man committed most of the crimes while free on his own recognizance and that he was previously convicted of driving or taking a vehicle without consent twice in 2017 and once in 2018 and 2019.
Esquivel pleaded not guilty to the charges, which are filed in four separate cases in downtown Los Angeles and Norwalk.
Esquivel — who remains in custody — is “a prolific car thief who victimized vehicle owners with modest incomes,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Trina Schrader alleged.
“The victims identified to date reside in the areas of southeast Los Angeles County, including the city of Los Angeles,” she said. “Suspect Esquivel showed little regard for the owners of these vehicles, who many times depended on these stolen vehicles as their sole means of transportation. The suspect is also accused of exploiting the modification to the Los Angeles County bail schedule during his crime spree, while the county endured the statewide COVID-19 emergency where most crimes were designated to have zero bail.”
Esquivel was first released under the COVID-19 emergency bail schedule — which was initiated to help spread the curb of the coronavirus in jails — after being arrested March 30 for allegedly driving a stolen truck, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of driving or attempting to steal a vehicle and released from jail 11 times between April 28 and June 15, including two arrests on May 14, according to the DA’s office. He was arrested again on June 23, but held on bail because the emergency bail schedule had ended.
Esquivel could face up to 17 years in state prison if convicted as charged, said Deputy District Attorney Alexander Karkanen of the Task Force for Regional Auto Theft.
Anyone who believes they might be a victim of the alleged crime spree was urged to call 800-299-8727.