A selection of news articles profiling Al Moreno and his team.

American Ninja Warrior: June 5, 2015

American Ninja Warrior show 06-05-2015

Al Moreno on American Ninja Warrior (6/5/2015)

Pasadena Star News: March 8, 2013

Teen Thief in Long Beach Proves no Match for Former LAPD Officer, Marine

by Kelly Puente

Moreno Pasadena Star News

LONG BEACH, CALIF. USA -- Good Samaratin Al Moreno in his Long Beach, Calif., home on March 7, 2013. Moreno, 67, saw a woman being robbed of her necklace at a Starbucks on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, his instincts as a retired LAPD officer and former Marine kicked in. Moreno chased the thief down and held him in a police choke-hold until officers arrived. He then went back into Starbucks and finished his coffee. Moreno says he's no hero. He also works as a private investigator, and in his time at LAPD, worked in one of the first official gang units.

Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Los Angeles Newspaper Group

LONG BEACH - When 67-year-old Belmont Shore resident Al Moreno saw a woman being robbed of her necklace at a Starbucks on Second Street, his instincts kicked in as an ex-cop and former Marine.

The victim, a 62-year-old woman, was walking with cane into the Starbucks on Second Street and Covina Avenue at about 1 p.m. on Wednesday when a 16-year-old boy suddenly pushed her from behind, snatched her necklace and darted across the street, police and witnesses said.

Moreno was reading and drinking a cup of decaf coffee when he heard the woman scream.

"The kid came up and `Bam!' just hit her from behind," Moreno said. "I shot out like a cannon, didn't even give it a second thought. I caught up with the thug across the street and just hit him like a freight train."

Moreno tackled the teen to the ground and put him in a Karate-style chokehold. He said he apprehended the thief with the help of a fellow good Samaritan - an off- duty FBI agent - until police arrived.

He then went back into Starbucks and finished his coffee. The victim, who got her necklace back, came over and gave him a hug.

For Marino, a Vietnam veteran and former Los Angeles Police officer who said he served on the city's first gang unit in the 1970s, the incident at Starbucks was minor compared to some of the things he's seen in life.

But his actions made an impression on many people that day. Shortly after the incident, local resident Jessika Garcia posted a comment on the "Long Beach, Calif." Facebook page:

"...thanks to all the good civilians of Belmont Shore the (thief) was caught!!! Even better... a 68 year old man caught the young guy and flattened him!!! Cops are cuffing him now."

The comment generated more than 1,200 "thumbs up" from readers.

Starbucks employee Darlene Smiley, who witnessed the event, said she offered to buy Moreno a cup of coffee.

"It's heartwarming to see that there are true people who would risk their lives for someone," she said.

Sitting in his Belmont Shore home on Thursday, Moreno said he's no hero, just someone who feels compelled to help when he sees a person in need.

"It's truly not hero stuff, it's just doing what the hell you should be doing," he said.

A fitness fanatic and avid rock climber, Moreno works out seven days a week. He has the biceps of a 20-year- old, the posture of a Marine and the salty language of a sailor. In other words, he seems like someone whom few people would want to cross.

A Los Angeles native, Moreno served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam before joining the LAPD in the late 1970s. After seven years with LAPD, he left and started his own Long Beach-based private investigation firm called Global Investigations & VIP Security Services. He now travels throughout the world as a private investigator and security consultant.

The incident at Starbucks wasn't his first brush with citizen action. About three years ago, Moreno was walking in the 5300 block of Ocean Boulevard when he saw a burglary in progress. Moreno said he caught the burglar and placed him under citizen's arrest.

As for the teenager in Tuesday's incident, police said he was arrested on suspicion of robbery. His name wasn't released because he's a minor.

Moreno said the incident likely wasn't the teen's first attempt at theft.

"This young thug knew exactly what he was doing and he picked the most vulnerable, easy target," he said. "They have a Ph.D in that stuff."

Moreno said he was impressed by how people in Belmont Shore community responded that day. As the thief was pinned to the ground, crowds gathered and people began shouting in anger at the teen, he said.

"The fact that he picked the weakest person, a woman walking with a cane, that just really outraged people and they weren't gonna take it," he said.

"Belmont Shore is a close-knit community, and to see the participation of so many people, it just really raises your spirits and gives you a sense of that community."

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Daily Breeze:Monday, January 25th, 1999

Did Wife Plot Killing of South Bay Man?

A tale of love and greed, extramarital affairs, a private investigator, shadowy federal investigations, and oblique warnings.

By Emily Adams, Daily Breeze

As Jose Antonio Vallejo watched his wife held to answer to felony charges of conspiracy and solicitation of commit murder, it was not entirely relief he felt.
How is a man supposed to feel, watching his wife of 28 years, the mother of his four children, sitting there in jailhouse blues, accused of trying to hire someone to kill him?
"I'm sure justice will be done, but..." his voice sags before gathering together again to relate the beginning of the story.
Only the beginning keeps starting further back in time, the story acquiring more layers of complexity until it is like watching a shipwreck from under water.
And that is the story that's been told over a stop-and-go preliminary hearing stretched out over three months before concluding Friday: one of love and greed, extramarital affairs, a private investigator, shadowy federal investigations, and oblique warnings.
From the prosecution's point of view, the case of Maria Delores "Lola" Vallejo began in late May. That's when her friend, Patricia Maria Rosales, allegedly told an undercover Compton police officer that she had a friend with a problem husband. And they were in the market for a hit man.
Over a series of meetings with undercover local and federal agents, Rosales allegedly offered $6,000 to the man who would take out Jose "Tony" Vallejo. She supplied a photograph of Vallejo and detailed when he might be leaving a bank with a large cash deposit, said Deputy District Attorney Greta Walker.
On two occasions, Lola Vallejo was in the next room during these meetings, according to court testimony.
But Tony Vallejo is certain that the case begins at least six months before that, however, during a home invasion robbery that has never been solved.
During the months, even years, before the Dec. 3, 1997, robbery at his Ocean Avenue home in Torrance, Tony Vallejo knew his marriage was in trouble. He had an affair. About four years ago, his wife moved out for seven months, he said, but came back to announce a new arrangement.
"She told me I could go get a girlfriend or whatever, but she didn't want to have anything to do with me," Tony Vallejo said.
The Vallejo's, both 45, had four children, ranging from their teens to mid-20's. Tony Vallejo had a successful string of carnecerias in the South Bay and Harbor Area; he had been the honorary mayor of Wilmington. He was a board member of the Chamber of Commerce, active in the community.
Neither Vallejo was ready for a divorce.
So Tony Vallejo found a girlfriend. Then he helped the 23-year-old woman get an apartment in Rancho Palos Verdes and bought her a car. And things at home got progressively worse.
Feeling that his wife's spending was out of control, Tony Vallejo confronted her on Dec. 1, 1997, telling her he had canceled her credit cards.
The next day, he had noticed that Lola Vallejo had moved her jewelry box out of his bedroom. Where it had been for over a decade, he said.
The day after that, he awoke to two men beating him with their fists and something harder, and trying to tie him up at the same time.
"I remembered that my oldest son was asleep downstairs. I started yelling to him, 'Joey! Joey!' I wanted to scare these guys into thinking someone else was there," Vallejo said.
The men growled at him, telling Vallejo, "This is so you don't get involved with my cousin."

A setup?

But Vallejo knew, he said, that it was never about his girlfriend. When the men took off, and he could finally make it down the stairs, he saw his wife sitting in the entry, a stocking loosely tied around her mouth, but otherwise unhurt.
"She was waiting for me to see that stocking. She could have taken it off with one finger," Vallejo said.
To the police, Lola Vallejo said that three men had attacked her as she unlocked the front door, forcing her inside and down onto the ground and taking $450 from her purse. One man held a knife to her neck while the other two ran upstairs and attacked her husband.
When the couple was interviewed the following day at the Torrance police station, separately, Tony Vallejo told the detective his suspicions, he said.
The detective "told me to go with my wife and leave my girlfriend. I told him I really thought my wife did it, and he went and talked to her. He said that he gave her a voice stress test (a rudimentary form of polygraph, unaccepted in the court) and she passed it," Vallejo said.
Two days later, Vallejo hired private investigator Al Adams Moreno. Within four weeks, Moreno had a report, two suspects, 11 witnesses and some very serious charges.
Moreno believes, firmly, that he handed over to Torrance detectives everything they needed to arrest Lola Vallejo and a friend -- not Rosales -- on conspiracy and attempted murder charges. He didn't have the guys responsible for the home invasion robbery but felt certain that Lola Vallejo could be charged with trying to kill her husband's girlfriend in separate incidents.
But much of the evidence against Lola Vallejo came in the form of witness statements from her in-laws. They said that Lola Vallejo complained about the girlfriend and wanted help in killing her. And Lola Vallejo's friend was certainly involved, Moreno concluded, because she failed a three-question polygraph examination.
In his report, Moreno also detailed the testimony of other, more neutral, witnesses who told similar stories. In late December, Moreno took his report to Torrance detective Jim Wallace expecting a full hearing, even a closure to the case.
"I had a sit-down with him (Wallace) that I thought would last at least a half-hour. It didn't last more than five or six minutes. He didn't even read the report," Moreno said.
The private investigator tried hard to make his case, telling Wallace, "I really think she's gonna whack Tony. And some time in the next six months."
Wallace could not be reached for comment on this story, but the case went nowhere. Tony Vallejo moved into his girlfriend's apartment and continued paying his wife's bills, he said.
And then in early June, a sheriff's deputy called Vallejo. Sitting in the deputy's office, Tony Vallejo listened with disbelief as the deputy told him that someone was trying to kill him.
The sheriff's deputy said: Change your routine, don't do the things you normally do. According to the deputy's informant, the bad guys didn't have Vallejo's address. But if deputies heard they got the address, they would come and take Vallejo out of there, the deputy said.
The next ten days passed like a bad dream. Vallejo's contact in the Sheriff's Department broke his leg and suddenly disappeared. Tony Vallejo was like a blind man and frightened.

Fears confirmed

And then an undercover Compton police officer -- who will not be named for his protection -- called Vallejo to confirm his worst fears. He showed Vallejo a picture that was intended for the hit men, to help identify the target. The officer asked for Vallejo's help.
So the next day, June 12, Vallejo went to his old house on Ocean Avenue and puttered around, changing light bulbs, while his wife went for a swim. He left the front door open for police.
Lola Vallejo was happy that day, singing and dancing in the backyard, "Like she was celebrating," Tony Vallejo said. Finally, the police arrived and arrested her as she got out of the shower.
At the station, Lola Vallejo waived her Miranda rights and spoke to Compton police officer Eduardo Aguirre, according to court testimony. Her statement was tape recorded but never played in open court.
That statement was hotly contested by defense attorneys who indicated that Lola Vallejo -- a native Spanish speaker -- might not have understood her rights.
Questioned closely by Rosales' lawyer, famed defense attorney Robert Shapiro, Aguirre insisted that Vallejo's rights had been explained to her in Spanish.
And then, in a moment that illustrates the tension in this case, Shapiro suddenly switched the subject, asking Aguirre, "Isn't it true, officer Aguirre, that your mother had a sexual relationship with Mr. Rosales?"
The Compton Municipal Courtroom erupted like courtrooms only erupt on television, until Judge Irma Brown grabbed her gavel and called attorney's to sidebar.
Shapiro apparently didn't have enough evidence -- or, perhaps any -- to offer for his assertion, and the line of questioning was discontinued. Aguirre shot Shapiro hot looks as he left the witness stand.
audio tapes, made during meetings between the undercover officers and Patricia Rosales, were not played in court either, although these tapes will likely be the centerpiece of the Superior Court case.
The identity of a confidential informant, who was somehow connected to both a secret FBI investigation and the Compton undercover operation, is also shaping up to be a bitter fight -- with defense attorneys demanding his presence in court while prosecutors try to shield him.
And on the sideline, when the case comes back to Compton Superior Court for arraignment Feb. 5, will be Tony Vallejo looking at his wife.
"I think she stopped loving me a long time ago," Vallejo said. "I don't know. In the end, maybe it was just greed. Since we weren't getting along, she didn't want anyone else to enjoy what I had worked for."

Daily Pilot: Tuesday, July 8th, 1997

Local Private Eye Hunts for Missing Screenwriter

Newport Beach investigator Al Moreno was hired by actress Marsha Mason to find her friend, Gary DeVore.

By Christopher Goffard, Daily Pilot

NEWPORT BEACH - The search for Hollywood's most famous missing person has been receiving some local help from Newport Beach private investigator Al Moreno, who recently returned from a week scouring the Mojave desert for signs of 55-year-old screenwriter Gary DeVore.
DeVore, whose film credits include "Running Scared," "Raw Deal" and "Dogs of War," disappeared June 28 as he was returning alone to his Carpenteria home from New Mexico in a white 1997 Ford Explorer.
His last contact with the world was a cellular phone conversation with his wife early that morning, when he told her he was leaving Barstow and would be home in a few hours.
Moreno, who taped a piece for "Inside Edition" on the case over the weekend, came aboard via actress Marsha Mason, former wife of screen writer/producer Neil Simon.
Part of the search involved flying a rented single-engine plane in "undulating grids" from Santa Clarita to Tehachapi, looking for the Ford or unusual gatherings of birds of prey, which might point to a body.
The search eliminated places DeVore might be, but turned up no signs of him. Moreno thinks there are 50-50 odds that he disappeared by foul play or made himself disappear for unknown reasons.
"He came up missing in the desert," Moreno said. "Did he fall asleep and drive off the road? Was he somehow car jacked? The car he was driving is extremely popular in South America and the Far East - those things are spirited out of the country within 24 hours."
The problem with the car-jacking scenario, Moreno said, is that DeVore was a "cowboy type" who was packing a .38 caliber revolver and, given a chance, would have put up a fight.
"If somebody's going to take him down, they better have their stuff together," Moreno said. "It's going to be as tough taking him down as it would taking down a cop."
A $100,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his recovery, and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department is working on the case.
The screenwriter's publicist, Michael Sands, said he suspects a car jacking or robbery.
"You just don't go poof into thin air," Sands said. "I think he got bumped."
Sands, the self-described "best publicist in the world," said he has known DeVore for 20 years.
He said the writer was on the verge of his directorial debut and doubted he would intentionally disappear.
"It's a Hollywood whodunit, but we don't know who did it," he said. "You like that one? Is that a great one?"

PI MAGAZINE:Ninth Anniversary Edition

Cracking An Inside Job

By Christopher Goffard, P.I. Magazine

Between August, 1994 and November 1995, robbers struck three separate Los Angeles County locations of the King Taco restaurant chain. The first incident resulted in a violent, seemingly interminable encounter between three restaurant employees and two armed gunman, who threatened to murder their captives execution-style. In the second and third incidents, thugs ambushed and robbed lone female employees as they carried restaurant receipts.
With roughly $50,000 stolen altogether, and fear mounting among employees ---- it seemed only a matter of time before one of them took a bullet ---- the Sheriff's Department had no one in custody and, with no dearth of homicides to consume their attention, no time for the exhaustive digging the case required.
Days after the third robbery, King Taco president Raul Martinez hired a private detective. He chose Al Adams Moreno, an ex-LAPD cop who runs a P.I. agency out of Newport Beach called Global Investigations.
Moreno's physical presence speaks of his years on the force, and of his stint before that as a Marine in Vietnam. Every muscle and mannerism suggests lashed-in violence, volcanic power held carefully in check. He knows the grammar of intimidation; he knows how to turn his voice and eyes into weapons on an instant's notice.

Those qualities helped him wrench a confession of guilt from a man initially considered a victim in the first crime ---- Gilbert Marin, a King Taco supervisor and one of the company president's most trusted employees. Convicted in August 1996 for conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Marin is now serving eight and a half years in prison.
But linking the robberies to a culprit inside the company, amassing the evidence that allowed Moreno to win the confession, required grunt work ---- 50 straight days spent taking painstaking notes, interviewing witnesses multiple times and following every conceivable lead.
He faced an obvious challenge; Cold crimes. By the tine he signed on for the case. More than 15 months had elapsed since the first robbery, and more than eight months since the second. The size of the King Taco company also proved daunting. "When you have a company of 400 people, you have 400 suspects," Moreno says.
The first crime occurred on August 8, 1994 at the chain busiest restaurant at 4504 East Third Street. It was a Monday, which meant the weekend's cash receipts were in the building. As Gilbert Marin told police, he arrived at work that day around 7:50 a.m., and parked in the back lot. He was walking toward the building when two Hispanic men covered on him, threaded him with a gun, and forced him to open the door.
Inside they confronted an employee, Teresa Menchaca, who was tallying receipts in a supervisor's office. Thought this office and one next door featured visible floor safes, the gunman didn't demand that Marin or Menchaca open them. The gunman seemed to be waiting for another employee, Roberto Morales ---- one of four people in the company who possessed a key to a third office down the hall, where the substantial cash was stored in a floor vault.
When Morales arrived a few minutes later, the gunman demanded the money. Morales hesitated, and one of the thugs pistol-whipped him across the nose. Blood splatter Morales's face and his glasses fell. The thugs demanded he open the vault. Morales later told police he tried to comply, but he couldn't see with blood obscuring his vision and his glasses missing.
The thugs hog-tied Morales with duct-tape and threatened to kill everyone if they didn't get the cash. But by now roughly 15 minutes had passed; empty-handed, they fled through the back door.
As Moreno interviewed witnesses and walked them through the scene, several details pointed to an inside job. How did the gunman know Morales had the key to the room with the vault? How did they know what time Morales would arrive? Stranger still: Why did they seem utterly indifferent to the first two visible safes, unless they somehow knew the floor vault contained the real money?
Another element that troubled Moreno was the amount of time involved. 'The standard robbery's done with the shock factor, Moreno says. 'You stick the gun in their, they cooperate immediately, you get the money, you get the hell out. That was not how this was done."
And Moreno managed to elicit a startling fact ---- one that police had missed ---- while interviewing Teresa Menchaca: The robbers had called Gilbert Marin by his first name.
The second robbery happened on March 18, 1995 at the King Taco at 4300 East Olympic Boulevard. At 5:20 p.m., a restaurant supervisor named Irene Ramirez carried the day's cash receipts to her car, which was parked in the building's rear lot. As she began to drive off, a male Hispanic appeared and leveled a gun at her through the window. He opened the driver's-side door and grabbed the cash. Then he ordered her to put her face down on the steering wheel and made his escape.
Though the police report says $3,000 was stolen, Moreno puts the figure at $20,000. He discovered that just before the robbery Marin, who was Ramirez's supervisor, had ordered her to park in the rear lot ---- a place without witnesses or easy escape, ideal for an ambush.
Eight months later, at the King Taco at 5729 Atlantic Boulevard in Maywood, the third robbery occurred. This time a supervisor named Carmen Contreras was carrying a bundle of the restaurant's cash to her car in the parking lot. It was 9:30 a.m. A male Hispanic rushed her from behind and shoved her into the car. Her beat her in the face and fled with the cash, which Moreno puts at around $30,000.
Moreno discovered that Marin had ordered Contreras to change her normal pickup routine between restaurants that day, so that during the robbery she had about twice the usual cash in the possession.
Through Moreno exhausted days pursuing other suspects ---- including an ex-King Taco security guard with a criminal past ---- Marin emerged as the indisputable front-runner. Moreno knew he had been somehow complicit in the robberies. The motive crystallized when a background check revealed Marin had recently filed bankruptcy, and had borrowed money from the King Taco organization.
"I knew my man was Gilbert Marin, but I knew they wouldn't arrest him on a thing this heavy unless I got a written confession," Moreno says.
When Marin failed a polygraph test, Moreno used this as a psychological wedge. Face-to-face in an interrogation room, Moreno unlashed the barrage of evidence and convinced him that others had already implicated him. "In a criminal investigation of this kind you basically have to tell the suspect how the hell he did what he did." Moreno says. "You have to shock him. If you're cold, if you're just reaching, you're gonna lose him."
Moreno employed a cunning ruse, telling Marin that King taco president Raul Martinez had agreed not to press charges if Marin would confess. "Mr. Martinez told me he would put it behind him," Moreno said. "That's how much he thinks of you."
Moreno gave him two choices: Confess now, and he would call Martinez. Don't confess, and he would call the cops.
"I can look in your eyes and see you've got not a 500-pound but a 1500-pound gorilla on your back," Moreno told him. "This is not going to go away. I'm gonna give you an opportunity to tell me what the hell happened."
Marin cracked. He signed three written confessions admitting complicity in the crimes. His excuse: Sinister characters ---- possibly members of the Mexican Mafia ---- had threatened to murder him and his family if he didn't set up the robberies.
As Moreno tells it, Martin seemed shocked when sheriff's deputies arrived to arrest him. "I thought that you were gonna call Mr. Martinez," Marin told Mareno. Moreno responded: "I lied."
In Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles, Deputy District Attorney Craig Renetzky made the case that greed motivated Gilbert Marin to orchestrate the crimes. On August 2, 1996, after an 11-day trial, the jury found him guilty on four felony counts, including conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Renetzky says he could not have taken the case to trial, much less won a conviction, without the evidence Moreno furnished. "You could almost say he single-handedly did it." The prosecutor says. "It was prepared by him to the point that a homicide detective would prepare a murder case. He turned over every stone. And the defense, I think, was just overwhelmed."

Daily Pilot: March 10th, 1997

Al Moreno puts Liar Liar star Jim Carrey to the test with a polygraph on a segment for Entertainment Tonight.

Global Investigations & VIP Security Services: Al Adams Moreno