Hermosa Beach Interim Police Chief Steve Johnson said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an allegation made by a masseuse that City Treasurer David Cohn sexually assaulted her during a massage in Cohn’s home.
Yuritsi Maria Garcia, 26, and her boyfriend, Gustavo Ceron, 29, were arrested Nov. 13 by Hermosa Beach police officers outside a bank in Maywood after Garcia allegedly tried to collect money from Cohn in exchange for deleting contents from Cohn’s iPad.
Garcia, who is not a licensed massage therapist, took the iPad from Cohn’s home Nov. 3 following a massage that Cohn cut short, according to a police report.
After Garcia was arrested, she told Hermosa Beach police officers that Cohn sexually assaulted her, Johnson said.
“In one of the interviews, she made the allegation that Treasurer Cohn had sexually assaulted her, and immediately we knew there was a potential conflict of interest,” Johnson said. “We felt it was better for all parties to have a thorough, independent, accurate investigation of her allegations.”
Johnson said Hermosa Beach police performed the initial investigation, which resulted in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charging Garcia and Ceron with theft of the iPad and attempted extortion. Cohn, 72, waited until Nov. 8 to report to police that his iPad had been stolen.
Garcia told the Daily Breeze last week that she was turned away by Hermosa police when she tried to file a police report detailing the assault allegations against Cohn. Garcia said Hermosa Beach police told her to report it to her hometown police department in Maywood instead, according to the Breeze.
“That’s absolutely not true. We did not turn her down,” Johnson said on Monday. “Nobody told her we weren’t going to investigate. It was just the opposite. We intend to have a thorough investigation, and we wanted to make sure it was as independent as possible.”
Also on Monday, Mayor Pro Tem Kit Bobko and City Council member Mike DiVirgilio sent City Manager Tom Bakaly a letter asking him to temporarily oversee the treasurer’s position amid the allegations.
Bakaly on Monday said there’s nothing in the municipal code that would allow for him to take such action. Bakaly also said city staff will report at Tuesday’s City Council meeting on the financial and legal issues facing the city following the criminal case involving Cohn.
The iPad did not contain city-related information or any resident account information, according to a city spokesperson. Cohn has not responded to requests for comment.