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1 charged, 1 sought in Monterey Park sea cucumber, ginseng thefts

November 1, 2012 | 11:25 pm

Second suspect

Monterey Park police Thursday released an image of a second suspect in a string of recent robberies at traditional Chinese medicine stores.

The picture, pulled from a security camera on a Garvey Avenue storefront, depicts a man pacing in front of an herbal remedy store before, authorities say, he ran in and seized a container of ginseng.

Man Van Truong, 56, accused of being an accomplice, was arrested Monday and charged Wednesday with two counts of burglary and one count of attempted robbery. Truong remains in custody; bail was set at $120,000.

Police believe the two men could be involved with as many as three thefts at medicine stores within a week and at least one other theft at a San Gabriel store. In each case, police said, one of the men attempted to grab containers of the herbal remedies and flee into a waiting vehicle, which witnesses described as a black Honda sedan and gave similar license plate numbers. 

Ginseng and sea cucumber are highly valued in Chinese medicine for a wide array of supposed healing properties. They are also highly valued on the black market: One pound of ginseng can retail for $300, and a pound of sea cucumber can cost more than $100.

Still, repeated daylight robberies of Chinese medicine stores are unusual, authorities said.

"I've never heard or seen anything like this before," said Det. Gil Alvarez of the Monterey Park Police Department.

Anyone with information about the second suspect or similar thefts should call Alvarez at (626) 307-1226 or Det. Arlene Guevara at (626) 307-1428.


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-- Frank Shyong in Monterey Park


Photo: Surveillance video of suspect sought in robberies. Credit: Monterey Park Police Department