Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Tuesday announced the arrest of a man who had been targeting the Hispanic community while impersonating a police officer.
Authorities believe that the suspect, 56-year-old Alejandro Martin, extorted an estimated $100,000 from his victims.
So far, eight people have come forward saying they were targeted by Alejandro, and the sheriff’s department said there might be even more victims.
Detectives believe the 56-year-old would scour ads in “El Clasificado,” the largest Spanish-language classified marketplace in the United States, looking for day laborers that he could steal money from.
Earlier this year, Martin told a contractor he found through “El Clasificado” that he was an “LA Police Detective” and had vehicles to sell, according to a department news release.
“[He] said he had access to confiscated and towed vehicles from the police department,” Villanueva said at the press conference.
In that case, the victim paid Martin $7,000 for two hybrid cars and was supposed to pay another $7,000 once the vehicles were delivered. The vehicles, though, never materialized.
All the victims are Hispanic and Spanish speakers and were either handymen or did construction work.
“Often times, Spanish speakers are victims of crime and theft and they do not report incidents,” Villanueva said. “We’re here to remind everyone, and the mission of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, is to protect all county residents regardless of immigration status.”
Martin has been arrested twice for similar crimes, but in both cases, the impersonation charge was dropped. In 2014, he received probation. In 2019, the district attorney’s office pursued some of the charges, resulting in more than two years of jail time, but, again, the impersonation charge was dropped, and he was placed on probation.
“Unfortunately, with the wheeling and dealing with the DA’s office, this is not entirely uncommon,” Villanueva said. “In fact, over the last two years, we’re seeing a lot more of this, where charges should be filed on things. But it seems to be the drive is to minimize criminal conduct.”
The suspect was arrested yet again on Oct. 27 at his residence in Bellflower and was booked into the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station for theft by false pretense.
Anyone who might have been targeted by the 56-year-old or have information about others who were targeted is encouraged to contact the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.