Former Food Network Chef Arrested in Murder-for-Hire Plot

05/16/2010 at 01:00 PM EDT

Former Food Network Chef Arrested in Murder-for-Hire Plot
Juan-Carlos Cruz
Santa Monica Police Department/AP
Former Food Network chef Juan-Carlos Cruz has gone from cooking to central booking.

Santa Monica police arrested Cruz, 48, on May 13 for solicitation to commit murder after uncovering a scheme in which he allegedly approached homeless men and asked them to kill someone.

According to reports, at least one of the men allegedly contacted by Cruz informed police of the plot. Law enforcement immediately launched a week-long undercover operation and arrested Cruz on Thursday at a local dog park.

Cruz's intended target – whose identity has yet to be revealed – has been notified of the plot, police said. Authorities have also yet to indicate a motive.




A former pastry sous chef at the Hotel Bel-Air, Cruz found fame in 2004 as the host of the Food Network's Calorie Commando, a healthy cooking show in which the chef was challenged to create low-calorie versions of comfort food. The program was cancelled two years later, after 39 episodes.

After the arrest, the Westwood, Calif.-based chef's neighbors expressed shock and disbelief.

"He's a fine guy," a neighbor told the Los Angeles Times of Cruz, a church-going Catholic married to his high school sweetheart, Jennifer Campbell, an attorney. A friendly presence in the neighborhood, he was often seen walking the couple's two dogs. Said the neighbor: "I find this hard to believe."

Cruz is being held at the Los Angeles County Jail on $5 million bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned May 18.

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