A burglary ring has been targeting homes of Los Angeles Times subscribers who have put their newspaper deliveries on vacation hold, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Detectives are looking for additional victims of what they say is a conspiracy by at least four suspects to break into homes and steal valuables, many of which were found in a large storage locker in West Covina, shown below.
More than 25 burglaries have been committed as part of the conspiracy, including in homes in San Gabriel Valley, Hacienda Heights, Diamond Bar, Walnut and Chino Hills, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the Sheriff's Department.
Investigators believe that an office machine repairman contracted by Times distributors repeatedly stole list of newspaper subscribers who were on vacation.
The Times issued a statement saying it had been contacted several months ago about the investigation and an "internal review" was launched immediately. The newspaper cooperated with investigation,"including honoring their request to keep the matter confidential because the investigation was active," the statement read.
The Times said the number of stolen "vacation pack reports" was limited.
"Our customers can rest assured that no financial information was involved and that these robberies, while terribly unfortunate, are likely limited to a small section of the vast area we cover," the statement read.
Investigators believe that the alleged repairman, 51-year-old Duane Van Tuinen of Azusa, obtained the vacation lists and passed them on to a group of thieves including Randall Whitmore, a 43-year-old from La Verne, Joshua Box, 43, of Arcadia, and 52-year-old Edwin Valentine of Covina.
Van Tuinen would share in the stolen property and ultimately sell it for profit, the Sheriff's Department alleges.
Last week, the months-long investigation led authorities to a West Covina storage locker filled with hundreds of pieces of stolen property from dozens of residential burglaries.
Several victims have been identified based on the property, which included cars, computers, jewelry, collectible coins and swords, musical instruments,
"Although much of the stolen property has been returned to the rightful owners, we are still trying to locate additional victims," Detective Jack Jordan of the Major Crimes Bureau said.
The investigation was a joint effort involving several southland agencies, including the Glendora, Arcadia, Chino Hills, Monrovia and San Marino Police Departments
Charges are pending against the involved suspects. Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said that not all the suspects have been arrested.
People whose homes were burglarized while they were on the LA Times vacation list should contact Jordan at 562-946-7893. Victims should supply the police report number from the burglary and a description of the items stolen.