A Maywood woman accused of stealing an iPad from Hermosa Beach City Treasurer David Cohn and using the device to extort money from him denied the allegations, instead saying she is the victim of assault after a massage deal went bad.
Yuritsi Maria Garcia, 26, and her boyfriend, Gustavo Ceron, 29, were arrested by Hermosa Beach police after allegedly trying to extort money from Cohn in exchange for deleting the contents of his electronic device.
Police recovered the tablet after Cohn arranged a meeting with Garcia and Ceron at a bank in Maywood.
The couple face felony extortion charges. Garcia has been released on bail. Ceron is currently being held without bail.
Cohn, who was elected city treasurer in November 2011, contacted Hermosa Beach police earlier this month, alleging that a masseuse he called "Diane" and had invited over to his house had stolen his iPad 2, according to a report released Tuesday by the Hermosa Beach Police Department.
Cohn contacted police five days after the incident, according to the report. Much of the report has been redacted by police.
Cohn, 72, contacted Garcia through Craigslist. He told police that after he cut the massage short, she became upset and stole the iPad. Garcia claims Cohn voluntarily gave her the device.
Hermosa officials have said no resident or city information was compromised in the incident.
Cohn, who is not married, has not responded to repeated requests for comment and has not addressed the theft and extortion attempt publicly.
As information emerges about his encounter with an unlicensed masseuse, calls for his resignation have surfaced.
"I would like to hear the details so we don't have a concern," said Andrea Jacobsson, a Hermosa Beach business owner. "Either he needs to tell us what's going on or he should resign. I think we should have transparency.
In an interview in her Maywood home Tuesday, Garcia said Cohn requested sex from her during the Nov. 3 massage and grew angry when she refused. He grabbed Garcia and she retreated to his bathroom to call Ceron, who was waiting outside.
"I was scared," Garcia said. "He got mad and he grabbed me."
Cohn and Garcia first connected through Craigslist, a free online classified service. Garcia posted an ad offering deep tissue and sensual massages, and Cohn sent her an email response. A series of encounters between Cohn and Garcia, a mother of two young children, followed. Garcia said she had been working as a masseuse for several months to pay her bills and did not have sex with her clients.
According to the police report, Cohn told investigators he traveled to her Maywood home for a massage in late October.
Garcia, who shared the home with her children and Ceron, charged Cohn $40 for a full body massage lasting 30 minutes.
"Everything went fine," Garcia said. "He actually took a shower in my house. He was polite and respectful. He called me after the massage. He said he really liked me."
Garcia and Cohn began trading texts. At one point, Cohn sent an explicit video to Garcia, the woman said. They exchanged a series of graphic phone calls.
"He called me a couple of times," Garcia said. "I didn't charge him."
Cohn told police he invited Garcia to his home on Nov. 3 for a one-hour massage. They arranged a price - $100, plus money for gas. Garcia agreed to the deal.
"I was available," she said. "So I went to his house."
Ceron and Garcia arrived at Cohn's house. Ceron waited in the car.
Wearing a short black dress and small shorts, Garcia began the massage. Garcia often performs massages without a top, and did so at Cohn's request. During the massage, she said, he turned over and she began rubbing his groin area. Then he began reaching below her waist.
"He began touching me," Garcia said.
He then asked for sex.
"I said `No, I'm not going to allow you to do that,"' Garcia said. "I stopped the massage. I got mad and pushed him."
She said Cohn grabbed her arm and she left for the bathroom to call Ceron, who then started knocking loudly on the door.
There was a disagreement about money - Garcia said Cohn offered to pay $65, less than what they had previously agreed upon.
Cohn told police that he was distracted by the loud knocking and Garcia seized the opportunity to take the iPad, which he had placed on a table by his front door. A few minutes after the couple left, Cohn realized the tablet was stolen, he told police.
But in the interview, Garcia said Cohn offered her the iPad and even taught her how to use it.
"He was trying to calm me down because I was mad about what he did," Garcia said. "He showed me the iPad. He claims I stole it, but he gave it to me."
Cohn told police that he immediately called Garcia to ask for the iPad back but she did not respond. He sent her a text asking her to turn it over to the police.
Laura Mecoy, a city-hired public relations consultant, said last week the iPad did not contain any city-related correspondence or documents, and no resident account information was compromised.
According to the police report, Garcia attempted to have Cohn deposit money into an account of hers and she would then promise to delete its contents, but the iPad itself would stay with her.
The iPad contained pictures of family and friends, Garcia said.
Garcia said she asked for $6,000. Cohn and Garcia set up a meeting on Nov. 8 at a Chase Bank in Maywood. Garcia and Ceron drove to the bank. Her 4-year-old son was in the back seat.
By this point, Cohn had been sharing his text exchanges with Hermosa Beach detectives, who used the information and the device's tracking system to locate the suspects.
Garcia and Ceron were arrested at the bank by Hermosa Beach police, while Garcia's son was picked up by her mother.
"He just set me up," Garcia said. "I never thought he would do that."
Garcia said she wanted to file a police report detailing her assault allegations against Cohn, but Hermosa Beach police refused, instead telling her to report the crime with her local police agency in Maywood.
Hermosa Beach interim Police Chief Steve Johnson said the department is not investigating Cohn for any wrongdoing. He referred all other questions to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Meanwhile, Garcia is free after her mother put up $10,000 for her bail.
A check of Garcia's criminal background in Los Angeles County shows she was cited for minor traffic infractions but never arrested for any major crimes.
Ceron was arrested for spousal abuse in 2007. The case was dismissed or not prosecuted, records show.
Garcia said she feels she has been unfairly targeted and that the iPad theft is an excuse to cover-up Cohn's assault. She wants her extortion charge dropped. Ceron and Garcia are scheduled to return to court Dec 3.
"He knows what he did," said Garcia, fighting back tears. "He doesn't care. People believe him. People probably won't believe me or care what really happened. But he knows what he did."
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