Fire officials investigating safety scam

Amber Willard

BURBANK -- Burbank fire officials are investigating 28 cases of

alleged fraud committed by men posing as employees of fire suppression


Three men, all Israeli citizens who live in Tarzana and Woodland

Hills, were arrested in March by Hermosa Beach police on suspicion of

commercial burglary and interfering with fire safety equipment.

Since then, investigators have found hundreds of Southern California

businesses, mostly restaurants, that may have been victims of the

suspects, Itzhak Apo, Avi Shushan and Yaron Patay, as well as others.

All but one of the 28 Burbank businesses in question are restaurants.

"They hit almost every community in Southern California," said Fire

Capt. Bob Reinhardt, who is investigating the alleged frauds in Burbank.

"They enter unannounced and almost force (the businesses) to allow them

to service their extinguishers."

Employees of Apollo Fire Protection in Encino and other businesses

allegedly went into restaurants and other businesses under the guise of

checking fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems above restaurant

cooking areas. In some cases, the extinguishers and systems were

disabled. In others, the workers claimed to have serviced the items when

they had not, officials said.

Officials are concerned that the alleged frauds compromised the safety

of the affected businesses, many of which were owned by minorities.

Reinhardt said officials have contacted the reported Burbank victims

and are investigating to see if there are others.

State laws require the equipment to be checked on a regular basis by

licensed companies. The companies under suspicion were not licensed but

used other businesses' license numbers, officials said. The phony

companies allegedly showed up to inspect the businesses more often than

is required and charged more money than is typically paid for the


A legitimate company known as Apollo Fire Protection operates out of

Canoga Park, while the business under suspicion claims to be based in

Encino, according to Hermosa Beach police records. Other names used by

the suspects include A & P Fire Extinguisher Service, Haynes Fire

Protection and Alpine Fire Protection Service.

Anyone with questions about their inspection company can call the

state fire marshal's office at (916) 445-8200.

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