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Homeless helped expose former TV chef Juan-Carlos Cruz murder-for-hire plot, police claim

May 15, 2010 |  8:29 am

Juan Carlos CruzSanta Monica police credited the department's strong relationship with the city's homeless population with helping crack an alleged murder-for-hire scheme involving a onetime Food Network chef and cookbook author.

Juan-Carlos Cruz, former host of “Calorie Commando,” was arrested Thursday and booked on suspicion of  solicitation to commit murder, Sgt. Jay Trisler. told The Times.

Police said Cruz allegedly approached people on the streets a week earlier and asked them to kill someone for him. At least one of the homeless individuals contacted police and, with that assistance, investigators were able to learn details of the alleged solicitation, including how, where and when the target was to be killed, authorities said.

Santa Monica police told KTLA News that the investigation involved the use of undercover officers and ended at a Cheviot Hills dog park, where Cruz was taken into custody.

"We are very fortunate we have a relationship ... with the homeless and that they were able to give us information," Trisler told the station.

Trisler said the intended target, who is not being identified, was notified of the alleged plot. Police said Cruz knew the victim, but it's unclear what their relationship was and what the motive might be.

Cruz specializes in low-calorie creations, with recipes such as "Air Fries With Nacho Cheese" that are found on the Food Network’s website.

Cruz, 48, is being held at Los Angeles County Jail on $5-million bail.

-- Catherine Saillant

Photo: Juan-Carlos Cruz; Credit: Santa Monica Police Department