Crime & Justice

11 defendants indicted for OC crime spree

The Orange County District Attorney's Office announced today that transcripts were unsealed in an 11-defendant indictment by a grand jury for a crime spree involving two Orange County jewelry store robberies. Nine of the defendants have been accused of being members or associates of a Hispanic San Diego gang.

The 20-count indictment also includes identity theft and street terrorism charges. The defendants face sentences ranging from three years up to 35 years to life in prison.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 4.

According to the Orange County District Attorney's Office, Aida Arroyo is accused of entering Tustin Village Jewelers at 5 p.m. on Aug. 4 under the pretense of selling a ring. The store has security gates, so Arroyo was buzzed in. While negotiating a price with the store's owner, Arroyo allegedly asked to be let out of the store to make a phone call.

When the owner buzzed the security gate to let him out, two of the other defendants, Michael Burgin and Adam Weick, rushed in wearing caps and bandanas, armed with firearms and demanding that the jewelry cases be unlocked, giving them access to the diamonds.

One of the defendants allegedly held a gun to the back of the store owner's head and threatened to shoot him if he didn't open the safe. They then duct-taped the owner and put him in the bathroom before fleeing with over $160,000 in jewelry.

The other robbery took place in Laguna Beach on Aug. 25, at approximately 7 p.m. Three of the defendants, including Michael Burgin (who was also involved in the Tustin robbery), Alonso Lopez, and, Pedro Hernandez, allegedly entered Baca Jewelers as the store was closing. Dressed in black and hiding their faces with hoods and baseball caps, they are accused of robbing a store employee at gunpoint and stealing over $1 million in watches and jewelry.

Laguna Beach police responded and pursued the defendants from Laguna Beach to Aliso Viejo. The defendants allegedly abandoned their car in an Aliso Viejo parking garage. Officers learned the vehicle was owned by Sylvia Castaneda. Castaneda reported her car stolen, but she allegedly loaned it to the other three defendants and knew that it would be used for a jewelry store burglary.

Arturo Perez allegedly helped Lopez evade arrest while hiding in an Oceanside home by acting as a lookout. Perez also obtained a calling card for Lopez to make phone calls without detection.

Based on a law enforcement bulletin put out by the Laguna Beach Police Department, the Tustin Police Department noticed similarities in the robberies and they began jointly investigating these cases.

Salvador Barajas drove Castaneda to pick up her car, which had been impounded by Laguna police. Daisy Oregon and Aida Arroyo also rode with them. While Castaneda was meeting with police, the three other defendants are accused of stealing mail from local Laguna Beach mailboxes. Arroyo allegedly took possession of and fraudulently used credit cards which were stolen in San Diego County the day before.

Two second hand jewelry stores in San Diego County were selling some of the stolen jewelry. Jose Garcia is accused of attempting to make identifying the stolen jewelry more difficult by grinding off identifying marks, while Touradj Barman is accused of purchasing the property, knowing it had been stolen.

All of the defendants other than Barman and Garcia are accused of being members or associates of a San Diego Hispanic gang and planning and committing these crimes to benefit their gang. The majority of the stolen property has not been recovered, and there is an ongoing investigation to determine whether the defendants were involved in other jewelry store robberies in Orange and San Diego County.