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Brothers suspected in gym scheme

Two men suspected of burglarizing gym lockers, stealing credit cards

Posted: January 27, 2010 10:03 p.m.
Updated: January 28, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
Two Arleta brothers have been identified as suspects in a scheme in which they allegedly broke into numerous lockers at area gyms, stealing credit cards and replacing them with other, previously stolen credit cards, according to the sheriff's office.

Darryl Battino, 49, turned himself in to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station on Jan. 25 and was booked on felony burglary charges. He posted the $20,000 bail and was released pending future court hearings.

His brother Michael Battino, 37, is sought for questioning. Though he has been in contact with detectives, Michael Battino has not turned himself in, according to Sgt. Darren Harris. He didn't know how detectives and Battino made contact or what was said.

Harris also didn't know how many of the more than 100 possible victims were from Santa Clarita or how many fitness centers were involved. Several L.A. Fitness centers in Santa Clarita, the San Fernando Valley, Burbank and North Hollywood were involved. The Battinos held membership cards to the club.

"Those were obviously revoked," Harris said.

At a Northridge location associated with the two men, detectives found more than 200 credit cards under 130 names, more than 50 watches valued at more than $100,000, computers, forged California drivers' licenses, L.A. Fitness membership cards, ammunition, video game consoles, video cameras and several tools commonly used to break into cars and lockers.

Detectives believe there may be additional victims who do not know they are carrying credit cards that do not belong to them.

In December, a Santa Clarita resident reported that someone had removed the keys from his gym locker, found his car, taken credit cards from his wallet, replaced them with credit cards belonging to other people and returned his keys to his locker, all while he was working out at the L.A. Fitness at 28211 Newhall Ranch Road in Valencia.

Club member Ed McKendri said he hadn't heard anything about the recent thefts. McKendri said his gym locker was ransacked in Los Angeles years ago. Since then he's kept his valuables on his person, he said with a smile as he pulled up his right pant leg to show the bulge of a wallet in his white athletic socks.

"It's a prime place, I tell everybody I know not to put things in the gym lockers," McKendri said. "People think it's safe."

McKendri lamented the fact that L.A. Fitness hadn't notified its members about the incidents.

An employee there, who declined to give his name, aimed to keep it that way.

"A lot of our members don't know what's happened and we're trying to take care of it," he said.

Detectives advise residents to keep car keys on hand at all times, not to leave valuables in their cars or gym lockers, to carry few credit cards in purses or wallets and to never carry Social Security cards in a wallet. Each of these steps will minimize the likelihood of falling victim to theft such as this, according to the sheriff's office.

In an unrelated string of incidents, detectives arrested a 19-year-old Saugus man on felony burglary charges as he attempted to leave the area of an L.A. Fitness in Santa Clarita after sheriff's deputies observed a suspect breaking into a parked vehicle and stealing property from it during a surveillance operation.

Detectives found stolen property from the vehicle they saw being broken into as well as property from other burglarized vehicles in the suspect's car. The suspect, whose name hasn't been released since the investigation is ongoing, is being held on $20,000 bail.

The Battino brothers investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information regarding the suspects or incidents can contact the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station's Burglary and Theft team by calling 284-2847 or visiting www.scvsheriff.com/crime_tips.asp
Report non-emergency crime anonymously by visiting the following link: Crime Tips or calling (661) 284-2-TIP or (661) 284-2847.

Residents should also visit www.crimereports.com to keep up with incidents reported in and around their neighborhood.

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