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Trio Accused of Dirty Pool in Water Filter Sales

Sounds like the problem wasn’t in the water.

A Burbank company and three employees are accused of pressuring 40 Ventura County families into buying water-treatment systems by telling them their tap water contained pesticides and microscopic bits of feces, human remains and sanitary napkins.

“It seemed incredible that any salesperson would make such a farfetched claim,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Mitchell F. Disney said. “They said it [the bad water] happened because of the recession.”

Aurora Elizabeth Vergara, president of Everclear Water Systems Inc., and salespeople Laura Dora Ortega Saenz and Juan Castaneda Abanto have been named in a 28-count felony and misdemeanor complaint.

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Ventura County prosecutors allege Saenz and Abanto went door-to-door in Oxnard, Fillmore, Thousand Oaks and Piru and enticed residents with offers of free soap products and other gifts.

Once inside, the pair allegedly persuaded mostly Spanish-speaking consumers to pay $4,500 each for a water filtration system. A comparable unit costs about half that amount, Disney said.

Arrest warrants for the three were issued last week. The same company is also under investigation in San Bernardino County, Disney said.

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The bomb squad responded last week to a call from a man who had found two sticks of dynamite taped to the back side of a dresser drawer in his parents’ Thousand Oaks home.

No sinister plot here. It turns out that 10 years ago, William Morrow, now 23, stashed the dynamite in his bedroom during a moment of mischievousness.

Morrow’s family used dynamite to blow up beaver dams on their property in Idaho, and young William decided to bring some home one summer, officers said.

In the ensuing decade, Morrow graduated from high school and college and briefly worked in Europe. He apparently forgot about the two 10-inch sticks. But as he packed for another trip abroad, he found them.

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“He’s older now and realized the potential danger,” Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jerry Weaver said. “He was very cooperative.”

After evacuating surrounding homes, a deputy outfitted in a special bomb-retrieval suit removed the dynamite, which was detonated in a large hole that officials dug behind the home.

Morrow was not charged with a crime.

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Call it a crime of fashion.

A Van Nuys man was arrested recently on suspicion of forgery and credit card fraud after an employee at a Camarillo Kmart thought he recognized him from a clothing description on a police bulletin.

Authorities suspect Oprinderpal Singh, 40, of using a stolen card to buy piles of stuff, including cell phones, a wallet, watches and rings, at Kmarts in Camarillo and Oxnard.

A man was recorded on surveillance tape at the Camarillo store in December, and deputies made a color flier showing a grainy image of him--along with a note that said he had worn a green shirt and dress slacks that day.

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Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Colon said a store security guard saw Singh in the Camarillo Kmart on Feb. 27 and believed he was the same man who visited the store in December because he was wearing a similar green shirt.

Singh was taken into custody after leaving a checkout stand with several purchases. He remained jailed Sunday night and will not be be allowed to post bail because of a hold order from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

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In response to a string of deadly domestic-violence cases that have made headlines in Ventura County, Oxnard police will host an educational program this morning in one of the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods.

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Speakers at the event, scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at Haycox Elementary School, 5400 Perkins Road, will include a victim’s advocate from the county district attorney’s office and representatives from the Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

Officer Christa Lyneis, who works at a police storefront in the city’s Southwinds community north of Hueneme Road, organized the event to give battered women a place to seek referrals and to educate others on how to prevent such violence.

“It crosses all age lines, color lines, creeds and races and from the very richest to the very poorest,” she said.

For further information, contact Lyneis at (805) 676-9318.

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The program is part of an ongoing city plan to revitalize the area. Neighborhood Watch is up and running, a lot of graffiti has been removed and new playground equipment has been installed at Southwinds Park.

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Holly J. Wolcott can be reached at (805) 653-7581 or at Holly.Wolcott@latimes.com.


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