Since news surfaced last month that Hermosa Beach City Treasurer David Cohn had been the alleged victim of an extortion attempt following a massage, it has been unclear what exactly transpired in his home Nov. 3.
On Monday, Hermosa Beach Det. Joe Poelstra testified at a preliminary hearing at the Torrance Courthouse that the masseuse who allegedly stole Cohn’s iPad told police she gives sexual favors.
Yuritsi Maria Garcia, 26, who is charged with stealing the iPad and attempting to extort Cohn, did not testify at Monday’s hearing. She allegedly demanded up to $6,000 over the iPad and its contents.
Cohn, 72, has denied wrongdoing. He testified in court Monday, moving slowly back and forth from the witness stand and using a cane.
At the end of Monday’s preliminary hearing, Judge Hector Guzman refused to reduce or dismiss the charges against Garcia and her boyfriend, Gustavo Ceron. Still, the testimony in court revealed details of the sex scandal that has prompted some to call for Cohn’s resignation.
According to Poelstra’s testimony, Garcia told police she assisted in achieving a sexual “release or climax for a customer.”
“She said she was a massage therapist,” Poelstra said. “She allowed clients to touch her naked body during the massage, and she always gave clients a ‘happy ending.’”
According to Poelstra, Garcia told police that she attempted to service Cohn during the massage.
“She attempted to reach a happy ending, but he was frustrated… and at that point he cut the massage short,” Poelstra said.
Cohn testified that he cut the massage short only because he felt uncomfortable. Cohn, who lay naked on his stomach on the floor in his guest bedroom for the massage, said he felt uncomfortable because Garcia had disrobed at the start of the session.
After twenty minutes of the hour-long massage, Garcia told Cohn to turn over.
“At that point, I said that I was afraid,” Cohn said. “I didn’t like where this was going. I volunteered: ‘Let’s cut the massage short.”
Under questioning from defense counsels, Cohn testified that he did not say or imply anything sexual during or leading up to the massage. When asked if Garcia said anything sexual, Cohn testified that he could not remember.
Cohn, who said he needed a massage for his ailing back, met Garcia on Craigslist. He knew her only as “Diane.” The massage from Garcia was not covered by insurance, Cohn said, and Cohn paid her $100 for a one-hour massage in her Maywood home Oct. 26. Garcia was fully clothed for that first massage, wearing blue tights and a top, Cohn said.
Under questioning, Cohn acknowledged that her outfit was sexy but added “nothing was showing.”
Cohn said he received that massage while he lay on a black table with a pink sheet in her home, and they arranged for a second massage in Cohn’s Sixth Street home on Saturday, Nov. 3.
“She told me she thought I was cute and would like to see me again,” Cohn said.
Cohn, who said he wasn’t feeling well by the time Garcia arrived in the afternoon Nov. 3, said he undressed for the massage and did not use a towel to cover himself.
Garcia knelt on the floor at his right side and performed the massage, Cohn said. When asked if Garcia straddled him during the massage, Cohn said he didn’t remember.
After cutting the massage short, Cohn said offered to pay only $65 and Garcia agreed.
Then Garcia went to the bathroom while texting on her phone, and Cohn said he checked email on his iPad, which he left on a table near the front door. When Ceron suddenly began banging loudly against glass on the front door with a key, Cohn said he got distracted. Cohn also said he saw Garcia shifting items in her purse and that he paid her the $65.
After the couple left his home, Cohn said he noticed the iPad was missing.
Cohn said he texted and phoned Garcia, demanding his iPad back. Cohn also said he phoned Apple security, which remotely deleted the contents of the iPad.
Cohn contacted police the following Monday. He testified that Garcia was demanding $6,000 in exchange for the iPad and if he didn’t pay the price would increase to $10,000 by the end of the week.
Cohn said Garcia threatened to release private photos of his family.
Cohn said his iPad did not contain sexual content, and he also denied that he sent sexual content electronically to Garcia. Cohn said he never made any requests for sexual favors.
Poelstra testified that after Cohn contacted police, Cohn was still deciding whether to make a criminal complaint or simply make a record of the events that occurred.
Garcia was arrested Nov. 13 by Hermosa Beach police. She made an assault claim while in custody of Hermosa Beach police, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Task Force is investigating Garcia’s claim.
Cohn, who is not married and was elected to office last November, declined further comment through his attorney, John Sweeney.
“[Cohn] is the victim, and we will let the process take its course,” Sweeney said outside the courtroom.
A heavily redacted Hermosa Beach police report only said that Cohn cut the massage short. Garcia told the Daily Breeze that Cohn wanted sex and assaulted her when she refused.
The police report went on to say that Garcia promised to delete content from the iPad after Cohn transferred the money, but the iPad would stay with her.
Cohn has said that his iPad did not contain any city financial records, emails, or operating data and no confidential information was accessed.
Judge Guzman lowered the bail amount from $35,000 to $20,000 for Ceron, who remains in custody. Garcia posted bail last month and declined comment after Monday’s proceedings.
Garcia and Ceron are scheduled to be back in court Dec. 31 for an arraignment.
In this article: Hermosa Beach City Treasurer David Cohn denies wrongdoing
In this article: Hermosa Beach City Treasurer says he will not resign