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Teen Implicated--Again--in Robbery;
Alleged accomplice says Garden Grove youth convicted of loan-office
holdup was with him. Witnesses don't think so.


A Garden Grove teenager who claims he was wrongly convicted of a 1999 robbery--and has his alleged victims advocating his release-- has been implicated anew by a man who recently pleaded guilty to planning the holdup of the Anaheim loan office.

The new allegation comes one year after an Orange County jury convicted George Arnulfo Lopez of robbing Commercial Credit on Lincoln Avenue while armed with a shotgun. Lopez, who was 17 at the time of the holdup on May 17, 1999, was tried as an adult.

Witnesses have said two men robbed the loan office, but until this month, he had been the only one convicted of the crime. Lopez, who turns 19 next month and is serving a 13-year prison sentence at the state prison in Blythe, maintains he was with his uncle driving home from work when the robbery occurred.

His alleged accomplice, Chad Long, pleaded guilty Feb. 9 to conspiracy to rob the business and noted in his plea statement that Lopez was involved.
"I conspired with George Lopez and others to rob Commercial Credit," Long wrote, according to court documents.

However, two victims of the robbery have indicated they do not believe Lopez was involved; a third witness also has expressed doubt about Lopez's guilt.
Lopez's appeal last year to a Santa Ana appellate court came shortly after two high-profile Orange County convictions were overturned. In January 2000, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas agreed to release DeWayne McKinney, a man he convicted 18 years earlier for a murder that witnesses later said he didn't commit. In August, Rackauckas authorized the release of Arthur Carmona, a teenager who said he too was wrongly convicted of a pair of Orange County robberies.

Although Long's accusation may not be aired by the appellate court--because it was not part of Lopez's trial--a deputy attorney general said Monday it was significant.

"This plea and these factual statements by Mr. Long are strong additional evidence of Mr. Lopez's guilt," Deputy Atty. Gen. Laura Halgren said.
An attorney for Lopez questioned Long's credibility, noting that he previously had told a defense investigator that Lopez was not involved.

"I think it's self-serving and inherently unreliable and would receive little or no weight in the court," said Lopez's lawyer, James Crawford. "Who would you believe, the victims [of] the robbery or Mr. Long?"


Attorneys on each side are awaiting word from the appeals court.

Credit: TIMES STAFF WRITER

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Orange, CA 92867

164 East 3rd Street
San Bernardino, CA 92410


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