4 Busted in Islamic Center Burglary Caper

IRVINE, CA (December 1, 2008) — hree juveniles and one adult, all males, were arrested Sunday night by Irvine and Orange County Sheriff’s detectives following the weekend burglaries of some Orange County Islamic Centers, according to Irvine Police.Arrested for suspicion of burglary were Josef Mohammad Mohebi, 19, formerly of Irvine but now a Corona resident, and three unidentified 17 year olds from Anaheim, Buena Park and Hacienda Heights, said Irvine Police Lt. Rick Handfield.

Saturday afternoon just after 2:30 pm, Irvine Police were called to the Islamic Center of Irvine, located in the 100 block of Truman, after employees of the center witnessed video surveillance footage showing the center’s collection boxes being robbed. 

Earlier in the day a member of the staff had been involved in a conversation with a regular attendee of the center. Despite her familiarity with the individual, the discussion struck her as being unusual, according to police.

The exchange also prompted suspicion from the rest of the staff and the security videos were reviewed. They revealed that the person that had engaged the staff member in conversation had done so to cause a distraction while another man broke into the collection boxes and removed their contents.

The Islamic Center staff further reviewed other surveillance video to discover the same two men wandering around the campus on Friday afternoon, November 28.

At 6 p.m. Sunday another member of the Islamic Center staff noticed the suspect’s car in the parking lot. As the car left the center the staff member followed but lost the suspect’s vehicle in traffic near Interstate 5 and El Toro Road.

Later Sunday night, Irvine Police were informed that the Mission Viejo Islamic Center had also been burglarized by the same individuals, according to police.

Irvine Police officers and Orange County Sheriff’s detectives pooled their information on the cases. Detecives began checking motels along the I-5 freeway. They found the suspect’s car parked at the Key Inn in Tustin shortly after 11 pm.   

Irvine detectives arrived at the scene as the four suspects emerged from the motel and were detained. Orange County Sheriff’s Department detectives confirmed the individuals to be the same ones involved in the chain of Islamic Center thefts.

Police believe about $1,200.00 was stolen during the Irvine robberies.    

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