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3 Held in Pizza Delivery Holdups

The suspects would lure workers with false orders and then ambush them, forcing them to withdraw money from ATMs, police say.

May 21, 2003|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Police have arrested three San Fernando Valley men suspected in a string of sometimes violent holdups in which they would call pizza delivery workers to addresses south of Ventura Boulevard, kidnap them and force them to withdraw cash from ATMs, detectives said Tuesday.

"They were predators who specifically picked on ... people who they knew would not be carrying weapons," said LAPD Det. Lindy Gligorijevic .

"Every one of these victims are hard-working, and some of them were working two jobs. Some were young men starting out in their employment," Gligorijevic said. "What's particularly sad is that the money that was taken was from their own accounts."

Vadim Valcu, 23, and Noel Carver, 22, both of North Hollywood, and Jacob Olinka, 18, of Encino each faces a possible maximum term of life in prison with parole if convicted of the charges that include robbery, carjacking and kidnapping for robbery, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

The three are accused of at least six robberies of pizza deliverers over the past two weeks as well as unrelated street robberies along Ventura Boulevard that may date back to the beginning of the year, Gligorijevic said.

The robbers would telephone orders to pizza parlors around Encino, using the same cellular phone and generally asking for pizzas with ham and pineapple toppings, detectives said.

They gave addresses on the affluent hill streets south of the boulevard, choosing areas where it was either dark, obscured by foliage or in front of residences where no one was home.

As the delivery worker approached, the robbers would brandish a knife or fake gun and force the driver back into the car. They would drive to an automated teller machine, where the victim would be forced to give his personal identification number. The robbers would drop the victim off and later abandon the car.

Late last week, the robbers beat a delivery man who did not produce a bank card and resisted the kidnapping. After Det. Steve Park of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Division identified one of the suspects, investigators called in a surveillance team.

Detectives followed two men to Dixie Canyon near Cheltenham Street and watched as the men waited in the bushes. The detectives then arrested Valcu and Carver.

They are being held in jail in lieu of $4-million bail and pleaded not guilty at arraignment Tuesday. Olinka, who is scheduled to appear in court today, is in custody in lieu of $1-million bail.

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