Two Arrested in Laguna Beach Robbery

Two men have been arrested in connection with a string of robberies and thefts in three states, including one in Laguna Beach last September in which a father and son were bound and robbed at gunpoint of $75,000 worth of rare coins and guns, police said Thursday.

John Compton Harvey, 58, of Palm Springs, was arrested early Sunday in Palm Springs on suspicion of burglary, forgery, grand theft and posing as a doctor, San Diego Police Detective Dennis Sadler said.

James Vincent Amento, 25, a Los Angeles area resident, was arrested Wednesday in North Hollywood on two counts of suspicion of residential robbery, Sadler said.

Sadler described the crimes this way: Harvey, often posing as a doctor and sometimes accompanied by Amento, answered ads in local newspapers placed by people who were usually attempting to sell jewelry. After a first meeting with the seller, Sadler said, a second meeting would be arranged when the jewelry would be exchanged for what turned out to be counterfeit cashiers' checks.

The Laguna Beach incident was apparently the only one in which the advertiser changed his mind and attempted to cancel the sale, Sadler said, resulting in an armed robbery. A gun taken during the Laguna crime was discovered in the North Hollywood home that Harvey and Amento have been sharing for the past few weeks, he said, along with jewelry valued at more than $120,000 and $1,800 in hundred dollar bills.

The suspects are linked to 27 thefts, which averaged $20,000 each, across Southern California, Utah and Arizona, dating back to at least spring, 1989, Sadler said. The men are accused of stealing about $800,000 worth of goods, but Sadler said that amount may increase as authorities investigate possible associations with similar crimes in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and Minnesota.

Bail for Harvey was initially set at $15 million and then reduced to $3.9 million. Amento's bail was set at $100,000.

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