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Vacationing LA Times subscribers targeted by burglars

January 30, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Investigators are looking for people whose homes were burglarized while they were on vacation because they had instructed the Los Angeles Times to hold their newspapers.

Authorities say Duane Van Tuinen, an office machine repairman contracted by distributors of the Times, obtained L.A. Times vacation lists. He then gave them to a group of thieves, including 43-year-old Randall Whitmore of La Verne, 43-year-old Joshua Box of Arcadia and 52-year-old Edwin Valentine of Covina.

The suspects targeted homes that were on the vacation lists. Police say more than 25 burglaries in various cities across the Southland were confirmed to be part of the conspiracy.

"They devastated the homeowners. They cleaned the houses out. It didn't appear as though it was a quick ransacking. It was a complete sacking of the residence," said Sgt. Michael Maher with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Detectives say Tuinen repeatedly stole lists of L.A. Times newspaper subscribers who were on vacation, and he would share in the stolen property, which would ultimately be sold for profit.

The L.A. Times released a statement Wednesday, saying, "Our customers can rest assured that no financial information was involved and that these robberies, while terribly unfortunate, are likely limited to a small section of the vast area we cover."

Last Thursday, the investigation led detectives to a storage locker in West Covina, where hundreds of pieces of stolen property were found. A lot of the stolen goods have since been returned, but detectives say they are still trying to locate the owners of the rest of the property.

The investigation was a joint effort among several agencies, including Glendora, Arcadia, Chino Hills, Monrovia and San Marino police departments.

Investigators said there could be many more victims because the alleged scheme could date back several years.

People who believe they were burglarized after putting themselves on the L.A. Times vacation list were urged to contact Sheriff's Detective Jack Jordan at (562) 946-7893. Callers must have a police report number from the burglary and a description of the stolen items.

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