Detectives Break Up Health Club Theft Ring
Detectives from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station's Burglary and Theft team have put an end to a burglary theft ring that has been operating at various health clubs and fitness centers in Santa Clarita, the San Fernando Valley, Burbank and North Hollywood for several months.
One man has been arrested and his brother, who is still at large, is wanted for questioning. Darryl Battino, 49, turned himself in to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station on Monday and was booked on suspicion of felony burglary. He posted $20,000 bond and was released pending future court proceedings.
His brother, Michael Battino, 37, (pictured) is still being sought for questioning only in connection with the thefts. He has been in contact with detectives, but has so far failed to turn himself in.
In December, a Santa Clarita resident reported he believed someone had removed the keys from his gym locker, located his car, taken credit cards from his wallet, replaced them with credit cards belonging to other people and returned his keys to his locker -- all while he was working out inside the L.A .Fitness on Newhall Ranch Road in Valencia.
Investigating detectives found that was in fact the case and began tracing and tracking charges and purchases made with the stolen cards at local retail outlets and items sold on e-Bay. The suspects were apparently replacing the credit cards with other previously stolen credit cards from the same credit card companies in an attempt to buy themselves time to use the newly-stolen cards.
Video evidence and other investigative techniques proved key as detectives were able to make a positive identification of two Arleta men they suspected in the thefts. Using information obtained during the investigation, Santa Clarita detectives obtained and served three search warrants on locations in Pacoima, North Hollywood and Northridge on January 14.
At the Northridge location, detectives recovered more than 200 credit cards they believed to be stolen in the names of 130 different people. Detectives also recovered more than 50 high-end watches valued at more than $100,000, computers, forged California Driver Licenses, L.A. Fitness gym membership cards, ammunition, video game consoles, video cameras and several tools commonly used to commit locker and vehicle burglaries. Detectives believe there may be additional victims who do not even know they are carrying credit cards that do not belong to them. They are asking persons who frequent local health clubs, particularly L.A. Fitness, to check their personal and financial documents in order to determine if they have been victimized. All Santa Clarita cases should be immediately reported to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.
Detectives would like to remind Santa Clarita residents that they can minimize the likelihood of falling victim to this type of crime by keeping their car keys with them at all times, not leaving valuables in their vehicles or gym lockers, limiting the number of credit cards carried in their purses or wallets (in some of these cases people were carrying 15 or more credit cards), and never carrying social security cards in your wallet. Also, if possible, leave your watches and other valuables at home when going to the gym.