Police: Pair arrested in Encino after breaking into car were part of multi-state ‘bank jugging’ crew – LA Daily News
Two men who were arrested in Encino last week on suspicion of trying to steal thousands of dollars of cash out of a bank customer’s car were part of an expansive ring of thieves operating across dozens of states, police said Wednesday.
The ring, whose members mostly operated out of the Houston area but recently set up in Los Angeles, targeted “dozens and dozens” of victims leaving banks across Southern California over the last six months, according to a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department’s commercial burglary unit.
The unit’s commander, Capt. Lillian Carranza, said Wednesday that the men, 30-year-old Devian Lockhart and 21-year-old Christopher Curry, flew in to LAX and were staying at nearby hotels while conducting their burglary and robbery spree.
She called the city “a target-rich environment” for the thieves driving in rental cars who watch bank entrances for customers leaving with white deposit slips or vinyl, merchant deposit bags.
The practice is called “jugging,” which Carranza said was a play on the word “mugging.”
Detective Dennis Bopp said investigators tied the pair to dozens of burglaries across Southern California including Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. He said recent burglaries were reported in Paramount, Downey, Pasadena and Riverside.
He said detectives believed the suspects were well-traveled — one day there would be reports of similar burglaries in Calabasas and further west in Ventura County, and the next day the suspects might turn up in Chino.
The heists could be extremely lucrative: In the March 1 burglary, the men would have made off with about $17,000.
Bopp said Lockhart and Curry were part of the Houston-based team of between 50 to 100 thieves. He said LAPD learned from Houston police that the group, and several other groups like it, had been pulling similar burglaries for years throughout Texas and neighboring states.
Carranza said investigators believe the Houston group committed burglaries across the Southern and Southwestern United States. They came to Los Angeles believing they could get an even bigger haul.
Last January, police in Torrance arrested five men they said were part of a jugging ring. All of those men also were from Houston.
Bopp said the suspects tended to return to banks where they had previous success. The Bank of America on Ventura Boulevard in Encino was one of them. On March 1, police said the pair staked out the bank entrance and watched a man driver a Rolls Royce leave with what they thought was a large sum of cash.
They followed the man to a nearby parking lot, then broke a window to the Rolls Royce and pried open a door. Police who were watching them immediately arrested the two men, Bopp said.
Lockhart is being held in jail in Van Nuys, while Curry was being held in in downtown L.A. Both were placed under $150,000 bail.
Lockhart was scheduled to appear in court on March 27. Curry was scheduled for March 28.