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This house was decked with stolen reindeer

Esquivel is a Times staff writer.

When Westminster police responded to a routine disturbance call last week, they stumbled onto a herd of wicker reindeer in the living room, strings and strings of Christmas lights -- some plugged in, others just tossed around the house -- a few faux Christmas trees, several snowmen and one too many inflatable Santa Claus figures. It all seemed just a little much, officers thought, even for the most devoted holiday fan.

Then they remembered the theft reports.

For weeks, residents of a Westminster neighborhood along the border with Huntington Beach had been complaining about their disappearing holiday decorations. On Monday, police said they had their suspected grinch: Vuong Pham, 48.

Westminster police found a stockpile of holiday decorations in the home, on the roof and in the backyard, Officer Cameron Knauerhaze said. “We had to use two city trucks and a police truck to take all the property to the police station,” he said.

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Officers were called to Pham’s home in the 8400 block of Heil Avenue last week in response to a fight between Pham and his son, Knauerhaze said. Although there were no arrests that day, officers walked into the home, saw the decorations and recalled a series of thefts reported in the neighborhood near Newland Street and Heil Avenue.

To be fair, police said, the cache wasn’t confined to decorations for the season of giving. The trove included a few alabaster fountains, a collection of rare bonsai trees and an assortment of outdoor lighting.

“This guy had something in every room,” Knauerhaze said.

“We don’t understand why someone would do this,” he added. “We’re trying to talk to the guy, to find out if he’s got other issues going on in his life, but for now, it is what it is.”

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Pham faces charges of grand theft and possession of stolen property, he said.

While Pham was en route to jail Monday night, several victims showed up at the police station to claim their property.

One woman and her family picked up an electric train. Another found her missing Santa globe. And the flock of reindeer went home for the holidays.

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com


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