People Behaving Badly: Mid-Winter Edition

Escondido police said these surveillance photos showed a woman accused of using “sleight of hand” to steal jewelry from high-end stores in Southern California, Texas and Virginia./Escondido Police Department

Welcome to a sometimes continuing series covering a never-ending story, people doing bad things, allegedly.

Frankly, The Grapevine takes a slightly different tack than TV stations and other outlets when it comes to the lawbreaking and fire making of modern society. We’re selective when it comes to reporting in this area.

While, we don’t question interest in the subject matter, we question how it is covered. Those offending media outlets, and you know who you are, treat such information as news porn. Stories are easy to digest and easy to do. They are visual and visceral. Right and wrong. Simple and filling.

Disclaimers aside, here are some of the highlights of the lowlights archived in story bookmarks this month…

Decade-long jewelry crime spree interruptus

Escondido police on Thursday, Feb. 6 arrested a San Diego woman accused of stealing more than $300,000 worth of jewelry over a dozen years from stores in at least three states.

Detectives arrested Huong Thi Tran, 66, on Thursday at a home on 51st Street near Lemon Avenue in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood, Escondido police said.

Tran was what they called “a sleight of hand” thief by Escondido police in a statement. She used “distraction technique” to hoist an estimated over $300,000 worth of the really, really good stuff from at least a dozen “high-end” jewelry stores in Southern California, Texas and Virginia between 2008 and 2019, according to Escondido police.

Detectives from the Long Beach Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Department helped Escondido police investigate the case. San Diego police helped Escondido detectives with Tran’s arrest Thursday.

Know something. Say something. Escondido detectives asked anyone with additional information possibly related to the case to call the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (760) 743-TIPS (8477).

Meanwhile, back at the pawn shop

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Still at large, after three months, is whoever stole an estimated $500,000 worth of items from a North Broadway, Escondido pawn shop (not-so) safe.

That translated into 1,000 customers possibly being in even worse shape than what one would expect from having to pawn their beloved items in the first place for pawn shop loans. Jewelry — echoing Reagan’s 1980 debate line to Carter, “There you go again” — and electronics were hot ticket items taken from the not-so safe.

A spokesperson for Escondido-based Frontera Cash & Loan’s parent company, Coastal Cash and Loan, described the robbery as “sophisticated.” They said the robbers allegedly went through the roof, disabling the alarm system in what was described as a 5-hour-long break-in.

To add to the misery, mystery and unseemliness, the pawn shop closed following the Nov. 8, 2019 robbery.

Looking on the bright side, people behaving badly fans, this could make one hell of a great screenplay.

Maria Sedano was one of Frontera’s hundreds of customers. She pawned a $1,800 Swiss watch for a $600 loan, as well as jewelry.

“The value of one of the gold chains is $3,500,” Sedano said.

Sedano told Telemundo 20 she received a letter from Coastal Cash and Loan stating the company would forgive the amount of the loan. However, nothing was said about the actual value of those items.

And in Rancho Santa Fe celebrity restraining orders

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Here is some sort-a good news, lest we feel overwhelmed by the bad.

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, former KISS guitarist, and Rancho Santa Fe resident Ace Frehly was not, repeat NOT, slapped with a permanent restraining order following allegations by his former, FORMER, girlfriend Raechel Gordon. San Diego North County Judge Harry L. Powazek denied the order Gordon filed for last July.

“I never laid a hand on Rachael and she admitted it in her deposition,” Frehley said of his erstwhile girlfriend who dated him for 11 years and lived at his Rancho Santa Fe home.

For her part, Gordon said the couple had been “inseparable, completely inseparable” until that fateful night of July 12, 2019, when Frehley rushed into their Rancho Santa Fe home, took his belongings, and suddenly split.

“When I turned to go out of the room the female bodyguard had her fist in my face already and said, ‘hey if you say one word you’re going down, one word and listen I’m going to lay you out, right now,’” Gordon recalled. “She grits her teeth right up into my face and scared me.”

Frehley’s attorney Jennifer Goldman said Frehley was taking his things because the couple broke-up.

They said it would never last. And it didn’t. Frehley, however, gets to walk around unrestrained, at least in this case.

Turns out, it may be a bit of a win-win as well.

“I hope she finds someone else and continues on with her life,” Frehley said. “I have no bad feelings about her, we did have some good times, but those have passed.”

Despite not being granted a final restraining order — Gordon had a temporary, uncontested one — she said she felt like a winner, too.

“I won because legally he can’t come around,” Gordon said outside the Vista Court. “I have a lot of power right now that I can work with and plan to work with.”

Ominously speaking for Frehley perhaps, Gordon indicated her power stemmed from the fact she never signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Might be seeing some good KISS stories in the tabloids soon, so stay tuned

Dogging it at the puppy mill

Escondido’s Broadway Puppies, August 2019/Yelp

The owner of a number of San Diego County pet stores, including Broadway Puppies in Escondido, was or­dered by a judge recently to stop selling puppies.

In the latest development of a years-long tug of war between store owner David Salinas and animal rights activists, Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon ordered Salinas to stop selling puppies — for now — while a lawsuit filed by two non-prof­it animal rights groups, the Animal Protection and Rescue League Inc. and Not One Animal Harmed, is underway, according to The (El Cajon) Californian.

Salinas owns five puppy stores in Southern California: National City Puppy, Pups & Pets in Santee, The Fancy Puppy in Corona and Hel­lo Puppies in Temecula along with Escondido’s (alleged) puppy mill at 840 N. Broadway.

He also owns The Puppy Store in Washington, Utah.

Lawyer Bryan Pease, who rep­resents the animal rights groups, said Sturgeon ordered Salinas to stop selling puppies at all of his stores in San Diego County awaiting the result of the lawsuit.

Pease questioned the source of the puppies, which are brought in from out of state.

“If you’re out of state or out of the country, you’re not under the jurisdiction of the Food and Ag code. So, by definition, such an agreement could not have been made in pursuit to one of those Food and Ag code sections,” Pease said in court.

The lawsuit echoed an argu­ment that has continuously been brought forth by animal rights activists and de­nied by Salinas — that he sells puppies sourced from puppy mills, which violates a state law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2019, mandating pet stores to obtain animals from animal shelters or rescue groups in partnership with at least one private or public shelter.

However, some room for dispute continues. George Najjar, who represents Salinas, said the scope of the or­der was unclear at this time.

The case remains under review.

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