An alleged gang member was ordered Friday to stand trial in connection with a series of recent burglaries at the homes of singer Rihanna, former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gustavo Sztraicher denied a defense motion to dismiss the case against Tyress Williams, 19, of Los Angeles, who is charged with six counts of first-degree residential burglary and one count of attempted residential burglary, along with a gang allegation.
Williams is still awaiting a hearing on another case in which he and 12 other alleged gang members are charged in connection with conspiracy and other charges involving the series of burglaries and other similar break-ins.
During the hearing, Los Angeles Police Department Detective Mel Vergara testified that Williams admitted in a Sept. 28 interview with police that he was involved in three of the burglaries — one at Rihanna’s Los Angeles home on Sept. 25, one at Puig’s home in Tarzana on Sept. 18, along with one at singer Mathieu Tota’s Studio City home on Aug. 24.
Williams denied that he had been involved in the Sept. 27 break-in at Woods’ home in Woodland Hills, but police reported that he was stopped a day later while seated inside a vehicle in which the trunk contained luggage that the football player later identified as his, according to the detective.
Two passports belonging to a couple who lived at a North Hollywood home that was burglarized Sept. 21 were also found in the car, according to LAPD Detective Daniel Jaramillo.
Two of the homes — Puig’s and Tota’s — were targeted twice, with a safe from Puig’s master bedroom being taken downstairs and left inside the house near the front door during the Sept. 18 break-in and Williams telling police that the safe was heavy, Vergara testified.
The defendant allegedly said that Puig’s residence was targeted because he was “stupid” and was “putting out basically his activities on social media,” Vergara testified.
One of the two burglary counts involving Puig’s home was amended by the prosecution to an attempted burglary after Williams’ attorney questioned whether any entry was made into the baseball player’s house on Aug. 30.
Williams told police that some jewelry was left behind on a wall near Tota’s house after the Aug. 24 break-in, according to Vergara, who identified Williams as the man he had seen who had part of his face exposed on surveillance video at the scene of the crime. Tota’s home was targeted again four days later, authorities said.
Williams was arrested Sept. 28 by Los Angeles police and charged Oct. 2 in connection with the series of break-ins, while three other people were released from jail after prosecutors asked Los Angeles police to conduct further investigation into potential cases against them.
Two of those men — Jshawne Daniels, 20; and Damaji Hall, 19 — were subsequently re-arrested and charged, along with Hassan Deontre Murphy, 19, Joseph Holley and Dekell Right, both 22, Lance Williams, 18, Devin Garner, 24, Ron Simmons and Eric Harris, both 20, Donnie Faizon, 21, and Elan Lamberto Gabourel, 25. One man is still wanted.
The men are charged with criminal street gang conspiracy, along with numerous other counts, including first-degree residential burglary, home invasion robbery, first-degree residential robbery and attempted burglary.
The series of burglaries began in late October 2017 and ended this October, according to prosecutors, who allege that the crimes occurred at residential and commercial properties in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Arcadia, Pasadena, Temple City, Monterey Park, Walnut, Studio City, North Hollywood, Encino, Tarzana, Toluca Lake and Woodland Hills.
The break-in at Woods’ home occurred while the Rams were playing the Minnesota Vikings at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, according to the criminal complaint in the newest case in which Williams and the other defendants are awaiting a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require them to stand trial.
At an Oct. 2 news conference announcing the arrests of Williams, Daniels and Hall, the commanding officer of the LAPD’s Commercial Crimes Division said that the LAPD had become aware of a series of residential burglaries that targeted actors, producers, musicians and professional athletes living in the Los Angeles area.
“Initially, it was believed that these homes were being burglarized at random. However, detectives learned that this wasn’t the case,” said LAPD Capt. Lillian Carranza. The victims’ homes had been selected based on social media postings and touring or travel schedules of the owners. The burglars believed no one would be home and that the homes would contain sought after valuables that they might be interested in.
The burglaries followed a pattern called “flocking,” whereby suspects flock to celebrities’ neighborhoods, dressing in nice clothes and driving luxury vehicles to avoid suspicion as they search for targets. They would then change into casual clothing, including hoodies, and use a larger vehicle to haul away stolen items, Carranza said.
One suspect would typically knock or ring a doorbell to check if anyone was home before breaking into a residence, she said.
The crimes typically were completed in a matter of minutes, Carranza said.
Investigators said in October that they also recovered a list of additional public figures, including Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James, actors Matt Damon and Viola Davis, that also were targeted for possible break- ins.