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Home / medical center

Man pleads guilty in kidnapping of elderly woman at VA center in West LA

A man pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges stemming from the abduction of a 68-year-old woman with dementia at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

David R. Tscherny, whose age and hometown were not immediately available, entered the plea to one count each of kidnapping and interference with commerce by extortion, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sentencing was set for July 22.

Tscherny and a co-defendant grabbed the woman — identified in court papers as E.C. — from the VA Medical Center last July 19 in order to steal about $17,500 from her checking account, federal prosecutors said.

Co-defendant Johnny Ray Gasca, 51, of Bronx, New York, was arrested hours later outside a Hollywood motel, and the victim was rescued, according to court papers.

A friend of the victim told investigators that she recognized Gasca, believed he previously was in some kind of relationship with the victim, and suspected Gasca may have previously taken some money from her bank and retirement accounts, prosecutors stated.

The witness also reported that the victim noted she was missing some of her credit cards, and when the two went to the victim’s bank to review her accounts, bank records showed a $35,000 withdrawal from the victim’s retirement account, followed by a number of Venmo, MoneyGram and PayPal transactions that the friend believed the victim did not have “the knowledge or wherewithal” to conduct, an affidavit filed in the case says.

Within hours of beginning its investigation, the FBI located the woman’s phone at The Dixie Hollywood Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, where agents converged. Soon after, Gasca and the woman exited the hotel, leading to Gasca’s arrest.

During an interview recounted in the affidavit, Gasca allegedly described the woman as his girlfriend and told agents that, after leaving the VA facility, they stopped at a bank where she made a cash withdrawal.

Gasca is scheduled for trial next month in Los Angeles federal court.

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