LOS ANGELES - A felon suspected of posing as a police detective and stealing more than $100,000 from Spanish-speaking handymen has been arrested, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced Tuesday.
According to the sheriff's department, a victim went to the Lakewood Sheriff's Station in June to report a theft. He told investigators that he had placed an ad on the "El Clasificado" website for handyman work and was contacted by Alejandro Martin to perform work at his home in Bellflower, Villanueva said at a news conference at the station.
During the meeting, Martin identified himself as an "LA police detective" and said he had access to confiscated and towed vehicles from the police department to sell, according to Villanueva. The 56-year-old Martin offered to sell the victim two hybrid vehicles for a $7,000 deposit via Zelle and another $7,000 once the vehicles were delivered, Villanueva said.
Martin did not deliver the vehicles after the deposit was paid, and ignored repeated phone calls from the victim, according to Villanueva. However, the victim managed to reach Martin once via phone call, in which he was told by the suspect "that he was a detective and if he didn't want any problems, he should stay away," Villanueva said.
Sheriff's detectives began an investigation into the victim's report and subsequently arrested Martin at his Bellflower home Thursday, Villanueva reported. He was booked on suspicion of grand theft and impersonating a peace officer.
Investigators later learned Martin had been arrested in 2014 for impersonating an officer, grand theft and being a felon in a possession of a firearm, though the impersonation charges were later dropped. He did receive a sentence of two years and 8 months for the possession and grand theft charges, the sheriff's department reported.
Authorities have identified eight victims who reported similar thefts from Martin totaling over $100,000, according to Villanueva, who also noted that all the victims "are Hispanic and Spanish speakers" who are either handymen or do construction work and advertised their services on the "El Clasificado" website.
Anyone who may have been a victim of Martin was asked to call sheriff's Det. Cesar Gallegos at 562-925-0124. Anonymous tips can be called in to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or submitted online at lacrimestoppers.org.