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Security Guard Accused of Thefts While Posing as Cop

August 22, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

He'd suit up in a security officer's uniform, police said, and wait patiently inside his pickup truck for people to stagger out of bars.

He'd shine his truck's high beams on them, flash his badge, ask why they were going to drive while drunk -- then he'd search them, Santa Ana Police Sgt. Baltazar De La Riva said.

With their backs turned, he'd empty their wallets and stuff their money into his pocket and flee, De La Riva said.

The ruse worked on at least eight victims, he said, until another security guard called police.

Police arrested Robert Leon, 28, of Anaheim, last week on suspicion of three counts of robbery and four counts of impersonation of a police officer, De La Riva said.

He is being held on $250,000 bail at the Santa Ana City Jail.

Leon, who holds a license as a security guard until 2004, wore a jacket, security badge and a police radio in his waistband that turned out to be a fake plastic toy radio, De La Riva said. "He'd pull this fake radio out and talk in it as if he was calling the dispatcher," he said.

According to authorities, Leon last struck at the Casa del Rey bar at 230 W. Warner Ave. about 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 12.

A security guard at the bar witnessed Leon "acting like a cop" and called police, De La Riva said.

Officers found Leon at a nearby motel parking lot, where police had received a similar complaint moments earlier. Leon was arrested without incident, De La Riva said.

"The victims were Hispanics who could not distinguish the difference between a police officer and a security guard," De La Riva said.

"And when you mix that with drinking, not knowing English or the law, you can see how it can happen."

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