A tale of kidnapping and extortion involving students at Troy High School in Fullerton, a magnet school that draws young Ivy-League bound scholars, unfolded Monday in a Pomona courtroom.
The intrigue began when a 17-year-old Troy student had a falling out with a group of classmates who call themselves the Honor Roll Mafia, authorities said. One night in late November or early December, they took him from his Diamond Bar home, demanded $451, threatened him with baseball bats and at one point placed a pistol barrel in his mouth, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Det. Marvin Washington said. They let him go after he agreed to get the money, Washington said.
But the next day at school, the victim went to some friends he believed were in an Asian gang and asked for their help, Washington said. They called the teen's tormentors and told them to stop; afterward, they demanded $500 from the beleaguered student for protecting him, Washington said.
The teen gave them a Rolex watch as payment, but when that turned out to be fake, the Asian gang members kidnapped him and the friend who gave him the watch, Washington said. The gang members threatened the two teens until they got $200 from a third student, he said.
On Thursday, police went to Troy, Diamond Bar High School and homes in Yorba Linda and Diamond Bar to arrest four teens. Two of the suspects are students at Troy, while the other two attend Diamond Bar and El Dorado high schools.
Monday morning in juvenile court in Pomona, the four teens were charged with extortion and kidnapping.
Three of the students are in an Asian gang and one is in the "Honor Roll Mafia," presumably named for their academic standing, Washington said.
"I haven't verified that by looking at report cards, but that's what we understand," Washington said.
Troy is an academically competitive school that won the nation's top science prize two years ago. With about 2,000 students from grades nine to 12, Troy is a magnet school for technology and science. Principal Chuck Maruca said the school draws at least half its enrollment from outside the Fullerton Joint Union High School District. Students come from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties or elsewhere in Orange County.
"You have to be pretty smart to go here," Troy art teacher Mike Thomas said. "Obviously book smarts and social smarts aren't always hooked together."
Washington said the investigation may yield further arrests.
None of the suspects has a record, he said, and all come from seemingly stable homes.
"It's very strange," he said. "Why the kids do these things, we don't know."
Prosecutors want the teens tried as adults, and they face a hearing on that matter Friday, Deputy District Atty. John Harrold said. If convicted, they could face life in prison on the kidnapping charges alone.
"I get the impression these kids have gotten away with stuff," Washington said, "and they're surprised it's gotten this serious."
Times staff writer Nick Anderson contributed to this report.