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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Grocer Held in Alleged Murder Plot

May 25, 1999|SOLOMON MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A onetime master sausage-maker from Denmark turned Ventura County grocer has been charged with soliciting an undercover police officer to kill two former associates, authorities said Monday.

Flemming Larsen, 56, was arrested earlier this month after allegedly plotting to kill a former partner and a former employee who he thought cheated him in separate business dealings, investigators said.

On May 11, federal agents told Los Angeles Police Department detectives that Larsen had instigated a murder-for-hire plot, police said.

Two days later, undercover LAPD detectives met with Larsen at a North Hollywood restaurant, where he was tape-recorded making "incriminating statements," said Lt. Al Michelena of the LAPD's robbery homicide unit.

Shortly after Larsen drove away from the meeting, he was pulled over and arrested.

He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of soliciting murder and one count of soliciting a crime, and is being held at Van Nuys Jail in lieu of $3-million bail.

"We were afraid he would flee to Denmark," Michelena said.

Larsen is in dire financial straits and thought his intended victims were to blame, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Diamond. "The defendant believes they cheated him out of money, basically," Diamond added.

Larsen, who lives in the Westlake section of Thousand Oaks, operated the Danish American Farms markets in Simi Valley and North Hills. The Simi Valley store has remained closed since December when it was heavily damaged in a fire. The North Hills store went out of business in January 1998.

Larsen was certified as a master sausage-maker in Denmark more than 20 years ago, and sold handmade sausages and other Danish-style products at his markets.

He owned a Northridge restaurant, Buddie's Diner, which he sold last year, said the restaurant's manager, Al Samuel. Larsen is also believed to own several businesses in Denmark, authorities said.

Before his arrest, Larsen had lived in a $1.5-million gated hilltop home in the exclusive North Ranch neighborhood.

The 6,300-square-foot, peach-colored house has bay windows that offer a sweeping view of the Conejo Valley. The manicured lawn is outlined with beds of flowers in reds, pinks and yellows. A fountain sits dry in the middle of a circular driveway. The house appears vacant.

Neighbors said Monday evening that they had not seen Larsen in several months. One resident said Larsen told him last summer he was moving to Denmark to be with his wife and two young children, a boy and a girl. Larsen's family returned to Denmark a year ago, neighbors said.

One nearby resident said the last conversation he had with Larsen was last September when Larsen's small dog apparently nipped at the man's wife.

"He came over and got the dog and apologized, and that was the last we saw him," said the man, who asked not to be identified.

Times Community News reporter Holly J. Wolcott contributed to this story.

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