By Mary O’KEEFE
A man who sheriffs say was scamming victims as they shopped at local businesses has been arrested.
According to a Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s report, while patrolling in the area of the 700 block of Foothill Boulevard a woman flagged the deputy down. She stated that a person was in the Panda Express restaurant that matched the description of a man who contacted her weeks ago while she was shopping at the Ralphs market in La Cañada. She recanted the story of how the man told her he was an architect from Newport Beach who had run out of gas and didn’t have cash or his credit card with him. He allegedly said he needed $28 for a gas can and gas. She, believing his story, gave him the money. She then saw him at Panda. Another witness with a similar story contacted the deputy as well and identified the man eating at the restaurant with a man and woman, later identified as Hector Ramon Durazo, 20, and Carissa Josephine Acosta, 21, both of North Hollywood.
The deputy detained Peter Hohn Yanaginuma, 51, of Los Angeles in the parking lot of the restaurant. At the time he was with two other people who at first told the deputy that Yanaginuma had told them he ran out of gas and needed help. They drove him to the restaurant and because he hadn’t any money, they bought him dinner.
Another deputy arrived and during the investigation found the story given by the two good Samaritans had several inconsistencies. It was discovered that Durazo and Acosta were neighbors of Yanaginuma. All three allegedly told deputies that they had formulated the false architect story in an effort to deceive people for money. Yanaginuma reportedly told the deputies he came to La Cañada because he had been successful in previous attempts in the area.
Several weeks ago this type of scam was reported to the CV Sheriff’s Station. The story involving the architect who ran out of gas was similar to the one used by Yanaginuma, said Sgt. Ray Harley.
Investigators believe Yanaginuma was involved in those previous complaints.
About a year ago that same story was played out at the Vons market in La Crescenta. Whether Yanaginuma was part of those incidents is still under investigation.
The suspects were arrested for criminal conspiracy and theft by false pretense. Anyone with information or think they may have been a victim of Yanaginuma is asked to call Det. Todd Sams at the CV Sheriff’s at (818) 248-3464.