Pictured: The Thousand Oaks Police department hopes to prevent the typical increase in wallet thefts during the holiday months. 

by Kimberly Rivers

Ojai yard waste site closed, short timeline to reopen

On Nov. 15, the Ojai green waste facility on Old Baldwin Road was closed by Santa Clara Organics. All phone numbers are disconnected for both Ojai Valley Organics and Santa Clara Organics.

According to Justin Bertoline, planner with the Ventura County Planning Department, the permit for the facility is set to expire on Dec. 11, 2019. “The applicant is currently considering whether or not to accept the mitigation measures that have been imposed on the permit modification,” he said via email to the VCReporter. Santa Clara Organics has not renewed the lease for the property, which is owned by the county. “Currently there are several interested parties in acquiring ownership of the permit. Ownership must be transferred before the termination of the lease or the CUP [conditional use permit] expires.”

This facility was used by property owners and landscape business operators to dispose of green yard waste, which was then mulched.

Increase in wallet theft during holidays

The Thousand Oaks Police Department is recommending that the public take extra care in protecting purses and wallets in public places like restaurants and grocery stores as they have seen an increase in these types of thefts recently. Stolen credit and debit cards are usually used immediately at retailers or for online purchases.

“There was a 125 percent increase in wallet thefts,” said Tim Lohman with the Ventura County Sheriff Department, Public Information Office. The increase was between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 holiday seasons, Dec. 1-March 9 in each year. “The press release serves as a warning to the residents to be vigilant so we don’t see another increase this year.”

Department officials said groups of two thieves will use a “ruse or distraction” to occupy the victim, while the wallet is stolen.

Suggestions to increase security include: be aware, put wallet inside coat or front pants pocket, do not leave purse unzipped in shopping carts or on chairs, carry purse across your body. And be ready to report stolen items to credit card companies quickly. Downloading credit card apps on your phone can help expedite the process.

Lost hiker found

On Nov. 13, after a seven-hour search involving multiple agencies — including 35 ground searchers, two helicopters, infrared camera and off-road vehicles — a lost 76-year-old male hiker was located off trail between large boulders near Tri-Peaks and Fossil trail near the Satwiwa Native American Indian Cultural Center in the Santa Monica Mountains. He was found when a ground searcher with the East Valley and Fillmore Search and Rescue Team heard an “odd sound” at about 10:30 p.m. that night.

“The hiker became stuck in this area as a result of going off trail,” said Deputy Chris Dyer with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. He said the hiker does not normally carry a cell phone. “The angle at which he had become stuck made it difficult for him to ascend back up to the trail he had come from. He did have a Patagonia jacket which would have kept him warm enough through the night.”

The hiker was ultimately hoisted out of the area by a helicopter and off loaded near Lake Sherwood. Officials emphasize the importance of giving a “hiking plan” to a friend or family member and that all hikers should carry the “Ten Essentials,” which include: compass, water, flashlight, first-aid kit and emergency blanket. A hiking plan form and the essentials list are online at www.vcsar3.org.

Cross-border insurance schemer convicted

Graciela Medina-Montes, 67, of Santa Paula has pled guilty to insurance fraud for a scheme in which she drove her 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe to Mexico and abandoned it. After returning to Santa Paula, she reported the car stolen.

California Department of Insurance investigators confronted Medina-Montes with evidence proving the Tahoe had been driven to Mexico. She then admitted that she drove it there and that it had not been stolen.

She has paid $500 restitution to National General Insurance, and she faces up to six years in jail, with fines up to $50,000. Her sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 22, 2020, in Ventura County Superior Court.

— by Kimberly Rivers