LOS ANGELES — LeBron James has beefed up security at his L.A. home, bringing a team of armed guards to patrol his house after learning he was targeted by a team of burglars.
The Los Angeles Police Department arrested four people who allegedly had hit more than 24 homes of the rich and famous, including Yasiel Puig, Rihanna, Christina Milian and others. Police say the burglars had a list of 12 more celebrity targets — including LeBron, Matt Damon and Viola Davis.
With a wife and three children at home, the new Laker took the situation seriously and made arrangements to protect his family.
Sources told the celebrity news website TMZ.com that he has at least 10 armed security personnel at the home, including off-duty police officers.
The NBA’s security team is also involved in the security plans, TMZ reported.
L.A. Rams star Robert Woods, whose home was burglarized, is working with the NFL security team to ensure his safety as well, according to TMZ.
The suspects were identified as Tyress Williams and JShawne Daniels, both 19; Damaji Hall, 18; and Hall’s mother, 34-year-old Ashle Hall, Capt. Lillian Carranza, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Commercial Crimes Division, said at a news conference at LAPD headquarters, where jewelry, watches, handbags and other recovered items were displayed.
Williams was charged with four felony counts of first-degree burglary involving alleged break-ins at a home owned by singer Tota Matthieu on Aug. 24, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig’s home on Sept. 18, a home owned by singer Rihanna on Sept. 25 and a home owned by Woods on Sept. 27, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered to remain jailed in lieu of $200,000 bail while awaiting a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.
As for the other three people arrested, prosecutors sent the matter back to the LAPD for further investigation, according to Paul Eakins of the District Attorney’s Office.
Daniels was released on $50,000 bond, according to jail records, but it was not immediately clear whether Hall and his mother would be released from custody.
The three young men were arrested Sept. 28 after a traffic stop in South Los Angeles revealed a firearm and items believed to have been taken from burglarized homes, Carranza said. Ashle Hall was arrested Sept. 30 after search warrants were served at two locations where cash, additional property and an SUV reported as stolen were recovered, Carranza said.
The suspects are believed to be part of a small ring of gang members and associates responsible for burglaries at the homes of Puig, Rihanna and Milian, the captain said.
Police recovered items that had been taken from Woods’ home, along with items stolen during recent break-ins at the homes of Puig, Rihanna and Milian.
“During recent months, the Los Angeles Police Department has become aware of a series of residential burglaries targeting actors, producers, musicians and professional athletes living in the Los Angeles area,” Carranza said. “Initially, it was believed that these homes were being burglarized at random. However, detectives learned that this wasn’t the case. The victims’ homes had been selected based on social media postings and touring or travel schedules of the owners. The burglars believed no one would be home and that the homes would contain sought-after valuables that they might be interested in.”
The burglaries followed a pattern called “flocking,” whereby suspects flock to celebrities’ neighborhoods, dressing in nice clothes and driving luxury vehicles to avoid suspicion as they search for targets. They would then change into casual clothing, including hoodies, and use a larger vehicle to haul away stolen items, Carranza said.
One suspect would typically knock or ring a doorbell to check if anyone was home before breaking into a residence, she said.
The crimes were typically completed in a matter of minutes, Carranza said.
Woods’ home was ransacked and burglarized Sept. 27 while he was playing against the Minnesota Vikings at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. A neighbor notified police.
In the Woods case, police said three burglars entered a home in the 23100 block of Mariano Street by breaking a glass door in the back of the home before taking property.
In the Rihanna case, officers responded to a home in the 7800 block of Hillside Avenue about 9:30 p.m. Sept. 25, according to the LAPD.
An alarm was sounding and lights were flashing at the home, but no one was inside at the time, police said.
Celebrities including Alanis Morissette, Nicki Minaj, Emmy Rossum, Jaime Pressly, David Spade, Derek Fisher and Byron Scott have all been victimized by burglaries or attempted burglaries in the Hollywood or Beverly Hills area over the last couple of years.
Police said they believe the suspects are responsible for other burglaries and they displayed recovered items in the hope that victims will recognize their property.
In addition to James, other celebrities on the target list recovered by investigators included actors Viola Davis and Matt Damon, Carranza said, adding that the list of more than a dozen potential victims also included addresses.
Commercial Crimes Division Lt. Mel Vergara said there are likely other, unrelated burglary crews using similar methods.