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Man held in ginseng, sea cucumber burglaries in Monterey Park

October 30, 2012 |  8:16 pm

Man Van Truong was arrested in connection with Chinese herbal remedy thefts.Monterey Park police Monday arrested a man in connection with a string of ginseng and sea cucumber burglaries over the last month, authorities said.

Man Van Truong, 56, of Van Nuys, is believed to have driven a dark-colored Honda used as the getaway vehicle in up to three robberies or attempted robberies at herbal remedy stores throughout the city, said Lt. Carrie Mazelin of the Monterey Park Police Department. 

Truong's accomplice -- described by witnesses as a middle-aged Vietnamese man with dark hair and a crew cut, and weighing about 150 pounds -- is still at large. Police are investigating the possibility that Truong and his accomplice are responsible for similar thefts reported throughout the San Gabriel Valley. 

Ginseng is widely used in Chinese medicine as a stimulant, aphrodisiac, muscle relaxant and general purpose cure; sea cucumber is believed to have a similar array of healing properties. Though their curative properties are somewhat unproved by science, their value is undeniable. A pound of dried sea cucumber retails for up to $130, and a pound of ginseng can sell for more than $300.

The incidents occurred within a single week beginning Oct. 20, when a local herbal store owner caught a man trying to steal a large quantity of sea cucumber. The thief was chased out of the store and fled in a waiting dark-colored Honda, witnesses said.

On Oct. 21, authorities said, Truong is believed to have driven the same car after his accomplice entered a store in the 100 block of Garvey Avenue, seized a large plastic container containing $1,000 of ginseng and fled. Two days later, the same car was spotted outside a Chinese medicine store at the intersection of Garvey  and Garfield avenues. There, a man tried to seize a barrel of ginseng but fled without the goods after a brief struggle. 

Witnesses to each incident provided similar license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions, Mazelin said.

Truong is expected to be arraigned Wednesday in Alhambra Superior Court.

Mazelin said those with information about similar crimes should call Det. Gil Alvarez of the Monterey Park Police Department at (626) 307-1226.

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-- Frank Shyong

twitter.com/frankshyong

Photo: Man Van Truong. Credit: Monterey Park Police Department

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