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Suspects Arrested in String of Thefts

October 03, 2006|J. Michael Kennedy | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police Monday announced that 10 "significant" arrests, all possibly linked to a string of robberies that have targeted Asian-owned businesses, were made over the weekend.

Police Chief William J. Bratton said investigators believed Asian businesses were being singled out because many of them deal with large amounts of cash and remain open late, making them more lucrative and easier prey for robbers.

He also said that all but two of those arrested were gang members and that the 9% increase in Los Angeles robberies this year over last "is part of a national upsurge" in criminal activity.

Police Department spokesman Lt. Paul Vernon said police were still seeking information that would link those arrested to the 20 or more armed takeover robberies in the mid-Wilshire, Lafayette Park, Hollywood and Eagle Rock areas since mid-September.

"We're still looking for any information the public might be able to provide," he said.

The first arrests occurred early Sunday when three men dressed as armored car employees were apprehended shortly after running from the Occidental Liquor Store on Beverly Boulevard. They were identified as Sam Johnson, 36; Christopher Govan, 19; and Corderro Frazier, 18. All are reputed gang members. Bond for each was set at $325,000.

About 24 hours later, detectives arrested seven more suspects -- six adults and a 17-year-old girl -- on suspicion of robbing the Grasshopper Bar on Fountain Avenue early Monday. Those arrested were identified as La Marcus Funchness, 18; Andrew Smith, 18; Earl Harris, 20; Joeisha Jefferson, 22; and Belma Brown, 20. All five were booked on robbery charges.

Lanett Smith, 18, and the 17-year-old girl were arrested in a second car; police said they believe the two were the robbers' lookouts. Both were booked on suspicion of conspiracy to commit robbery.

Police said they would now try to determine if the weekend arrests were connected to a string of robberies that began at the Greenland Bar on Western Avenue.

Detectives estimate that robbers may have made off with as much as $37,000 in cash and merchandise in those heists.

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michael.kennedy@latimes.com

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