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JANITOR NABBED BY POLICE; OWNERS HAPPY TO SEE GOODS.

Byline: Donna Huffaker Daily News Staff Writer

A janitor has pleaded guilty to grand theft of thousands of dollars of office equipment, after police secretly videotaped him hiding a laptop computer in a trash bin and wheeling it out the door.

Police on Wednesday invited the tenants of several downtown high-rises to reclaim stolen cellular phones, laptops, cameras, color printers and keyboards that officers confiscated from the home of Jose Alfredo Velazquez, 43, of Los Angeles.

Velazquez was arrested after Glendale police videotaped him taking a laptop from an office at 1 a.m. May 15, police said.

``We had him under surveillance. We set a laptop out on a desk and he took the bait,'' said Officer Lisa Muzquiz, who works in the department's Community Police Partnership program.

Velazquez pleaded guilty this week to grand theft with prior convictions, said Sgt. Rick Young. Velazquez will be sentenced June 15.

Since January, Glendale police have received reports of missing merchandise from offices at 300 N. Brand Blvd. as well as other downtown high-rises, Muzquiz said. Police checked with Business Watch - a program in which representatives from Glendale businesses keep tabs on what's going on with neighboring businesses - and discovered a series of thefts.

They then set up the videotape to catch the thief.

On Wednesday, the unit displayed the confiscated items in a suite at 300 N. Brand Blvd. Victims from various floors perused and pointed at the phones, cameras and computer items that used to sit in their offices.

The recovered items filled two tables but were a fraction of the $25,000 of the missing merchandise, said Officer Peter Pressnall. Police suspect Velazquez sold many of the items he swiped from the offices.

Although Velazquez had a prior conviction, building manager Judy Rome said background checks are not part of the hiring process for custodial staffers. When asked whether checks would be made in the future, she said, ``I hope so.''

Brian Arrington of SafeCo Insurance shook his head at the pricey digital camera and two cellular phones he hasn't seen in weeks. His company uses the cameras to take pictures of crash scenes. Arrington said the phone has $80 in fraudulent calls.

Theft victim Keith Waters called the late-night stealing despicable.

Waters, a loss control representative from SafeCo, said the insurance company's one recovered laptop is so technologically obsolete he was going to donate the machine anyway. The expensive laptops were gone, he said, noting costly items are usually stored in a locked area.

One of the items recovered from Velazquez's apartment was a set of keys to office suites that he should not have had, Young said.

CAPTION(S):

photo

PHOTO A Glendale police officer photographs Keith Waters with his recovered laptop computer. Waters, along with a few other victims of theft, identified items that were stolen from their offices in the past few months.

Eric Grigorian/Special to the Daily News
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 27, 1999
Words:486
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