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LAPD seeking registered sex offender in June Wi-Spa incident

The suspect has a lengthy criminal history which includes nearly a dozen felony convictions for crimes ranging from sex offenses to burglary

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Photo Credit: City of Los Angeles Police Department

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has charged 52-year-old Darren Merager, a registered sex offender, with five felony counts of indecent exposure stemming from a viral video incident of an alleged exposure at the Wi-Spa on June 23, 2021.

The spa, which is located in the 2700 block of Wilshire Boulevard in the Westlake/Koreatown neighborhood, had been the focal point of targeted violent protests against Trans people by far-right extremists the Proud Boys and other radical right-wing groups after the incident was posted to Instagram and went viral.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Blade Thursday via phone, Los Angeles Police Department Public Information Officer Tony Im confirmed that an arrest warrant has been issued for Merager, whose last known residence is in Riverside County East of Los Angeles, but Merager was not in custody as of Thursday evening he said.

Five individuals, four females and a female minor, had come forward to report the indecent exposure incident to the LAPD. Detectives assigned to LAPD’s Rampart Division conducted interviews of victims and witnesses, reviewed the evidence, and ultimately corroborated the allegations.

The investigation was presented to the LA County DA’s Office for filing consideration and Merager’s actions were deemed criminal. The suspect has been a registered sex offender since 2006 as per California Penal Code 290, due to indecent exposure incidents in 2002 and 2003. 

Merager has a lengthy criminal history which includes nearly a dozen felony convictions for crimes ranging from sex offenses to burglary and escape. In December of 2018, investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s West Hollywood substation arrested Merager on seven felony indecent exposure counts, stemming from allegations of indecent exposure in front of women and children at West Hollywood Park.

Merager is currently awaiting trial on the seven counts which were first filed in 2019 by the LA County DA’s office according to court records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

In poster distributed in December of 2018 by the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Merager is described as “claims to be female in order to gain access to women’s locker rooms and showers.”

The LA DA’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment or provide a copy of the criminal complaint against Merager according to the Times. A Blade request has also gone unanswered as of time of publication Thursday evening.

In a lengthy interview with the New York Post first published Thursday morning, “Everything about the Wi-Spa was a bunch of garbage and lies,” Merager said.

Merager went on to claim a Trans female gander identity and says [she] is legally female in California and was in a jacuzzi in the women’s section when accosted by “Cubana Angel.” 

“She never saw me naked. I was underwater with water all the way up to my chest,” Merager told the Post and denies ever being erect or around children at the spa. Merager claims to actually be the victim of sexual harassment by transphobic women at the Wi Spa.

Merager is a tier-one California registered sex offender with two prior convictions of indecent exposure stemming from the 2002 and 2003 convictions and declined to comment on those convictions. In 2008 Merager was also convicted for failure to register as a sex offender.

A Trans activist who asked to remain unidentified told the Blade that the situation with Merager is a Trans person’s worst nightmare; “This is no different than the religious fundies claiming all gay guys are paedophiles and want to diddle little boys,” they said adding; “Horrible scenarios like this are used as justification to attack Trans people- this isn’t a trans person regardless of claims made, no this is a serial sexual predator, a criminal deviant.”  

Detectives are asking anyone who may be a victim or has additional information regarding this investigation to contact Rampart Detectives at (213) 484-3450. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). 

Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call the LA Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477) or go directly to www.lacrimestoppers.org.  Tipsters may also visit www.lapdonline.org and click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu.

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Los Angeles

Historic LA gay bathhouse for sale- looks to be end of an era

Midtowne Spa owned three properties in Southern California- The Los Angeles location is the last Midtowne Spa standing

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Midtowne Spa Los Angeles (Photo Credit: Paulo Murillo for the WeHo Times)

By Paulo Murillo | LOS ANGELES – The Midtowne Spa Los Angeles property, home to the historic sex bathhouse catering to gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men (MSM) went up for sale earlier this month.

Insiders say this is the end of the last Midtowne Spa standing in Southern California and across the nation. Located at 615 Kohler Street in Los Angeles, the bathhouse was founded in 1972, marking a good 50 years of providing a safe space for men to meet men.

According to sources, Midtowne Spa Los Angeles could be closing as early as some time in October. Vendors who provide towel and linen services allege they have been told their services will not be needed past October. The cleaning crew was told the same according to rumors.

An employee who wishes to remain nameless, said that they are very aware of the sale of the property and that workers sense the end is near although management isn’t saying much about what the sale means to their employment. Workers are being told that the owners hope to save the mens spa and transfer the business to a party that is interested in continuing the business name and hopefully save their jobs, but the listing suggests the property will most likely be redeveloped and they may soon be out of a job.

Midtowne Spa Los Angeles – WEHO TIMES
Midtowne Spa Los Angeles – WEHO TIMES

Attempts to reach management have been unsuccessful.

Midtowne Spa owned three properties in Southern California, The Melrose Spa, at 7269 Melrose Ave in Los Angeles, which closed in May 2017, and the 1350 Club at 510 W Anaheim St, in Wilmington, which closed some time in May, 2022 shortly after being shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Los Angeles location is the last Midtowne Spa standing. The Austin, Texas Location closed in July, 2016. Dallas closed the following year. Midtowne Denver also closed earlier this year. Most of these locations closed with little to no fanfare, upsetting some of their most loyal customers.

Midtowne Spa Los Angeles currently offers private rooms as well a lockers. The facility has an indoor swimming pool, whirlpool, Sauna, Steam room, Sundeck and a TV Lounge. They have adult movie channels, two gay and one Straight/Bisexual and  24 hour secured parking garage right next door to the club. We offer free HIV & STD testing, please check our website for days and times.

Midtowne Spa Los Angeles – WEHO TIMES
Midtowne Spa Los Angeles – WEHO TIMES
Midtowne Spa Los Angeles – WEHO TIMES
Midtowne Spa Los Angeles – WEHO TIMES

A recent guest tells WEHO TIMES that the spa was busy this past Saturday. “The rooms were completely sold out by 7pm, but I went early in the afternoon,” he said. “They have raised prices significantly, but they do sell out of rooms, and and they still have plenty of customers.”

The customer also credits Midtowne for promoting a clean (as possible) environment and also providing std testing and free counseling, “It’s not just about STD/AIDS, but the counselors also will talk to people, like gay people just coming out, which is so important for some people who may be reluctant to go to other places,” he said. “This is a safe place for queer expression that will be a loss to the community and also has historic value. The original owner, Marty, really wanted Midtowne to stay open long after his demise as an outlet for the queer community.”

The property is listed as a prime Downtown Los Angeles Development site by Major Properties. Built in 1914, the land area is listed at 30,160 sq ft with a property size of 22,419 sq ft. The asking price is a reduced $6,500,000. The portfolio would be delivered empty, which is another sign of Midtowne Spa will not survive the sale of the property.

Midtowne Spa Los Angeles – WEHO TIMES

Major Properties describes the development site as:

• Major price reduction!
• Prime DTLA purchase opportunity
• Mixed-use/residential development site
• 13,380± SF 3-story building is occupied by Midtown Spa; 9,039± SF 1-story building is used for interior parking; additional 3 parcels are parking lots (one is noncontiguous).
• Located at the southwest corner of East 6th St and Kohler St
• Situated 2 blocks west of the DTLA Arts District, and adjacent to the Flower and Fashion Districts
• There is a potential alley vacation that would add 2,340± SF of land to the portfolio. If Seller obtains the alley, the sale price would be increased by $571,000.
• TOC: Tier 3
• Located in State Enterprise Zone; Greater Downtown Housing Incentive Area; and Los Angeles Redevelopment Project Area • Located in Designated Qualified Opportunity Zone (tax benefits)
• Proposed DTLA 2040 Community Plan: Markets
906-910-920 E 6th St, 615 Kohler St and the noncontiguous parking lot will benefit from the proposed DTLA 2040 Community Plan, which will will allow for long-term upside due to a significant emphasis on community growth and development. The proposed DTLA 2040 Plan will increase jobs, housing, transportation, open space, and amenities, adding 125,000 new residents, 70,000 new housing units, and 55,000 new jobs.
• Portfolio will be delivered vacant.

midtowne spa la

To read the full listing visit: https://www.majorproperties.com/property/prime-dtla-development-site/.

*********************

The preceding article was previously published by the WeHo Times and is republished by permission.

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Los Angeles

LAT: Arrests made in gun theft burglary at Karen Bass’s home

The case has yet to be presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for the filing of charges

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Karen Bass speaking at an event in San Pedro, Calif. Sept. 2022 (Photo Credit: Bass mayoral campaign/Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – Two men have been arrested in the burglary and theft of guns from the home of U.S. Rep. Karen Bass according to the Los Angeles Times. Bass told the Times that she met with the Los Angeles Police Department Wednesday and officials confirmed the arrests.

Bass, a mayoral candidate running against local businessman and real estate developer Rick Caruso, returned home last Friday after an event to find that her home in LA’s Baldwin Vista neighborhood had been burglarized.

“Last night, I came home and discovered that my house had been broken into and burglarized. LAPD was called, and I appreciate their assistance. At this time, it appears that only two firearms, despite being safely and securely stored, were stolen. Cash, electronics and other valuables were not. It’s unnerving and, unfortunately, it’s something that far too many Angelenos have faced,” the Congresswoman wrote in a statement issued Saturday morning.

Later Wednesday, in a release whose details align with the burglary at Bass’s home, the LAPD said the two men were arrested Tuesday evening after officers matched their vehicle to one that was at the scene of the theft Friday the Times reported.

Police identified the burglars as 42-year-old Patricio Munoz, who is being held in lieu of $600,000 bail, and 24-year-old Juan Espinoza, who is being held without bail. Both face a residential burglary charge.

The Times also reported that Munoz provided police an alias of Matias Milito, and Espinoza identified himself as Baltazar Rodriguez, police said.

They were booked into jail under those names, and they are being held at the LAPD’s Valley Jail in Van Nuys.

No information was released as to whether the guns were returned to Bass or if they remain outstanding.

The case has yet to be presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for the filing of charges.

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Los Angeles

Home of mayoral candidate Karen Bass burglarized; firearms stolen

“It appears that only two firearms were stolen. It’s unnerving and, unfortunately, it’s something that far too many Angelenos have faced”

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Rep. Karen Bass speaking to LGBTQ+ supporters during a campaign event earlier this year (Photo Credit: Bass mayoral campaign)

LOS ANGELES – U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif. a candidate running in the race to become the next mayor of Los Angeles released a statement Saturday indicating that her home had been burglarized and that two firearms were taken.

“Last night, I came home and discovered that my house had been broken into and burglarized. LAPD was called, and I appreciate their assistance. At this time, it appears that only two firearms, despite being safely and securely stored, were stolen. Cash, electronics and other valuables were not. It’s unnerving and, unfortunately, it’s something that far too many Angelenos have faced,” the Congresswoman wrote.

Bass said she has been in contact with the Los Angeles Police Department. A LAPD spokesperson said that the police were unable to release any specific details about the investigation.

Bass, a Democratic congresswoman who represents an area west and southwest of downtown Los Angeles, is facing developer Rick Caruso in the upcoming November General Election for the city’s mayoral seat.

UPDATED Sunday Sept. 11, 2022:

The LAPD released this photo of the suspect in a Sept. 9, 2022, burglary of two guns in Baldwin Vista.

Police described the suspect as a man who is about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, weighs about 200 pounds, and was wearing dark clothing, a surgical mask, a blue baseball cap with a white logo, and black Asics sneakers.

Anyone with information about the LAPD press release is asked to call Detective Colleen Stout-Ryder at 213-485-7522.

During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247).

To report information anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or go directly to lacrimestoppers.org

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