Torrance police arrested a trio of suspects on Monday who they say may be responsible for a series of tire-slashing scams that have involved multiple victims across the Southland, including in Glendale.
Omar Baltazar, 39, Monica Diaz-Sanchez, 39, and 18-year-old Sandra Baltazar-Diaz were arrested on suspicion of grand theft and criminal conspiracy for their alleged participation in the scams.
The scheme would involve one of the scammers following a person to their car after they had withdrawn a sum of money from a bank. As the victim gets into the vehicle, the scammer would quickly slash one of the tires before running away.
When the victim gets out of the vehicle to check the damage, the scammer would swoop in and steal the money from the car.
Tahnee Lightfoot, a spokeswoman for the Glendale Police Department, said at least three instances of this scam occurred locally in early February. The first incident happened on Feb. 6 at a Bank of America off of Glendale and Wilson avenues, the second was on Feb. 11 at the same bank and the third occurred on Feb. 12 at a Wells Fargo at 535 N. Brand Blvd.
Security camera footage from the Feb. 11 theft shows a woman walking to her car after withdrawing a large amount of cash. She is followed by a man who quickly runs up to the passenger side of her car and slashes one of the tires.
Lightfoot said the woman begins to drive away but notices the flat tire and pulls into a parking spot. When she goes to inspect the damage, the man who slashed the tire returns and grabs the cash from the unlocked vehicle while a woman accompanying him acts as his lookout.
In total, there have been at least 14 reported cases of the same people running the scam across Southern California, according to Torrance Police Department Sgt. Ronald Harris. In addition to Glendale, the scams have occurred in Beverly Hills, El Segundo, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena and Torrance.
Harris said detectives have yet to verify how the suspects know each other, but they think the three are “related and within a family.”
The arrests were made after several weeks of investigation involving the other cities’ police departments, undercover surveillance and using security footage, Harris said.
He added that police have been able to recover more than $80,000 in stolen money.
Baltazar is currently being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, while Diaz-Sanchez is being held without bond because of a bail hold from Georgia for an unknown incident. The two are scheduled to appear in court on March 13.
Booking information for Baltazar-Diaz was not immediately available.