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To jail, with a hand basket

Ryan Carter

After a rash of store burglaries in Burbank and around the San

Fernando Valley that netted thieves as much as $3,000 worth of DVDs

in a day, police believe they’ve caught the culprits and are looking

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for additional businesses that they might have hit.

Christian Lewis, 39, of Van Nuys, was arrested in January after he

and Chester Pinto, 40, of La Canada Flintridge, stole scores of video

discs from stores all over the San Fernando Valley, police said.

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“They’d bring the DVDs to narcotics dealers in exchange for dope,”

Burbank Police Det. Rick Medlin said.

Each man was charged with 13 counts of commercial burglary and

grand theft.

Medlin said police believe the men stole from Target in the Empire

Center at least three times. But authorities from Burbank and Los

Angeles be- lieve they hit more than 40 locations throughout the

Valley, beginning their spree during the holiday season. They alle-

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gedly stole from up to three stores a day. Lewis would check the

top-selling DVDs for the week and go after them, Medlin said.

“We know there are numerous victims that haven’t come forward,”

Medlin said.

Theft from Burbank’s big-box stores account for a significant

amount of crime in the city, police said.

Lewis and Pinto set up a scheme in which Lewis entered the store

with a hands-free cell phone microphone and hid DVDs in a hand

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basket, Medlin said. Pinto waited outside and told Lewis over the

phone when to leave the store without being seen by security or the

receipt checker, police said.

A private security firm dubbed Lewis “the Surfing CD Bandit.”

Burbank Police arrested the two based on rental-car records and an

investigation in Van Nuys, where the men were arrested.

Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Lewis is

being held in county jail in lieu of $45,000 bail and Pinto, a

parolee, is being held in a Saugus facility in lieu of $90,000.

Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call Burbank

detectives at 238-3210.


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