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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 9:55 pm | Fair 46º


Bill Macfadyen: Was Downtown Burglary Binge a Feat of Physical Fitness, Dumb Luck, or Both?

NoozWeek’s Top 5 squares off over worker’s comp, meets a repeat DUI offender, jams with Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, and takes one last shot at ‘Illegals’

There were 79,606 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What’s my take on your top stories? I’m glad you asked.

1. Dozen Santa Barbara Businesses Recovering from Overnight Burglary Spree

More than a dozen businesses in and around downtown Santa Barbara were hit in an hours-long burglary spree in the middle of the night early on Jan. 17.

Two local teenagers were arrested, but a third suspect apparently has not yet been taken into custody.

Santa Barbara police Sgt. Bryan Jensen said the perps may have caused as much as $100,000 in damage as they brazenly roamed about.

“The first call was at 2:45 in the morning, and then we basically were chasing these crooks around the city,” he said, referring to the first security alarm to be triggered.

Jensen said the party apparently started with a break-in just after midnight at La Bella Rosa Bakery, at 1411 San Andres St. on the Westside.

From there, the alleged juvenile delinquents hit Super Cucas Restaurant, 626 W. Micheltorena St.; Mobil Gas, 402 W. Mission St.; Paradise Tobacco, 1926 De la Vina St.; Fuzion Gallery & Boutique, 1115 State St.; Dahlia’s Beauty Salon, 1021 State St.; Instant Klasick, 811 State St.; South Coast Deli, 10 E. Carrillo St.; Ashtanga Yoga, 1213 State St., Suite J; Sabrina Full Service Salon & Boutique, 1305 Chapala St.; and several businesses inside the Santa Barbara Public Market in the Alma del Pueblo complex at 38 W. Victoria St.

There also were attempted break-ins at Carrillo Market, 626 W. Micheltorena St.; The Game Stop, 803 Chapala St.; and Saks Fifth Avenue, 1001 State St., as well as a vandalized vehicle at Ayers Repairs, 1301 Chapala St.

Two suspects, ages 17 and 16, were apprehended about 4 a.m. Saturday near the MTD station in the 1000 block of Chapala Street, said Jensen, who added that a large amount of cash and loot was recovered.

Perhaps even more incredibly, police think the dynamic duo was on foot throughout most of the burglary binge. Oh, well. There go those cross-country dreams — a month too soon to be inspired by McFarland, USA.

I’m hardly alone in wondering how two adolescent pedestrians could ransack so many businesses over such a wide swath of the city during such a long period of time without being detected — even if it was in the dark of night. Could it really have been dumb luck that they managed to mostly avoid businesses with security systems? 

The teens were booked into Santa Barbara County Juvenile Hall. Names were not released because of their ages.

2. Owners of Santa Barbara Paving Company Arrested in Worker’s Compensation Fraud Case​

A prosecutor with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office has cracked down — hard — on what he contends is a clear-cut case of worker’s compensation fraud.

Al Rodriguez is to be arraigned next week on worker’s compensation fraud charges. His attorney has indicated he’s not yet begun to fight. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)
Al Rodriguez is to be arraigned next week on worker’s compensation fraud charges. His attorney has indicated he’s not yet begun to fight. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

According to a statement issued Jan. 16 by District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Deputy District Attorney Gary Gemberling has charged the owners of a local paving company and one of their employees with 42 felony counts in the case.

United Paving owners Al Rodriguez and his wife, Maria, and longtime employee Bryon Duran were arrested Jan. 14 after a months-long investigation by Gemberling, the California Department of Insurance’s Fraud Division, the Franchise Tax Board, the Employment Development Department and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Among the charges: worker’s compensation premium fraud, fraudulent denial of worker’s compensation benefits, wage theft and violations of the California Unemployment Insurance Code.

“If you were employed by United Seal Coating, United Seal Coating and Slurry Seal Inc., Santa Barbara Paving or United Paving within the past four years and believe you were a victim of wage theft or denied worker’s compensation benefits, you are encouraged to contact the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office at 805.568.2300,” according to the statement.

Not so fast, says the trio’s legal counsel, Ron Bamieh of Bamieh & Erickson.

“The district attorney has capitulated to several years of pressure from labor unions in deciding to file charges against Al Rodriguez’s business,” he said.

Bamieh added that organized labor has long complained about the “nonunion business,” a frequent contractor on lucrative UC Santa Barbara jobs.

The family-owned company “was able to provide construction more efficiently and economically than union companies on construction jobs on the UCSB campus,” he said, asserting that the charges against Maria Rodriguez and Duran were brought only to put more pressure on Rodriguez himself.

The Rodriguezes and Duran are to be arraigned Jan. 30 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

3. Woman With Multiple DUI Convictions Arrested Again on Suspicion of DUI

Is the drive-through criminal justice system working for Linda Mendoza? (Santa Maria Police Department photo)
Is the drive-through criminal justice system working for Linda Mendoza? (Santa Maria Police Department photo)

The night of Jan. 17, Santa Maria police arrested a woman on suspicion of felony DUI. Not terribly surprising for a weekend roundup.

But as our Tom Bolton discovered, it apparently wasn’t this woman’s first rodeo.

It turns out that the cops arrested Linda Grace Mendoza, 50, of Santa Maria, who has a history of drunken-driving convictions — three in the last 10 years, in fact.

According to police Lt. Dan Cohen, officers found Mendoza behind the wheel of a car parked — thankfully — in the 1600 block of North Broadway.

She was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI and was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail for that, as well as the charges of driving with a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.08 percent, driving while on probation for DUI and driving with a suspended license.

Local legends Kenny Loggins, left, and Michael McDonald were happy to lend their distinctive sounds to SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. (SOhO Restaurant & Music Club photo)
Local legends Kenny Loggins, left, and Michael McDonald were happy to lend their distinctive sounds to SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. (SOhO Restaurant & Music Club photo)

4. Jeff Moehlis: This Is It — Loggins and McDonald to Perform at SOhO

SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is spending 2015 celebrating its 20th anniversary in downtown Santa Barbara.

As part of the festivities — and to help the club raise money for much-needed tenant improvements at the fraying Victoria Court location — the club turned to a couple of Santa Barbara’s best-known musicians: Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.

The pair performed Jan. 18 before a packed crowd at the club at 1221 State St., Suite 205.

Before the gig, Loggins, my former neighbor, was kind enough to talk to our Jeff Moehlis about the importance of SOhO as a venue — to the community as well as to his own family.

5. Bill Macfadyen: Lesbians, ‘Illegals’ and The Oddest Daily Newspaper in Southern California

Since my last column, friends have been bombarding me with questions about the latest controversy involving Santa Barbara’s daily newspaper. “You must really be enjoying this, right?” they ask.

Actually, no. While the bumbling may be modestly beneficial for our traffic, Fossil Media are largely irrelevant to Noozhawk. I would much rather spend our time and resources on more important matters for our readers.

But that’s just my opinion.

                                                                 •        •        •

Natalie Tran has perfect timing for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

(communitychannel video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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