Suspected prolific team of vehicle burglars is well known to Garden Grove PD detectives
When he was promoted to detective in November 2015, one of the first cases Jim Franks was assigned to involved a string of vehicle burglaries in the area of Garden Grove Boulevard and Galway Street.
The suspect’s M.O. was to scope out busy strip malls during the peak hours of 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., find cars with valuables inside them, smash through the windows and make off with the goods.
In one car, an $18,000 violin.
Working on information that a white van had been seen near the scene of several of the vehicle burglaries, Garden Grove PD officers spotted, on Dec. 13, 2015, a white Toyota Sienna roaming around the parking lot of a strip mall.
They stopped the van and found a man and woman inside, along with purses, laptops, backpacks and what appeared to be several other stolen items.
The duo — a man and his much-younger girlfriend — were arrested.
That arrest wasn’t the first time GGPD officers had crossed paths with Julio Cesar Pachas, then 43, and Michella Ann Fuquay, then 22.
Back in October 2012, Pachas and Fuquay were arrested at their home on suspicion of committing vehicle burglaries — and were convicted and served some jail time. Pachas also was slapped with the additional charge of having sex with a minor. Pachas was sentenced to two years and served about a year, and was on probation for five years for unlawful intercourse with a minor. Fuquay was sentenced to 14 days in jail and three years probation.
Now Pachas, 45, and Fuquay, 24, both of Anaheim, along with a third suspect —Zachery Tanner, 21, of Garden Grove — are facing charges stemming from yet another slew of car burglaries this January and February.
The three were arrested Feb. 16, 2017 after GGPD detectives, led by Franks, served a search warrant at Pachas’ and Fuquay’s two-bedroom apartment and Tanner’s home in Garden Grove.
GGPD detectives recovered so many stolen items — valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and enough to fill a large cargo van, a pickup truck and three other cars —- that on April 5, a property viewing event will be held for victims, including some from out of state and one in China, to recover their stolen goods (for more information, see end of story).
Stolen luggage included some from an Oregon family containing a baby bag and breast milk.
“It’s not often that you come across a guy who, over the span of five years, gets caught three times doing the same crime,” said Franks, who started at the GGPD as an explorer when he was 16.
“And this (February 2017 arrests) was a huge team effort — it definitely wasn’t a one-man show,” said Franks, referring to the dozen or so GGPD officers who assisted.
A key break in this year’s case came when a veteran GGPD sergeant, hiding in bushes and fighting off spiders, saw something interesting through his binoculars.
HIS HANDS ARE FULL
Frank’s ultimate goal at the GGPD is to return to the Traffic unit as a sergeant in charge of motors, where he served as a patrol officer for six years.
For now, his hands are full with the Pachas/Fuquay case, with victims flooding his phone to ask whether the GGPD has recovered their stolen property — which Fuquay planned to sell online, according to detectives.
Pachas and Fuquay pleaded not guilty to the charges that followed their arrests in December 2015 — charges that were set to be heard in court last month, court records show.
Their recent arrests changed that.
This January, GGPD officers started noticing a spike in spike in window-smash car burglaries. In some cases, witnesses reported seeing a white van.
“We thought it was odd because it the same M.O. used by Pachas and Fuquay in the past,” Franks said.
In surveillance video taken at one of the crime scenes, detectives saw a white van with a paper dealer’s plate pulling into different parking spaces.
Thinking Pachas was a suspect, GGPD detectives put eyes on his apartment.
They saw him leave his apartment, get in a Land Rover, drive to the next street over, then get into a white van and drive away, according to Franks.
Two officers lost him, so they returned to scope out his apartment.
That’s when Property Crimes Sgt. Carl Whitney hid in some bushes with binoculars and scoped out the Land Rover and Pachas’ apartment (Whitney since has promoted to lieutenant).
Whitney saw Pachas pull up to the Land Rover in a white van with paper plates, load property into the Land Rover, and return to his apartment.
Based on this surveillance, the GGPD was able to get a search warrant to electronically track Pachas for a week by placing a GPS device on the white van — a key to cracking the case, Franks said.
Movements of the van over that week placed Pachas in several areas, including Long Beach, where vehicle burglaries had been reported, Franks said.
On Feb. 16, the day Pachas, Fuquay and Tanner were arrested, GGPD officers on surveillance saw Pachas and Tanner commit three vehicle burglaries in Garden Grove and Westminster (the white van is registered to Tanner).
Franks pointed out that GGPD officers didn’t arrest the two after the first vehicle burglary because they wanted to discover where they would take the property.
They found piles of the property in a single-car garage in the apartment complex in Anaheim where Pachas and Fuquay live, as well as a locked storage area inside a laundry room there. Fuquay showed up at the apartment shortly after Pachas and Tanner arrived in the white van.
At first, Pachas and Fuquay denied having any connection to the single-car garage — they showed GGPD officers the two-car garage they use, which contained no stolen property. But Pachas had been seen during surveillance entering the single-car garage.
The GGPD hailed the Garden Grove Fire Department to cut a hole in the garage door so they could enter.
And that’s when they found the huge cache of stolen property.
“We recovered between 160 and 180 purses, 90 or so backpacks, numerous laptops, tons of luggage, sports equipment, sunglasses, cell phones,” Franks said.
The apartment Pachas and Fuquay shared is modest, Franks said. But the couple owns a Mercedes, a BMW, the Land Rover, two motorcycles (a Harley and a Honda) and a horse trailer, Franks said.
The recovered stolen property goes back to at least 2015, Franks said.
So far, about 30 victims have gotten their property back, including people from Texas and Nevada who were visiting Orange County. The GGPD is trying to contact one victim who lives in China.
One Garden Grove victim had two hiking backpacks stolen — one containing a handgun.
“That was a good one to get back to the owner,” Franks said, “since that gun could have ended up on the street.”
Franks believes Pachas has been responsible for 30 vehicle thefts in Garden Grove alone this year, as well as car break-ins in Orange, Westminster, Long Beach and other cities.
He and Fuquay declined to give statements to the police after their arrests in February.
UPCOMING COURT DATE
Following the arrests of Pachas, Fuquay and Tanner in February, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, on Feb. 21, 2017, filed two felony charges against Pachas, for second-degree burglary and grand theft.
Pachas pleaded not guilty to those charges, according to court records. He is being held without bail at the Orange County Jail.
Pachas’ occupation is listed as “laborer” on jail documents, and his next scheduled court appearance, at the West Justice Center in Westminster, is April 11.
Fuquay and Tanner are out of custody.
The OCDA has yet to file charges against Fuquay in connection with her arrest in February. According to Franks, she has a college degree and works — or worked — in the medical field.
For the crimes Fuquay was charged with in connection with her arrest in December 2015, a pre-trail was held March 13, 2017, but a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 10, 2017 was cancelled, court records show.
As for Tanner, he has yet to be charged with any crimes, according to court records as of March 29.
Franks believes that if convicted, Pachas – and also Fuquay — almost certainly would face prison time.
But the veteran cop’s says he won’t be surprised if someday, the GGPD and Pachas meet again on the streets.
“The crimes they are charged with committing are non-violent, and this is California,” Franks said. “It’s not like he’s going to get life without parole. I wouldn’t be surprised that once he’s released, he goes right back at it. That’s what he knows.”
The detective’s advice to the public:
Don’t leave valuables in your car.
A property viewing event will be held April 5 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Garden Grove Courtyard Center, 12732 Main St., Garden Grove. You will need a copy of your police report to claim your property. Det. Jim Franks is the lead detective in this investigation. He can be reached at 714-741-5836.