Building-code call turns up sex-assault fugitive

Menlo Park police find man missing for 7 years living in illegal backyard structure

Police responding Wednesday (Jan. 26) to a code-enforcement complaint in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park found more than they expected: a fugitive on the run since 2004 after he was convicted of sexual assault.

Marco Vargas-Ortiz, 26, of Redwood City was arrested at the scene, in the 1200 block of Sevier Avenue, by Menlo Park police officers with the Narcotics Enforcement Team. He was booked him into San Mateo County jail.

No narcotics were involved in the case. Narcotics officers got involved because they work on code-enforcement complaints.

In 2003, Vargas-Ortiz and two other suspects were arrested in connection with the sexual assault of a victim under 14. Vargas-Ortiz was convicted in 2004.

Detective Ed Soares, the lead investigator in the case said he could not give any more details on the 2004 case. San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe was not immediately available for comment.

Officers who responded to the code-violation complaint said they observed an "illegal structure" in the rear yard of the site. The structure was "an add-on to the existing residence that had not been approved by the city with permits and is drawing electricity from main house," Soares said. "It presented a fire hazard."

Police said they found several occupants inside, including Vargas-Ortiz. "We contacted two male adults and some younger children," Soares said. "There were three bedrooms inside a small dwelling."

While on the premises, officers said they found and confiscated a pistol-grip assault shotgun but are unsure to whom it belongs. "It's not registered to anybody," Soares said

There are no immediate plans to evict the residents of the dwelling, he said. Police are working with homeowners to rectify the violation and are giving them a grace period to comply with the necessary permit. The length of the grace period has not been established, as police have not identified all the dwelling's residents yet, Soares said.

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Like this comment
Posted by something doesn't add up
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2011 at 8:48 am

"Detectives from a narcotics enforcement team went to a home in the 1200 block of Sevier Road at around 2:30 p.m. on a complaint of a building code violation, Menlo Park police Detective Ed Soares said."

Why would detectives from a narcotics enforcement team be enforcing building code violations?

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2011 at 11:10 am

re: why are narcotics officers responding to code violation calls?

The story says 'Narcotics officers got involved because they work on code-enforcement complaints'

Could it be that for the sake of efficiency in government Menlo Park actually deploys police for different responsibilities, instead of having them sit around waiting for the next narcotics matter that needs attention? Seems too good to be true...

Like this comment
Posted by Adding Up
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm

My recollection of why Menlo does this is because so often building code violations tie in to narcotics & other violations, & they have to go after the landlord quite often. If a landlord's not being responsible, and illegal additions are built, they're often drug labs, or connected to narcotics trafficking, weapons violations & other crimes. The MP PD funding may have funding tied into how they allocate responsibilities, I'm not sure. But for those truly curious, you may want to call the PD & ask. I was given info about this years ago from the PD when I asked the same question, so some things may have changed since then.

Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton
on Jan 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm

"and illegal additions are built, they're often drug labs"

Not any more, they use abandoned houses being foreclosed. No bother building an illegal structure.

Like this comment
Posted by Adding Up
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Alfred, it's not one or the other, it's both; they use anything they believe they can get away with. There are so many lousy landlords who irresponsibly let their tenants commit illegal acts, just as banks don't pay attention enough to a foreclosed property to make sure it's not being used for illegal purposes.

To the point raised in this article, narc teams finding code enforcement violations means they can get the landlord in trouble as well as the tenants, which helps get rid of landlords who are either complicit in the crimes or constantly irresponsible enough that they're also culpable.

Like this comment
Posted by PUN MPD
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 29, 2011 at 7:51 am


Like this comment
Posted by to catch a predator?
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 29, 2011 at 7:53 am

i believe that the city are resorting to using google maps or yahoo maps, to do their crime fighting.

Like this comment
Posted by corrupt/bullies
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 29, 2011 at 7:58 am

so since when does narcotics agents pose as city code enforecers, this sounds like a warrant should have been presented, but since we do not have one lets just raid this place anyway al la trainig day movie!

illegal search and seizure!

Like this comment
Posted by got em!
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jan 30, 2011 at 3:11 pm

so, they caught a scumbag - good for them! We need more search and seizure like this. I'm all for it!

Like this comment
Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2011 at 11:01 am

bru is a registered user.

All right, great job!

Like this comment
Posted by Building Code Watcher
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Dectective Ed Sores was an East Palo Alto cop dectective and we lost him because of a major exodus of officers leaving because of Chief Rn Davis. Too bad EPA, there are a lot of illegal sturctures and lots of need for good investigative cops. So sad another one bites the dust. We miss you Officer Sores. Good for Menlo Park.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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