A man who contributes to the Whats Up SCV Instagram page was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of making multiple false reports to the Los Angeles County Fire Department regarding fake emergency situations.
Jose Trejo, 19, was booked in connection to duplicitous, anonymous reports he is alleged to have called into the Fire Department, resulting in sizable responses from first responders based on each call. According to law enforcement, Whats Up SCV itself was not involved in the phony calls and the independent contractor is believed to have acted alone.
“We were investigating someone who was repeatedly calling in anonymous calls to the Fire Department from a backline that was untraceable and reporting multiple different false emergencies,” said Detective David Nisenoff of the SCV Sheriff’s Station. “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.”
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.”
According to Nisenoff, the anonymous calls included false reports of brush fires, significant traffic collisions with people trapped in overturned vehicles, each one resulting in personnel from the Fire Department, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and AMR being called to the scene.
“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,” said Nisenoff. “I went to interview him this morning, which would be (Trejo), and based on my interview with him, I placed him under arrest for the crime.”
Trejo was booked on suspicion of felony reporting of a false emergency that could cause death or great bodily injury.
“He is looking at multiple counts of that,” said Nisenoff. “But that’s entirely up to the District Attorney’s office, how many they’re going to charge him with — if they charge him at all.”
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.
“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.”
The detective declined to comment on what he believes is the specific motivation behind the self-described reporter making the false flag calls, citing that the investigation, as of the publication of this story, remained ongoing. Nisenoff also declined to comment on whether any first responders were injured as a result of the various fake reports.
“No one from What’s Up SCV is believed to be involved; he acted alone for his own personal gain,” said Nisenoff. “He is solely acting on his own.”
The charge description, California Penal Code 148.3(b), listed against Trejo reads as follows:
“Any individual who reports, or causes any report to be made, to any city, county, city and county, or state department, district, agency, division, commission, or board, that an ‘emergency’ exists, who knows that the report is false, and who knows or should know that the response to the report is likely to cause death or great bodily injury, and great bodily injury or death is sustained by any person as a result of the false report, is guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”
Trejo’s first court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 20 at 8:30 a.m. at the San Fernando Superior Courthouse, Department S.