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August 17, 2017

Man Sentenced to LWOP for Capital Murder, Arson, Stalking

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 5:02 am

A 34-year-old man was sentenced today to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for the 2015 killing of his estranged wife’s friend, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

On March 29, a jury found Ernesto Ornelas guilty of five counts in case TA138348: one count each of first-degree murder, arson and stalking and two counts of disobeying a court order.

Jurors also found true a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait. Moreover, jurors found true a special allegation that the defendant personally and intentionally discharged a firearm which caused great bodily injury and death.

Deputy District Attorney Shannon Cooley, who prosecuted the case, said Ornelas had a long history of domestic violence involving his wife, from whom he was separated and living apart.

A domestic violence protective order was issued in May 2015. However, Ornelas violated the order several times, the prosecutor said. Additionally, Ornelas threatened to kill several men as a result of his jealousy over his wife, the prosecutor added. (more…)

Couple to Face Trial for Abuse of More Than a Dozen Dogs

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:59 am

Two Acton dog trainers ordered in July to stand trial for allegedly abusing 26 dogs under their care pleaded not guilty to the charges today, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Junior Barillas Morales (dob 12/7/89) and Natasha Elena Ahmad (dob 11/29/92) were arraigned today and are scheduled back for a pretrial hearing on Aug. 25 in Department A17 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Antelope Valley Branch.

Morales and Ahmad face a total of 33 charges: 13 felony counts of cruelty to an animal and 13 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to an animal.

Deputy District Attorney Amarilla Blondia said the defendants also face three felony counts of child endangerment, two felony counts of grand theft and two misdemeanor counts of petty theft.

On Feb. 7, three very thin dogs were discovered by neighbors, according to evidence presented at the preliminary hearing. A subsequent investigation uncovered two deceased dogs and eight additional dogs in the defendant’s property. One of the live dogs had to have a leg amputated due to an untreated infection, the prosecutor said. (more…)

Man Sentenced For Beating Death of USC Grad Student

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:56 am

A 21-year-old man was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2014 murder of a University of Southern California graduate student, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

In June, Andrew Garcia was found guilty of one count each of first-degree murder, robbery, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. The special circumstance allegation of murder during an attempted robbery was found to be true.

He was sentenced today by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli.

Deputy District Attorney John McKinney with the Major Crimes Division prosecuted the case.

Garcia and others confronted 24-year-old Xinran Ji, who was walking home from a study group near the USC campus shortly before 1 a.m. on July 24, 2014. The victim was struck several times with a bat and a wrench before he ran away.

Garcia eventually caught up to Ji and hit him repeatedly with the bat. Ji made his way back to his apartment where he died. He was found hours later by a roommate. (more…)

August 16, 2017

Long-Running Clean Water Act Dispute Ends, Duarte Agrees to Pay Civil Fines, Restore Streams and Wetlands

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

Bringing to a close several years of litigation, John Duarte and Duarte Nursery Inc. have agreed to pay a large civil penalty and preserve and restore creeks, streams, and wetlands to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act on property located in Tehama County, California, the Justice Department announced today.

Duarte has agreed to pay $1.1 million in civil penalties and mitigation for 22 acres of disturbed streams and wetlands and to permanently protect creeks on the property that are connected to the Sacramento River. The agreement follows a federal court determination in 2016 finding Duarte liable for violating the Clean Water Act and will redress illegal “ripping” of federally-protected streams and wetlands. The agreement allows Duarte to return the vast majority of the site to productive use and allows him to seek future determinations concerning jurisdictional waters at the site.

“Today’s agreement affirms the Department of Justice’s commitment to the rule of law, results in meaningful environmental restoration, and brings to an end protracted litigation,” said Jeffrey H. Wood, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resource Division. “We are pleased to reach this agreement that serves the public interest in enforcement of the Clean Water Act and deterrence of future violations.”

“The Corps is pleased that this long-standing enforcement action has finally been resolved,” said Michael Jewell, the Chief of the Regulatory Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Sacramento District. “We encourage members of the public to contact the Corps prior to engaging in activities that are regulated under the Clean Water Act. The Corps is always willing to talk to the public about the Regulatory Program and to provide information on permit requirements, jurisdictional determinations, wetland delineations, and any other aspects of the Program.” (more…)

Active-Duty U.S. Navy Commander Pleads Guilty to Conspiring With Foreign Defense Contractor to Defraud the U.S. Navy

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

An active-duty U.S. Navy commander pleaded guilty today in connection with his efforts to obstruct a federal criminal investigation of the owner and chief executive officer of a multi-national defense contracting firm headquartered in Singapore.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson of the Southern District of California, Director Dermot O’Reilly of the Department of Defense’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and Director Andrew Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) made the announcement.

Bobby Pitts, 48, of Chesapeake, Va., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. in connection with the NCIS’s investigation of Leonard Glenn Francis, the owner and CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).  Pitts is set to be sentenced on December 1, by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal of the Southern District of California, who accepted his plea today.

According to admissions made as part of his plea agreement, from August 2009 to May 2011, Pitts served as the officer in charge of the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command (FISC) in Singapore.  As part of his duties, Pitts learned that NCIS and several civilian employees of the U.S. Navy were investigating whether Francis was over-billing the U.S. Navy on ship husbanding contracts.  Pitts had access to internal U.S. Navy documents pertaining to investigative steps that the U.S. Navy was considering and admitted that he shared this information with Francis, with the intent to impede and obstruct the U.S. Navy’s oversight of its contracts with GDMA.  On Nov. 23, 2010, for example, Pitts forwarded to a representative of GDMA an internal U.S. Navy email discussing FISC’s intention to contact officials with the Royal Thai Navy to determine whether GDMA had been billing the U.S. Navy for services in fact rendered by the Thai government. (more…)

Three Former Executives for L.A. Nonprofit Plead Guilty to Embezzlement, Other Charges

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:03 am

Three former executives for the nonprofit Chicana Service Action Center pleaded guilty today to embezzling and misappropriating millions of dollars in public funds and agreed to pay collectively more than $10 million in restitution, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Sophia Esparza, the organization’s one-time chief executive officer, pleaded guilty to five counts of misappropriation of public funds, four counts of embezzlement, two counts of preparing false documentary evidence and one count of filing a false tax return.

Former chief financial officer Silvia Gutierrez also pleaded guilty to 12 counts: six counts of embezzlement, four counts of misappropriation of public funds and two counts of preparing false documentary evidence.

Thomas Baiz, who served as the organization’s vice president of corporate and government affairs, pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement, two counts of misappropriation of public funds and one count of conspiracy to misappropriate public funds.

A fourth defendant, Michael Lorenzo Tompkins, pleaded no contest to one count of embezzlement. Tompkins, a former CSAC employee, was charged earlier this year. (more…)

August 15, 2017

No. 2 Defendant in Federal Indictment Targeting Coalition of Three Latino Street Gangs Pleads Guilty to RICO and Narcotics Offenses

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

LOS ANGELES – A gang member who helped manage a coalition of three rival street gangs in Northeast Los Angeles that were brought together by orders issued by a member of the Mexican Mafia pleaded guilty today to federal charges and admitted being a primary supplier of narcotics to the criminal enterprise.

Santos Zepeda, also known as “Slim,” 33, of Glendale, a senior member of the Frogtown gang, pleaded guilty this morning to conspiring to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and conspiring to traffic methamphetamine.

Zepeda was among 22 defendants named two years ago in a federal racketeering indictment that outlined how Mexican Mafia member Arnold Gonzales ordered the unification of three street gangs that were traditional rivals. The “peace treaty” imposed by Gonzales in 2010 brought together the Frogtown, Toonerville and Rascals gangs, which worked together to control the narcotics trade and other illegal activities in an area that ran along the Los Angeles River from Elysian Park nearly to Burbank.

Because he was incarcerated in Pelican Bay State Prison after being convicted of murder, Gonzales appointed another Frogtown gang member, Jorge Grey, to be his emissary on the streets, according to the indictment. Zepeda served as Grey’s top lieutenant, provided narcotics to the racketeering enterprise, and coordinated the collection of “taxes” imposed on street-level drug dealers.

Zepeda pleaded guilty this morning before United States District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on January 22.



Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was sentenced to 28 years in state prison today for human trafficking and pimping a minor girl and pimping and pandering two additional women.

Defendant Charges Sentence
Marcus Ramon Santos, 34, Long Beach Pleaded guilty today to felony:

  • Human trafficking of a minor
  • Pimping a minor under 16 years old
  • Pandering a minor under 16 years old
  • Human trafficking
  • (2) Pimping
  • (2) Pandering

Sentencing Enhancement

  • Prior prison conviction for aggravated assault in Orange County in 2011
  • 28 years in state prison
  • Mandatory lifetime sex offender registration

Circumstances of the Case

Santos is a human trafficker/pimp who exploits women and children for financial gain. With the rise in popularity of social media and ease of meeting people on the Internet, many pimps and human traffickers utilize a variety of social media to locate potential victims. Pimps often establish rigid rules that their victims are expected to follow including setting daily quotas that the victims are expected to fulfill. The victims are often required to turn over all payment they receive for sex acts from sex purchasers to their pimp. Failure to follow these rules can result in deprivation of food and/or physical and/or emotional abuse.