LOS ANGELES -- It's one of the most common pieces of advice for homeowners on vacation: before going on a trip, place a hold on your newspaper subscription so that they won't pile up and attract potential burglars.
But for more than 100 subscribers of the Los Angeles Times, placing their newspaper on a vacation hold is exactly what made them vulnerable to home invasion and theft. So far, police have only identified 25 victims and are seeking help from the public to locate more.
Four men were arrested Wednesday in connection with home burglaries of Times subscribers. Duane Van Tuinen, a 51-year-old resident of Azusa, Calif., is suspected of obtaining vacation hold lists and supplying them to a burglary ring that operated for three years, reports the Times.
La Verne resident Randall Whitmore, 43, Arcadia resident Joshua Box, 43, and Covina resident Edwin Valentine, 52, were also arrested in connection with the crime. Police are still searching for a fifth suspect.
The Times contracted Van Tuinen, who worked as an office machine repairman, to repair broken machines. The job allegedly gave him several opportunities to steal vacation hold lists and distribute them to burglars, notes a release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Police also believe that Van Tuinen would take a cut of the stolen goods and re-sell it for profit. Authorities managed to locate what was left of the stolen property in several storage lockers in West Covina last Thursday.
The stolen goods include collectible coins, musical instruments, swords, computers and jewelry.
“Although much of the stolen property has been returned to the rightful owners, we are still trying to locate additional victims,” said Detective Jack Jordan of the Major Crimes Bureau in the LASD release.
The inside job prompted the newspaper to make a major change to the way subscriber lists are handled. The newspaper released this statement:
The Los Angeles Times was contacted several months ago about criminal activity which may have been linked to subscriber delivery information. We immediately launched an internal review and collaborated with the Sheriff's Department as matters unfolded, including honoring their request to keep the matter confidential because the investigation was active. The Times sympathizes with those who have been harmed and joins the other victims in thanking the Sheriff's Department for their hard work.
The burglary ring first came to light in the summer of 2012, when Glendora police pulled over one of the suspects, reports the Times. He was in possession of stolen property and a list of names and addresses, which authorities determined to be a vacation holds list.
Call sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau detectives at (562) 946-7893 if you believe you were victimized after placing a vacation hold on your Los Angeles Times subscription. Please have the police report number and a description of the stolen items ready.