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Police Put Crimp in Robbery Ring : Crime: The suspects are gang members. Police say many of the armed attacks took place in apartment house garages. More arrests are expected.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police in the Wilshire area say they are close to finally putting an end to a wave of underground garage and street robberies that have been taking place in Koreatown since August.

The attacks were made by gang members who carried large caliber semiautomatic weapons and surprised residents as they entered or left their cars, police said.

So far, five gang members have been arrested and charged with as many as 40 armed robberies. Two other members of the same gang were arrested in Valencia recently for a series of unrelated street robberies and are under investigation as possible participants in the robbery ring, said Detective John Golgert of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division.

The investigation is continuing, and police said this week that there may be more arrests. Authorities are circulating photos and composite drawings to victims of similar robberies in the area to try to get positive identifications, Golgert said.

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“These robberies were occurring in immense numbers,” he said. “I would say they have decreased and that the particular pattern has gone away. But to say that members of the same gang are not out there doing what their brothers and sisters were doing would be incorrect. They are still going on.”

The victims of the attacks lost wallets, purses, jewelry and, in a few cases, cars. Police do not know how many attacks there were but say there could have been many more than the 40 cases cleared as a result of the recent arrests.

According to Golgert and other police officers, most of the robberies took place in late-evening and early-morning hours, out of public view--either in underground apartment house garages or carports in crowded parts of Koreatown.

Capt. Julius Davis, Wilshire Division commanding officer, said the robberies were so frequent that residents feared parking in garages and carports.

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Although the robberies had been going on since at least Aug. 18, police didn’t catch any suspects until Oct. 15, when officers from the special crime detail heard a broadcast of a robbery in Koreatown with descriptions of two suspects and their getaway car.

Police stopped the car, which they said was stolen, and arrested Michael Hibbert, 21, and a 17-year-old juvenile and linked them to robberies, according to a police report. The suspects are from various parts of the city, but the police report said they belonged to a local gang.

Several days later, officers arrested another suspect, Rolondo DeHoyos, 22, on a felony warrant, but the robberies continued. Police arrested Martin Basua, 23, on Oct. 30. Alfonso Rojas and Frank Jovel, both 20, of Los Angeles were arrested in Valencia on Nov. 30.

All have entered pleas of not guilty at arraignment, Golgert said.

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Hibbert has been charged with 11 counts of armed robbery and one of grand theft auto, and Basua with 10 robbery counts and one count of grand theft auto. DeHoyos has been charged with two counts of armed robbery, and the juvenile faces nine counts of robbery.

Several preliminary hearings in the case have been set.


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