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Suspects busted in pharmacy ripoffs

Thefts stretched through California and Oregon

Posted: June 4, 2008 5:34 p.m.
Updated: August 5, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Three Sun Valley residents are in custody today for their involvement in a crime spree involving pharmacies in California and Oregon, according to Detective Jeffrey Jackson of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

The trio are part of a large group of Hondurans who stole large quantities of over-the-counter drugs throughout the state during the past two years, Jackson said. Six of the targeted pharmacies were located in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Evelin Cano, 28, Johanna Rodriguez, 28, and Mario Castaneda, 43, were all arrested on felony robbery and conspiracy charges today at their Sun Valley home and booked at the Sheriff's Station.

Jackson said that about $25,000 worth of products were seized today, though not all the evidence was gathered. He added that pharmacies suffered more than $200,000 in additional loss due to the crime wave. Approximately $125,000 in cash was also seized.

Earlier in the day, detectives secured a search warrant for the Hondurans' Sun Valley home. When detectives served the warrant, they reportedly found large amounts of over-the-counter products and cash.
It is believed that a significant portion of the products and cash, which were seized and taken as evidence, were connected to a string of pharmacy robberies in the SCV.

Today's arrest came on the heels of three other Hondurans being arrested in Glendale last week on similar charges. Jackson said that both cases are related, and that the trio arrested last week and those arrested today were part of the same group.

According to Jackson, the culprits stole the drugs by coercing a pharmacy attendant to turn over unopened products over-the-counter or by breaking into secure cabinets.

Once the drugs were seized, the culprits would then sell the over-the-counter drugs to a third party, who, in turn, would re-sell the products back to a pharmacy, Jackson said.

While six people were arrested in the past week, it is believed that there are several more people involved in the crime scheme. It is also believed by investigators that all the culprits are Honduran.

Capo, Rodriguez and Castaneda are in custody at the Sheriff's Station. Both Castaneda and Cano are held in lieu of $20,000 bail. No bail was set for Rodriguez, since she has an outstanding warrant for her arrest.


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