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2 Gardena Teen-Agers Held in Rolex Robberies

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two teen-agers from Gardena faced charges Thursday that they committed a string of Rolex watch robberies, but it brought little comfort to dozens of victims who have learned that none of the stolen timepieces have been recovered.

Christopher Pack, 18, and Ron Hinton, 19, entered not-guilty pleas in Van Nuys Municipal Court to three counts each of armed robbery. The charges stem from crimes in the last two months in West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.

Detectives in the South Bay said they have just begun to show mug shots of Pack and Hinton to other robbery victims, including three in Gardena and one in Torrance, and they expect to file more charges against the pair. They are jailed on $250,000 bail each.

More than 75 armed robberies have been reported in the last year that targeted the owners of Rolexes and expensive jewelry, police said. Detectives with the county’s West Regional Burglary Team--which is composed of sheriff’s deputies and police officers from Hawthorne, El Segundo and Gardena--said as many as a dozen other suspects may have participated in the crimes.

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The arrest of Hinton and Pack on Tuesday, after two weeks of surveillance, has inspired more than 100 telephone calls from Rolex owners hoping to recover stolen watches, said Sgt. Mike Foster of the burglary team.

So far police have not found any of the watches, valued between $2,000 and $15,000, although they recovered a bracelet worth $12,000 after arresting the Gardena teen-agers, Foster said.

Pack and Hinton admitted that they sold Rolexes to pawn shops, where they were probably resold quickly, Foster said.

Authorities said the three charges filed Thursday against Pack and Hinton typify the spree of thefts that began last summer. Pack and Hinton targeted affluent neighborhoods and the owners of pricey cars, demanding watches, jewelry and cash at gunpoint, said Los Angeles Police Detective Bud Mehringer.

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On April 12 just after noon, the pair allegedly approached a 47-year-old man sitting in a Chevrolet Corvette next to a parking lot on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana. They took a gold Presidential model Rolex valued at $12,000 before running off, Mehringer said.

On May 8 at 11 a.m., police said the thieves again struck on Ventura Boulevard, this time in Encino, approaching a 37-year-old woman who had just arrived at her Lincoln Town Car inside a parking structure. When the woman asked if the men were joking, one responded by pointing a pistol at her face and pulling the trigger, Mehringer said. The gun did not fire.

The woman then gave up a Rolex watch and jewelry that she said was worth a total of more than $25,000. Her $12,000 bracelet was recovered Tuesday after the arrests in Gardena, Mehringer said.

On May 9 at about 10:30 a.m., a 46-year-old man was walking from the parking lot of the Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood to the front door when he was accosted, police said. He also lost a Presidential Rolex.

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At least four victims have been shot during the robbery spree, two fatally, said Sgt. Paul Mattson of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes Task Force.


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