Three on trial in jewelry robbery case

Opening statements began Wednesday in the case against three gang members accused of robbing two jewelry stores.

Michael Burgin, 32, is accused of stealing $1 million worth of watches from Baca Jewelers in Laguna Beach on Aug. 25, 2009, according to a news release from the Orange County district attorney's office.

Two other men, Alonso Jose Lopez, 33, and Pedro Avina Hernandez, 31, were convicted early last year for their roles in that robbery.

In all, eight of the 11 defendants in the case have been convicted.

Burgin, Aida Arroyo, 29, and Adam Weick, 30, all alleged members of a San Diego criminal street gang, still face charges of second degree robbery, second degree commercial burglary and street terrorism.

All three face sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and vicarious use of a firearm by a gang member.

Additionally, Burgin faces a sentence enhancement for two prior convictions for first degree burglaries in 1999 and 2002. Weick faces an additional enhancement for a prior conviction related to a 2005 kidnapping.

Arroyo, Weick and Burgin are accused of stealing $160,000 worth of jewelry at gunpoint from Tustin Village Jewelers on Aug. 4, according to the D.A.

Then later that month, Burgin, Lopez and Hernandez robbed a Baca Jewelers employee at gunpoint and fled, according to the D.A. The men entered the store as it was closing, wearing black and hiding behind hoods and a baseball cap.

Laguna Beach police responded and pursued the suspects to Aliso Viejo, where the men abandoned their vehicle in a parking garage, the D.A. said.

Sylvia Elena Castaneda, 30, who owned the car, reported it stolen in San Diego County. She was accused of attempting to impede the investigation by making the false report and lending the car knowing it would be used in the robbery, according to the D.A.

Shortly thereafter, the Tustin Police Department noticed similarities between the robberies and the agencies began to jointly investigate.

On Sept. 8 of that year, Salvador Barajas, 31, drove Castaneda, Arroyo and Daisy Oregon, 23, to Laguna Beach to pick up Castaneda's car, which had been impounded by Laguna Beach police. While she spoke to police, the others stole mail from mailboxes in the area.

The investigation revealed that two San Diego pawn shops, San Diego Jewelry and Loan, and J&L Jewelers, were selling the stolen jewelry. Both pawnbrokers are accused of knowingly selling stolen goods.

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