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Man Who Set Fire Arrested in Forgery

November 20, 1987|RICHARD BEENE | Times Staff Writer

Robert E. Lowenberg, who already faces a possible prison term for setting a fire that burned 5,000 acres in Cleveland National Forest, has now been charged with credit card forgery, police said Thursday.

The latest troubles for Lowenberg, the 19-year-old son of Cypress Police Chief Ronald Lowenberg, involve a $317 stereo receiver that was purchased from an electronics store where Lowenberg used to work and was charged to an Anaheim woman's credit card.

According to Garden Grove Police Detective Mike Whalen, Lowenberg surreptitiously obtained the woman's card number and then forged her signature to take the stereo equipment from his own store. Whalen said the receiver had not been recovered.

5,000 Acres Charred

The incident allegedly happened Aug. 22, less than three weeks before Lowenberg set a fire in Silverado Canyon that swept through the national forest and charred about 5,000 acres.

It took 1,100 firefighters nearly two weeks to control the Sept. 9 fire at a cost of about $2.2 million, according to court records.

Lowenberg pleaded guilty Nov. 12 to the charge of willfully destroying government property, saying he was intoxicated on beer and marijuana at the time. He is awaiting a Jan. 11 sentencing and faces a minimum of one year and a maximum of 10 years in prison, plus a possible $250,000 fine.

The credit card forgery charge is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of one year in County Jail. Investigative sources said it was likely that the charge would be dropped if Lowenberg made full restitution to Radio Shack.

The incident was uncovered by Radio Shack's loss and prevention unit after the Anaheim woman complained that she had never purchased a stereo receiver. The case was referred to Garden Grove police, who confirmed Thursday that charges had been filed.

Reached by telephone at home, Lowenberg said Thursday that he had been informed of the new charges but declined to discuss the case.

"I don't know where they're at with it," he said. "I don't know what's going on with the whole thing. My mind is on so many other things right now that I haven't even thought about it."

Lowenberg worked at the Radio Shack, near the corner of Katella Avenue and Magnolia Street in Garden Grove, for six months before being arrested Sept. 21 on charges of setting fire to the national forest.

Randy Detarr, the Radio Shack manager who earlier described Lowenberg as an industrious employee, Thursday refused to comment on the latest charges.

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