Sixteen teens have been arrested after allegedly breaking into an opulent, gated La Habra Heights home last month and stealing $1 million worth of art and clothing — including a stuffed snow leopard valued at $250,000 and a suit of armor.
After the owner of a multimillion-dollar home went out of town, high-school students in the area noticed the house was empty and announced a party in the backyard on Twitter, Lt. Arthur Scott of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Industry Station said Wednesday.
During the party, the teens broke into the home, which Scott described as “fabulous” and a “mansion,” trashing the property. The party took place without the homeowner’s knowledge, he said.
“They just had a free-for-all once the place was broken into,” Scott said. “Once entry was made, it was like, ‘Oh, this is fun.'”
Many Twitter conversations can be found among teens in the area describing the planned “mansion party,” which some tweets noted was in a home that was for sale. They tweeted selfies during the party as well, authorities said.
“They were actually bragging about the party, showing themselves within the residence, showing themselves carrying some of the stolen property,” sheriff’s Capt. Tim Murakami said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
Some tweets on Wednesday were about the teens’ detention.
The five-bedroom home, in the 1700 block of Chota Road (map), has been listed for nearly $7 million, according to a posting on the real estate website Redfin. Realtor David Wright, who listed the home, confirmed the property was the subject of the break-in.
A website for the “private paradise” shows painted ceilings, an ornate pool, a swim-in grotto with a bar and other opulent details.
The thefts took place on the night of Saturday, Nov. 23 and into the following Sunday morning.
Damage and loss from the property were estimated at more than $1 million.
One of the teens collected an entry fee for the party, which brought out about 100 kids, Murakami said.
After a two-week investigation, 13 juveniles aged 15 to 17, along with three 18-year-old boys, were taken into custody, authorities said. (Scott originally stated that 14 juveniles and one adult were in detained or arrested; the figures were updated later Wednesday.)
The teens were taken into custody on suspicion of burglary or trespassing, according to a sheriff’s news release. Both girls and boys were detained.
The 18-year-old suspects were named as Nickolas Koontz of La Habra Heights, and Kevin Larios and Andres Uribe, both of La Habra.
On Wednesday night, Koontz apologized for the party and thefts.
“It was wrong; it shouldn’t have happened. I want to really say sorry to the owner of the house,” Koontz said. “Kids take lots of valuable stuff — it’s wrong. I couldn’t’ believe it. I got caught up with it too.”
A worker who had been at the home on the day of the party saw many teens in the area and wondered what they were doing, Wright, the realtor, said.
Investigators have recovered some of the stolen items, including a mounted, taxidermied snow leopard that was brought to Industry Station Wednesday morning, Scott said.
Other items included a suit of armor with a medieval helmet and shield, scuba gear, statues and multiple Versace suits, authorities said. Electronics were taken as well.
The teens were arrested in the unincorporated county area near Whittier and in the cities of Whittier and La Habra.
The home is in an affluent, hilly residential community about 20 miles east-southeast of downtown L.A.