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AJ Oliveira is from Brazil. He moved to Torrance, California with his pregnant wife and two little girls.
Oliveira says he’s a musician and performs to make money for his family. He arrived with his family April 9. Three days later the unimaginable happened.
Oliveira says a kind friend was letting him borrow their car and a guitar so he could start performing, but that Monday night, he parked the car in his apartment’s gated garage after a gig, and left the equipment in the car so he could put his kids to bed upstairs.
He planned to take the equipment out but ended up falling asleep. The next morning, the car was gone.
The equipment in that car was worth more than $4,000, according to Oliveira. His wife’s passport, inside the car, was also stolen. He immediately called police.
Oliveira reviewed his apartment’s surveillance footage, and found a man and woman who he says stole the car.
Police and Oliveira were trying to find a way to locate the vehicle.
“He was like, ‘is there any tracking device in the car that we can go?’ and I was like, ‘no, there’s no tracking device that I know of,’ and then I went, ‘oh!’ And it clicked, my iPad was in the car,” Oliveira said.
Using Apple’s “Find My” feature, Oliveira and detectives were able to track the vehicle’s location to the city of Lawndale, but his equipment was still missing, no longer inside of it.
Oliveira says he couldn’t just sit around and wait, so he called music shops to warn them that his equipment had been stolen, and that someone might try to sell it.
He says that he contacted Guitar Center headquarters where he inquired about his speaker, which he says was worth more than $1,000.
“He was like, ‘well, we have one but it’s in Lawndale.’ He’s like, ‘you got to call that store,'” said Oliveira.
Oliveira called and found his speaker, which he got back, but warned the store manager that the suspects may try to come back and sell the rest of his equipment — and that’s what happened.
“Torrance detectives continued their investigation to identify the suspect, and were notified by the Guitar Center later that day that a suspect was trying to sell some more of the stolen musical equipment,” said the Torrance Police Department in a statement to Eyewitness News. “To assist, LASD deputies responded and detained the possible suspect.”
Officials say that on April 13, detectives were able to connect a detained female suspect to the stolen car incident. Torrance police did not identify the suspect, but said she was booked in jail on Grand Theft and Receiving Stolen Property charges.
“I feel awful. I feel paranoid,” Oliveira said. “I feel like it’s a stain in the beautiful image that I had of the South Bay and Torrance.”
Oliveira’s determination helped him recover most of his gear, but his friend’s guitar is still missing. He is starting a GoFundMe to raise money to pay his friend back.
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