A former local stringer and breaking news reporter accused of making false emergency reports to first responders pleaded not guilty on Thursday to the multiple criminal charges levied against him.
The suspect in the case, identified as 19-year-old Jose Trejo, was arrested on Tuesday in connection to repeated anonymous calls being placed to a number of government agencies reporting false emergencies.
Two days later, he was formally arraigned and entered a not guilty plea to eight separate misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting an emergency, according to Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
He was ordered to return to court once again on Feb. 28 for a pretrial hearing, Risling added. A pretrial hearing involves the judge, prosecution and defense convening in order to present evidence, documents and/or any other relevant materials/matters before the trial begins.
According to investigators, the case against Trejo was opened when the Fire Department, as well as other first responder agencies, said they had repeatedly received calls from an untraceable line that alleged everything from fires, to traffic collisions, to serious injuries.
“Those emergencies elicited a pretty sizable response and almost every time the majority of them were completely fabricated … not even just exaggerated, but completely fabricated,” said Detective David Nisenoff, of the SCV Sheriff’s Station, on the day of Trejo’s arrest. The investigator later added: “We began investigating that, and during the course of our investigation we were able to identify a person of interest — someone who we believed was directly involved in it.”
Following an interview with the 19-year-old on Tuesday morning, Nisenoff said he suspected Trejo was responsible for the calls, and placed him under arrest.
On his social media, Trejo lists himself as a breaking news photographer working with What’s Up SCV, a locally run and focused Instagram page that posts and reposts about SCV news and culture. What’s Up SCV itself is not not suspected of any wrongdoing, according to law enforcement.
“He did identify himself as working for Whats Up SCV. However, having said that, I have been in contact with management from What’s Up SCV and he’s not a direct employee of them,” said Nisenoff. “He’s essentially (an independent contractor) where he provides them information and they pay for his stories.”
In a statement sent out via its Twitter account, Whats Up SCV stated that it does not condone the alleged behavior of Trejo.
“We work as closely as we can with all first responders,” the social media company said via a tweet Tuesday afternoon. “Hearing what he did upset us deeply. This is not what this platform was created for.”
Trejo, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrest records, was released on his own recognizance Thursday afternoon.