Friday, December 31, 2010

Is Sierra Madre "Crime City?"

Just back from vacation and I must say that this EVG Gas Station credit rip off situation is very interesting. What an audacious crime! Checked my credit cards with the companies that issued them and all seems OK here. But who knows?

As usual the coverage of this story is sadly lacking in my opinion. We all got the press release on this and I can't see much that hasn't been said in the press and on-line not toeing the official line. So since this is The Tattler, I thought I'd stick with our established standards and ask some of the inconvenient questions that need to be asked, yet never will unless we do it here. I hope nobody finds it to be too indecorous.

Here are my thoughts:

The gentleman who owned the station was selling gas far below what was being charged elsewhere. $3.08 cash price versus $3.27 cash price at the Valero station up the block. The claim being is that he wanted to make a nice impression with his new clientele. Even though he has owned the place since February. It was also impossible to pay cash for gas because the office was boarded up for "renovations." So you were forced to use a credit or debit card.

Oh, and no renovations were ever done.

The owner of the EVG station, a Mr. Yakimenko, must have filled out an application to do business in this town, and Lord knows he had to have paid the fees. Yet this guy hasn't even been brought in for questioning yet. They can't find him. Was the information given to the City real? Do they even know where he lives?

Why was no background check done? This guy was authorized by the City to take credit information from residents here, did anyone look to see who he really was? Can it be that with business fees all that can be expected is properly filled out paperwork?

Chief Diaz is her usual non-revealing self. Yet what City employee or elected official has said anything about this crime except her? Chief Diaz: "All I can say is that the investigation is ongoing and that no arrests have been made." 80 people have had their identity ripped off and you haven't hauled in the EVG station's owner? At least for questioning?

Two reasons why that hasn't happened. The SMPD has been out partying all week, or, most likely, this guy is long gone and they have no idea where he is.

The scenario as I see it: A person or persons of ill-repute and criminal intent took over a defunct gas station. This City, apparently a soft touch, authorized these person(s) to do business here. Yet nobody bothered to check and see who he (or they) are. Or where they lived, which is standard business application information. The home address supplied must have been false.

The question that nobody has asked: Was this EVG station ever a legitimate business? Or was it a set up designed to capture credit and personal information from those who did business there? Was the intent criminal from the beginning?

It looks like this credit card fraud has been going on for a while, and not just the couple days as originally reported. Did the owner(s) conduct their criminal enterprise right under the noses of City Hall and nobody even noticed?

And our friend Mr. Yakimenko. Was it his real name? Was the gas station always part of some identity theft scheme? Did he later fall in with people of bad intent? Chances are pretty good we might never know. Because I suspect he and his laptop filled with Sierra Madre resident credit information is long gone.

One more question: Where is Mayor Mosca? This could very well turn out to be one of the larger crimes in Sierra Madre's history. And if this was an organized crime effort, the damage has probably not played itself out by a long shot. There are many numbers that probably haven't even been touched yet. Which is where the real criminal value lies.

Yet we haven't heard a peep from His Honor. People here are upset and concerned. Can this really be that low of a priority?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

66 comments:

  1. When did the station change ownership? I have noticed for some time that when I buy gas there, my mileage isn't as good as when I buy it anywhere else. Happy New Year, Tatts, and make your resolutions to: attend City Council meetings, and hold the Gof4 accountable; help Caroline Brown save the trees; attend the next Town Forum and complete the survey regarding YOUR town!

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  2. If this is true I guess you can just make up a name and identity in order to get a business permit in Sierra Madre. All the city seems to care about is if you write a check.

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  3. The thief got out of town before he had to pay $60 more for his business license.

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  4. Good question! Where IS our illustrious Mayor?

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  5. Does it really surprise anyone that a con succeeded here?

    On the one hand you have human nature, and greed is always something a predator tries to manipulate, and on the other hand, you have very recent con successes - the last election, the ongoing Looney Views News, and it's being subsidized by the gullible.

    People here are too trusting, so if the bad guy couldn't get them by playing on their greed he could get them playing on their "civility" using big smiles and lots of thank yous.

    At least he skipped town. Wish all the cons would.

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  6. Crooks know Sierra Madre is a soft touch. We have a joke Police Department, brainless newspapers and a City Council that has apparently vanished.

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  7. Yes and no 8:56.We also have the kind of citizenry who won't stand by and watch a crime take place.Sierra Madre is a soft touch for some kinds of crime, but not for others.

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  8. Chief Diaz is doing damage control.

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  9. The chief is doing what all good law enforcement people do - keeping quiet until they catch the guy.
    What's the mayor doing is the better question. probably practicing the speech where he claims he caught the thief. As his big accomplishment.

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  10. Why does the Chief have to keep quiet about capturing a criminal who had registered his business with the city? Was this business set up using fraudulent information? Didn't anyone verify whether it was true or not?

    If city hall didn't check to see if the information on his business application was true, then they gave him a license to steal.

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  11. It's not just the residents who are too trusting, 8:51. Looks like it's the staff also.

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  12. what's the fee for?December 31, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    Good to know that the licensing fees are worth it. Staff must sure spend a lot of time typing the names in.

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  13. The gas station rip-off sounds like an organized criminal enterprise. Maybe a national group that looks for these kinds of opportunities.

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  14. 9:15, we're not just paying for the typist to enter names in a data base - we are also paying for the typists life long health care and retirement.

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  15. They probably took one look at our police department
    and knew this would be a great place to set up their scam.
    And where is Mosca?

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  16. I thought the same people now owned both the gas stations in town?
    I guess not?
    For a while it was the same people, unless I am mistaken, which is quite possible because I buy gas at Arco or Costco.

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  17. We need to file a public information request for all licenses and fees associated with this EVG station. We need to see who authorized these crooks to do business in Sierra Madre.

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  18. I think we are going thru a sign of the times, here in Mayberry, we have dishonesty everywhere it seems. Perhaps this is the new normal.
    If we tolerate dishonesty in our local government, city council, corruption in development like the latest disclosure, ADI federal investigation of kickbacks to local government officials, why the surprise?

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  19. Say what you will about our police department, they don't want this kind of junk to happen. They'll catch the criminal.

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  20. In safety, we're better than most towns, and this is not going to change that.

    In corrupt politics, we hold our own with anyone.

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  21. Use cash at gas stations.

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  22. Crime prevention is even more important than arresting the bad guys. This crime happened in broad daylight. It was only because there were victims that it was ever discovered.

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  23. I wonder how Yakimendo hustled so many people.
    This went on for a month?
    Man must have given a convincing performance.

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  24. Yakimendo is an interesting nom de crime. Separate the words and you have delicious Korean egg rolls.

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  25. If you expect city staff to know who they are handing out business licenses to, you'll have to charge a whole lot more for licensing fees, like thousands. The staff might even have to google some names, or pick up a phone to check references. That would no doubt push them into overtime and the increased burden on their jobs would just be unbearable, requiring all of the staff to have entry level salaries of $50,000.

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  26. 11:32 ---> Good point. Better to let the mafia in and rip people off for a month or so. As Mayor Mosca said, we do need to make sure the General Fund is not hit in any way for such things.

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  27. Joe in April:
    Thank you for making me your mayor of this great village of ours that we all love so much and want to preserve, and we will do so by taking out more bonds as all responsible leaders such as myself will tell you is the right thing to do, and so on and so forth. I am especially proud to report that I personally called the police chief of our great town and told the chief to stop the identity theft crime wave that hit our beloved village that we all want to preserve.

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  28. Thank you, Joe. We all feel your concern and caring.

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  29. How about all the senior citizens who have been giving money to Henderson?
    They're victims too.
    The mayor should do something about that.

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  30. One consequence of this crime may be that legitimate operators will now not want to open at this location due to the reputational damage.

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  31. You know the city staff must feel terrible about this. Maybe not as terrible as someone who's identity was stolen, but terrible anyway. And maybe it did get one of them.
    The sloppy licensing could have been a hit or miss type of thing, because some city staff made the electric bike store people put up that unfriendly city hall sign. Or maybe the thieves were well organized and had good covers.

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  32. Geoff - That'll work. It'll make a good parking lot for whatever the LLC that owns Howie's wants to build.

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  33. Is the City obliged to do checks on people before it issues
    a business license? Especially when they are going to sell
    gasoline on credit? Aren't we supposed to be protected from
    con artists and scammers?

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  34. @Anonymous: Good point -- perhaps they've performed an unintentional public service!

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  35. Slow down on the development dreaming y'all.
    Gas stations are notoriously dirty environments that can require might big bucks to clean up. Recall the old gas station on the Pasadena side of Michillinda, in lower Hastings Ranch. That sat polluted and deserted for years.

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  36. "Did the owner(s) conduct their criminal enterprise right under the noses of City Hall and nobody even noticed?"
    That would be affirmative Crawford.
    You can bet it won't happen here again.
    And you can bet it's happening all over.

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  37. I'm afraid you all are harshing the mellow of the city workers.

    They just want a cushy job, and you are being too demanding.

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  38. Obviously the business permit EVG got was a license to steal.

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  39. Have any Mexican drug cartels applied for a business license here yet?

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  40. Wait wait, was a business license given?
    Is that for sure?

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  41. I think people have to understand what the priorities are here.
    1) Everyone must understand that the Sierra Madre Police Department is doing everything they can. Forms are being filled out as quickly as possible.
    2) City Hall did everything they were supposed to do. This should in no way be considered the city's fault.
    3) The Mayor is monitoring this situation from a secure place.
    Thank you.

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  42. I had $175 taken from my US Bank account by this guy. (I have had no charge against my American Express account, which I also used at the gas station. I have heard of many others who lost money, but none who lost money via American Express.)

    I filed my police report early this morning. I counted 6 employees at the Police Department and it was still dark outside, so at least we are well staffed. The PD completed a very thorough report for me.

    I was surprised when they wanted to know which gas station I used (I used both in recent weeks). Apparently the other Valero station is also being looked at. Both gas stations appear on the prepared paperwork they make available to those making a claim.

    Today I heard from a friend who had money stolen and bought gas only from Valero and not from EVG, so that concerns me as well.

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  43. Been there, Done thatDecember 31, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    In my past experience, the credit card number is stolen from a small low-end mini-mart, gas station or sandwich store, then resold to a network of local stores within a radius of the billing address. I had local Shell stations charging my card every day for a couple of weeks after I used the card in San Francisco. Other charges were made by local markets, etc. I called the credit card company as soon as I opened my statement, and it was easy to spot the source because all the charges came in after the date I used the card in SF. There's a big credit card fraud network inside of local gas stations and markets now. Even the high-end ones, because they've got somebody on staff who's part of the network. Who obviously gets fired as soon as the credit card company goes after the business for the charges. And then goes and hires in somewhere else.

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  44. Eugeny K. Yakimenko? The only close spelling of that name in public record, voters, civil, criminal, property etc. is Yakimovich.

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  45. I recently signed up with LifeLock security.
    It's expensive but I feel better protected.
    We now live in a rather insecure world.
    Sierra Madre is an easy target for crooks and con artists as we all know. Look what's on our council and who has our local "paper".
    Disgusting!

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  46. You know what they say, if it is too good to be true, then it probably is not. Of course, that usually applies to internet spam and not a gas station in the middle of town.

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  47. Chief Diaz to be criticized for her stock answer is just unfair. What else is she going to say? Unravel an entire scenario? That would be foolhardy for future prosecution purposes.

    Certain posters on this board criticize this lady at every chance they get.
    However, some of us know she is actually a good honest citizen who, on most issues in town, is on the side of the majority of Tattler readers including our dear Editor.

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  48. global criminals cross oceans and enter through foreign trade zonesDecember 31, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    Have any of you El Monte transit fans seen the two new stories in the SGtribune? A Mr. Lin and obama barack soetero's half brother is coming and will be introduced at a chamber of commerce meeting in El Monte Monday. They are theatening to sue El Monte to take back control of the transit center. You know Fritz Springmeier claims the Lins are one of the major illuminati families and then of course the Mark Obama blah blah blah, Green El Monte wants to invest in El Monte angle is very interesting in light of the Nigerian threat to indict Cheney and then they decide to take a 250 million settlement. Juicy read would love to comment on the stories but refuse to facebook..
    Read the stories let me know what you think dear tatts.

    Happy New Year!!!

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  49. The Billion Dollar Bus Station continues to attract some very fat flies. What is it about buses, anyway? Most who invest in those sorts of things wouldn't ride one at gunpoint.

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  50. Why have you failed to post my postings?

    Awaiting a reply........

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  51. None of the moderators release posts that drop any of the 4 letter bombs. Go wash your mouth out with soap and try again.

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  52. Check your bank statements Tattlers. Upon our return from a visit to grandmas house on Thursday night, we discovered that the nice folks at B of A left an auto message stating that our card information had been updated. After about an hour on the phone with three different divisions it was determined that the accounts hadn't been compromised. All was well until our card was declined at a local restaurant about an hour later. The invalid card message was a result of a hold being placed because the number appeared on a list of cards used at the gas station within the last two months.
    Apparently identity theft and fraudulent "skimming" can happen anywhere you use a card. I'm not sure how our "beloved" Mayor and the city staff are responsible for the business owners commission of a felony and wire fraud. As a longtime Tattler reader and supporter who advocated the pitchforks and torches approach to our inept CC, I think it's a bit of a reach.
    Happy New Year to Sir Eric and all of the Tattlers. I can't wait to see what's next.

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  53. 7:39..........WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!!!!

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  54. Never fear 12:35 pm. The Crazy Town cruise ship just disembarked after a month long visit to the Looney Bin Islands. Yes. The El Monte contingent has returned and once again put on the aluminum foil hat.

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  55. Does anyone have any idea about what the city does in the licensing process?

    Are the fees for printing the paper license, typing the receipt and paying for the stamp?

    For about $160.00

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  56. 7:39, Read the papers, the editor and the Tatts know what I am talking about. 12:53 Do not be stupid, you must wear a lead lined hat to protect yourself from electromagnetic pulse. You must have me confused with John Lear, he is wearing a tin foil hat on his website the living moon. You know a couple of posters get really mean and nasty when certain types of developers get mentioned. Must be a personal problem. Fraud is fraud kids, don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Truth.. once I busted a man who filed 27 DBA's in one day doing boiler room fraud. Truth, I had a licensed alias with the Bureau of Collections and Investigations for ten years, Truth, I have seen men do terrible acts for money. But the first thing I did was send my identification to the editor, after seeing a story regarding El Monte on the Tattler. I also met with a group of discerning Tatts, who grilled me to their satisfaction. But I admit you must read between the lines sometimes, there was a movie called "The Firm" in it Tom Cruz had to explain to some Mafia guys, that as their attorney he was like a ship that had cargo but could not land at any port. But 12:53 you best remove the plank from your own third eye, before you call anyone else crazy or a tin hat wearer.

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  57. I hadn't used my card there for MANY months but was charged on December 27 so don't be complacent just because you hadn't been there in a while.

    By the way, a quick California Corporation search shows he had a "legit" and active corporation set up in California so what kind of information did he have to provide for that?

    It's very sad to see so many people knocking this wonderful town because of this crook or whatever ongoing gripes you have. Let the police do their job and appreciate where you are so blessed to live. If you don't like it, you can always move. So much negativity is like poison which no one really needs in life. There are much WORSE places you can live in So. Cal....

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  58. Things only improve when the problems are pointed out and
    solved, 7:46. If you don't like democracy try North Korea.

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  59. Pinkett, pointing out problems and helping to solve them constructively is one thing. Bitching and moaning is quite another. Thank you for proving my point with your negative comment.

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  60. 100 or so people get robbed, and you think the big problem is bitching and moaning? Good Lord. Yes, let's all take prozac and sing campfire songs. I'll bet you think the people over in Bell are being negative, too. Obviously you're more interested in defending the reputation of the PD than the victims.

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  61. Pinkett, obviously your quite snarky this morning and haven't bothered to read my original post. I AM one of the victims and thanks to the email from the police and city I found out rather quickly and was able to spread the word and act quickly. Information I found out from my bank was passed on to the police and I was contacted again by them as a result. By the way, it's up to around 150 people.

    I also posted to let people know, since they were blaming the city for allowing this crook to have a business license, that he has a "legit" California corporation that was listed as active at last check, something anyone with a computer can look up. But obviously you didn't bother to read that either.

    Enjoy your own misery,and I do hope you get the help you need, but please have a lovely day in our beautiful Sierra Madre. No city is without problems but taking the low road as you apparently have and being nasty towards a fellow resident doesn't solve anything.

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  62. Your supercilious assurance of superiority aside, perhaps you are not aware that EVG is a corporation registered with the State of California? And that what we have here in town is a franchise of that corporation? Complicated, I know.

    But your quick willingness to pass the blame onto the state, while facile and convenient, is also telling.

    One of the great things about Sierra Madre is that it has a citizenry that is not afraid to involve itself in local affairs. And while there are those that find such involvement inconvenient (you know, those quick to push the "negativity" button), it has helped immeasurably in keeping this town the great and wonderful place it is.

    And again, you seem more concerned with the reputation of the city authorities than the victims. Which is odd since you claim to be one. Most of those I have spoken with have a very different perspective.

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  63. Pinkett, LOL, I'm sure our Sierra Madre Library has a wonderful "learn to read and comprehend" program. Is anyone else having difficulty reading and comprehending what I wrote...twice??

    I was just trying to help others by letting them know that the charge I incurred was from a long since past use of that card at EVG, NOT recent, along with the fact it is an active California corporation (ok THIRD time repeating myself) and showing some appreciate for where I live...

    ...and Pinkett is what I get! Oh joy! Wash, rinse, repeat.

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  64. Get off iit. You come in here bellowing about bitching, moaning, negativity and God knows what else, and then you try to wriggle out of it by claiming you've been misunderstood. Laughable.

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  65. This thread ended up nowhere. The last two posters need to have a duel....

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  66. I don't know 3:24, I kind of enjoyed it. Very spirited.

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