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Fraud trail leads to Glendale liquor store where authorities seize roughly $1 million worth of alcohol

The U.S. Secret Service police remove stock from the Liquor Spot on the 300 block of North Verdugo Boulevard on Wednesday.

The U.S. Secret Service police remove stock from the Liquor Spot on the 300 block of North Verdugo Boulevard on Wednesday.

(Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

Glendale police and the U.S. Secret Service seized roughly $1 million worth of beer and liquor from Glendale’s Liquor Spot as part of an ongoing bank-fraud investigation opened two years ago, police said.

It started when a bank investigator called Glendale Police Det. Peter Robinson about a man suspected of “check kiting,” which involves depositing checks, without sufficient funds, from one account to another, and withdrawing the money before the check bounces.

At the ATM, the man was covering his face, so he was unidentifiable. But using the fake names tied to the bogus accounts, Robinson discovered that someone had used the names to purchase and finance cars.

So the detective reported those cars as stolen.

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A few weeks later, a Glendale patrol officer stopped one of the stolen cars and arrested the driver. Investigators later searched his home, where they found stolen property, as well as evidence that tied the stolen car to residents of an apartment complex in the 1500 block of Rock Glen Avenue.

There, detectives found evidence of 60 fake identities used to open more than 140 bank accounts and to purchase at least eight cars. The resident, who was arrested, was also linked to 17 other car purchases.

Police recovered a dozen of the cars throughout the area, including six in Glendale, one in Burbank and one in La Cañada Flintridge.

In a glove compartment in a car found in Glendale, investigators found a receipt for a roughly $13,000 wholesale alcohol purchase.

The buyer? Glendale’s Liquor Spot.

Late last year, investigators served search warrants at the Glendale homes of the store’s owner and manager, as well as the store, where they recovered more evidence of fraud, as well as high-end watches, jewelry, gold bullion and cash.

Robinson froze multiple bank accounts tied to the partners, neither of which has yet been arrested or charged. However, police believe they are responsible for roughly a million dollars’ worth of fraudulent credit card purchases related to the store.

“They pay for inventory with cash or checks or through credit cards,” Robinson said. “All of the credit card purchases made from the wholesaler for Liquor Spot, none of those banks were ever paid.”

On Wednesday morning, investigators asked a store employee to call the store manager and ask him to bring the keys and open the storage door, according to Robinson. Days earlier, a federal judge reportedly signed a seizure warrant for all the liquor inside the store. The employee told investigators the manager was on his way from his Glendale home.

But he never showed up.

Glendale police and the U.S. Secret Service got in anyway, and spent hours loading four 18-wheeler trucks, two box trucks and one refrigerator truck — to keep the beer cold — with roughly $1 million worth of liquor, leaving the store completely empty.

“The initial loss (the bank investigator) reported was $3,000, and it evolved into this,” Robinson said.

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