An ex-con accused of involvement in a burglary ring that targeted Los Angeles Times subscribers, who had notified the newspaper to stop deliveries while they went on vacation, pleaded not guilty Friday to a half- dozen felony counts.
Duane Van Tuinen, 51, of Azusa, is charged with one count each of first- degree residential burglary, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of ammunition and possession of methamphetamine, and two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon with four prior convictions.
The conspiracy charge alleges that Van Tuinen entered a distribution warehouse in Baldwin Park last June and "stole a list of the Los Angeles Times subscribers who had called in to suspend their paper delivery for vacations."
Van Tuinen worked as an office machine repairman who was under contract to distributors of the Los Angeles Times to repair their office machines, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
The criminal complaint alleges that Van Tuinen has a criminal record dating back to 1996 that includes two burglary convictions in Los Angeles County in 2005 and 2008.
Co-defendant Randall Joseph Whitmore, 43, of La Verne, is charged with one count each of first-degree residential burglary and receiving stolen property.
Both men are due back in West Covina Superior Court Feb. 13 for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require them to stand trial.
Two other men who were arrested in connection with the alleged ring remain jailed, but no charges have been filed against them to date in connection with the burglaries.
They were identified by sheriff's investigators as Joshua Box, 43, of Arcadia, and Edwin Valentine, 52, of Covina.
Detectives believe the ring was involved in more than 25 burglaries in areas that included Hacienda Heights, Diamond Bar, Walnut and Chino Hills.
Last week, authorities seized hundreds of pieces of stolen property from dozens of residential burglaries, Nishida said. The property included collectible coins, collectible swords, musical instruments, computers and jewelry.
Detectives have tracked down some of the victims and returned their property to them, and urged other possible victims to contact them to retrieve their recovered property.
Nancy Sullivan, The Times' vice president of communications, said the newspaper has made changes in its delivery policies since being made aware of the crimes.
"We continuously review and upgrade our policies and systems to protect and best serve our customers," Sullivan said.