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October 30, 2012

San Francisco Man Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison in Fraud Scheme that Targeted SoCal Hospital and S.F. Construction Firm

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 5:31 pm

LOS ANGELES – A San Francisco man was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison for his role in a construction contract kickback scheme that targeted Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena and Columbus Manufacturing, Inc. in the Bay Area.

Alexander Svidler, 54, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Percy Anderson. Svidler, the owner of the Burlingame-based AA Construction Company and Svala Construction, Inc., pleaded guilty in January to two counts of mail fraud.

When he pleaded guilty, Svidler admitted that he entered into a scheme with David Hamedany, the former director of construction for Huntington Memorial Hospital, and Tony Hamedany, the former director of engineering for Columbus, that caused the hospital and Columbus to suffer losses of more than $2.5 million. As a result of the scheme, Huntington Hospital paid approximately $2.3 million to Svidler’s companies for construction services that were never performed. Svidler retained 10 percent of the fees paid by the hospital for the bogus contracts and kicked back the remaining 90 percent to David Hamedany. The scheme involved multiple false invoices and billing statements over the years 2007 through 2010.

David Hamedany was sentenced in January to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay $4.8 million in restitution.

During the same period in which Huntington Hospital was victimized, Svidler’s companies performed construction services for Columbus, where David Hamedany’s brother, Tony Hamedany, was a director of engineering. According to prosecutors, Svidler paid at least $400,000 in kickbacks to Tony Hamedany to ensure that Svidler’s companies would be awarded contracts on a continuing basis.

Tony Hamedany pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud in October 2011 and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 13.

Svidler has already made restitution payments totaling $1.35 million – $850,000 to Huntington Memorial Hospital and $500,000 to Columbus.

As he imposed the 18-month sentence, Judge Anderson noted that Svidler had significant accomplishments as a business man, community leader and philanthropist. But, the judge went on to state that Svidler had “lost his moral compass.”

In pronouncing the 18-month sentence, Judge Anderson noted that Svidler had significant accomplishments as a business man, community leader and philanthropist. But, the judge went on to state, Svidler “lost his moral compass.”

Judge Anderson ordered Svidler to begin serving his sentence on February 19, 2013.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Arrest of Two Individuals Selling Counterfeit IDs

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 5:30 pm

SACRAMENTO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of two individuals each charged with 14 counts of forgery or counterfeiting of government identification cards and conspiracy. The two individuals operated in a counterfeit identification ring that sold federal immigration documents (green cards), California identification cards and driver’s licenses, social security cards and passports.

Laurel Velasquez, 30, and Pedro Izehuatl, 45, of Sacramento were arrested on Wednesday after a four-month investigation by the California Department of Justice eCrime Unit and Special Crimes Unit. During the undercover operation, Velasquez and Izehuatl sold California Department of Justice Special Agents counterfeit driver’s licenses, green cards and a social security card.

In July 2012, the California Department of Justice received information about a potential counterfeit identification document ring and initiated an investigation which resulted in the identification of Laurel Velasquez as a seller of counterfeit items. Special agents subsequently conducted undercover operations from July to October 2012, during which they purchased dozens of counterfeit federal green cards, California driver’s licenses and a social security card from Velasquez for $100 each. The counterfeit green cards purchased were for individuals purported to be from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Russia and China.

Special agents were able to determine that the counterfeit items were being manufactured by another individual and on several occasions special agents observed this other individual meeting with the seller just prior to the counterfeit items being sold.

On October 24, DOJ agents served search warrants on the seller’s residence and the suspected manufacturer’s residence. During the service of these search warrants, sophisticated equipment used to create counterfeit identity documents was seized and Velasquez and Izehuatl were arrested. Both were booked into the Sacramento County Jail. Arraignment of both individuals is scheduled for Monday in Sacramento County Superior Court.


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 5:29 pm

*Two co-defendants have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole

SANTA ANA - A man was sentenced today to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for the robbery-murder of a suspected Irvine drug dealer on Super Bowl Sunday. Bernard Smith, 48, Vista, San Diego, was found guilty by a jury July 6, 2012, of one felony count of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery and one felony count of second degree robbery.

This was a re-trial, as Smith was previously sentenced Jan. 16, 2009, to life in prison without the possibility of parole in this case. On June 28, 2011, the California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, overturned the conviction based on their decision that the defendant should not have been jointly tried with his co-defendant, Stephen Bennett.

Bennett, 41, Vista, San Diego County, was convicted Oct. 2, 2008, of one felony count each of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery, second degree robbery, and the transportation of a controlled substance, and his two 1992 prior robbery strike convictions were found true. Bennett was sentenced Dec. 12, 2008, to life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Co-defendant Brandon Turner, 26, Oceanside, was found guilty by a jury April 14, 2008, of one felony count each of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery, second degree robbery, and the transportation of a controlled substance, with a true finding on the sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death. Turner was sentenced Sept. 19, 2008, to life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

On Feb. 5, 2006, Smith, Bennett, and Turner devised a plan to steal money and drugs from a drug dealer. Bennett called suspected drug dealer Brian Gray to set up a meeting under the pretense of purchasing drugs. The defendants drove from Vista to the victim’s Irvine home with the intention of stealing drugs from Gray. Smith and Turner murdered the victim by shooting him several times. The defendants stole cocaine from the victim’s home and fled the scene.

October 29, 2012


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 4:12 pm

SANTA ANA - A husband and wife, both attorneys, have been indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury for conspiring to have an elementary school parent volunteer arrested and imprisoned by planting drugs in her car. Kent Wycliffe Easter, 38, and Jill Bjorkholm Easter, 39, both of Irvine, were indicted yesterday, Oct. 25, 2012, on one felony count each of conspiracy to procure the false arrest and charging of Jane Doe, false imprisonment, and conspiracy to falsely report a crime. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. Both defendants are out of custody on $20,000 bail and are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment Nov. 9, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-5, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

On June 19, 2012, the Orange County District Attorney’s office released a press release with the following information on this case:

In 2010, Jane Doe was a parent volunteer at an elementary school in Irvine, where Jill and Kent Easter’s son was a student. Jill Easter is accused of becoming angry with the victim because the defendants believed Jane Doe was not properly supervising their son.

In February 2011, Jill and Kent Easter are accused of conspiring to have victim Jane Doe arrested in retaliation.

At approximately 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 16, 2011, Kent Easter is accused of driving to the home of Jane Doe and placing a bag of Vicodin, Percocet, marijuana, and a used marijuana pipe behind the driver’s seat of her unlocked vehicle. He is accused of intentionally leaving the drugs in plain sight in a conspicuous location, where it would be easily visible from outside the vehicle. Jill and Kent Easter are accused of being in constant cell phone and text message contact as Kent Easter drove to and from the victim’s home.


Federal Authorities Arrest 12 People Involved in Operation of Nine Illegal Marijuana Storefronts in Orange and Los Angeles Counties

SANTA ANA, California – A dozen people associated with a chain of nine marijuana stores that operated across Orange and Los Angeles counties were arrested this morning on federal drug trafficking charges. The 12 arrested are among 14 people named in a 14-count indictment returned last week by a federal grand jury.

The indictment outlines a narcotics-trafficking conspiracy led by John Melvin Walker, who owned and operated nine marijuana stores in cities across the two counties. The conspiracy count alleges that the 14 defendants participated in a scheme that distributed, at the very least, a ton of marijuana through the storefronts.

The nine marijuana stores allegedly operated by Walker were Alternative Herbal Health in Long Beach, Safe Harbor Collective in Dana Point, Garden Grove Alternative Care in Garden Grove, Santa Ana Superior Care in Santa Ana, Belmont Shore Natural Care in Long Beach, Santa Fe Compassionate Health Care in Santa Fe Springs, Costa Mesa Patients Association in Costa Mesa, the Whittier Collective in Whittier, and APCC (also known as the “San Juan Capistrano Store”) in San Juan Capistrano. Most of the stores previously were the subject of search warrants executed in 2010 and 2011. Most of the nine stores are now closed, but several are believed to still be in operation, including Belmont Shore Natural Care.

The investigation in this case revealed that the nine marijuana stores generated tens of millions of dollars in income, with the indictment alleging that in 2009 alone Safe Harbor Collective had profits of approximately $2.4 million.


Glendale Man Charged in Deaths of Two Good Samaritans

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 4:09 pm

VAN NUYS – A 19-year-old Glendale man whose vehicle toppled a light pole and a fire hydrant in August has been charged with two counts of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in connection with the electrocution deaths of two women who tried to help in the collision’s aftermath, the District Attorney’s Office announced today.

An arraignment hearing for Arman Samsonian (DOB 03/07/93) is set for Nov. 19 in Department 100 of the Van Nuys Courthouse. He surrendered to Los Angeles police on Thursday. Samonian was released after posting bail earlier today. He is charged in case No. LA072379.

Samsonian is accused of driving at a high rate of speed and losing control of his vehicle on Magnolia Boulevard in Valley Village on Aug. 22 at approximately 8:20 p.m. The posted speed limit is 35 mph.

The vehicle struck a light pole and a fire hydrant. The resulting pool of water came into contact with exposed electrical wires, energizing it.

Irma Yolanda Zamora, 40, of Burbank, and Stacey Lee Schreiber, 39, of Valley Village, were electrocuted in the collision’s aftermath as they tried to assist.

Samsonian faces a maximum of seven years and four months in prison if convicted.

October 26, 2012

U.S. Customs Officer Arrested on Federal Bribery Charges Related to Scheme to Avoid Import Taxes on Goods Coming from China

Filed under: Los Angeles Criminal attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 2:03 pm

LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities early this morning arrested a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) supervisory officer on charges of accepting bribes to allow others, including his ex-wife, to smuggle goods into the United States so they could avoid paying duties and taxes.

Sam Herbert Allen, 51, of Diamond Bar, was arrested after being indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, bribery and making false statements to investigating agents with the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the five-count indictment, Allen served as a supervisory officer assigned to oversee the examination and release of cargo entering the United States. After he was transferred to other duties within CBP, Allen convinced his ex-wife to operate an importing business that would avoid paying duties on shipments coming from the People’s Republic of China. The importing business – technically a “foreign trade zone” – would falsely claim that the shipments from China were not imported, but were instead immediately sent to Mexico. The indictment alleges that Allen promised to make the shipments appear to CBP as if they had been exported to Mexico, this in exchange for bribe payments of $2,000 per shipment.

During the course the scheme, which operated from at least September 2009 until March 2010, Allen allegedly received more than $100,000 in bribe payments.
The indictment alleges that the scheme caused the United States to suffer a loss of at least $781,632.59 in unpaid customs duties and taxes.


Accused Sex Offender Faces Minimum Sentence of 15 Years in Federal Prison after Pleading Guilty to Filming Child Molestation

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 2:01 pm

RIVERSIDE, California – A San Bernardino man pleaded guilty today in federal court to production of child pornography for filming his sexual conduct with a 13-year-old boy who lived near his residence.

Pedro Ruiz, who also used the name Peter Ruiz, 33, pleaded guilty this morning to one count of production of child pornography, a charge that carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in federal prison and could result in a sentence of as much as 30 years in federal prison.

Ruiz pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who scheduled a sentencing hearing for December 17.

“Children are the most vulnerable members of our communities, and we are devoted to fighting their exploitation by predators like Ruiz,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Congress has determined that lengthy prison sentences are warranted when people like Ruiz victimize young children.”

In a plea agreement filed in United States District Court, Ruiz admits that in 2009 he produced sexually explicit videos and images of the 13-year-old victim, who lived only a few houses away from Ruiz. When federal authorities searched Ruiz’s residence in 2010, they found on his computer thousands of videos and images depicting what defendant knew was child pornography.

A further examination of Ruiz’s computer devices revealed distribution of pornographic images of a prepubescent boy. In a combined effort with local law enforcement, FBI agents soon identified the 13-year-old victim, as well as two other local victims.

The San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office last year charged Ruiz with 23 counts of lewd acts upon a child, alleging the molestation of three victims, including the victim in the federal child pornography case. That case is still pending in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Authorities have uncovered evidence, which includes images found on Ruiz’s computer, that there may be other, unidentified victims of child molestation at the hands of Ruiz.

Attempted Murder, Arson Charges Filed in Firebomb Attack

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 2:00 pm

LONG BEACH – A 27-year-old Long Beach man was charged today with one count of attempted murder and five other felony counts for allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail at a man and setting him on fire, the District Attorney’s Office announced.

Jacob Timothy Lagarde (DOB 02/10/85) is expected to be arraigned in Department J of the Long Beach Courthouse this afternoon, said Deputy District Attorney Jodi Castano of the Long Beach Branch Office. Lagarde is charged in case No. NA093763.

In addition to attempted murder, Lagarde is charged with one count of explosion with intent to murder, one count of explosion causing mayhem or great bodily injury and three arson counts, according to the complaint. The complaint also alleges that Lagarde personally used a deadly and dangerous weapon and that he personally inflicted great bodily injury upon the victim.

The complaint states that since 2003 Lagarde has four prior felony convictions, including robbery, grand theft and drug offenses. Lagarde faces a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole if convicted of attempted murder.

The alleged attack occurred shortly before 7 p.m. on Oct. 19, outside a market on the 200 block of West Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach. The victim, a 54-year-old man, suffered burns to his hands and face and from the waist down.

Lagarde was arrested by Long Beach police earlier this week. Prosecutors recommended that bail be set at $1.2 million.

October 25, 2012

Arcadia Man Sentenced to Over One Year in Prison for Trafficking in More Than 30,000 DVDs with Counterfeit Dolby Trademarks

LOS ANGELES – An Arcadia man has been sentenced to serve a year and a day in federal prison for trafficking in more than 30,000 DVDs with counterfeit trademarks of Dolby Laboratory Licensing Corporation, a company responsible for sound quality in many theatrical movies and DVD releases.

Jackie Weisheng Chen, 48, was sentenced late yesterday by United States District Judge Gary A. Feess, who ordered the defendant to begin serving his prison term by January 4, 2013.

Chen was the owner of Temia Media, a retail store in Monterey Park. The store sold counterfeit movies from China, some of which were compilation disks featuring Chinese- and American-made movies of actors such as Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

The investigation in this case began two years ago when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized three shipments containing nearly 5,000 DVDs with counterfeit Dolby trademarks. After the third shipment was seized and after two previous notices by CBP had failed to stop the unlawful conduct, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) obtained a search warrant for Temia Media. During the search in January 2011, HSI agents seized nearly 25,000 DVDs with counterfeit Dolby trademarks. At that time, an HSI special agent explained to Chen and an employee that the DVDs had counterfeit Dolby trademarks.

Despite being warned about the counterfeit Dolby trademarks, Chen and the employee re-stocked their shelves and continued to sell the same DVDs with the same counterfeit Dolby trademarks. In response, federal agents again searched the store in May 2011 and seized an additional 3,000 DVDs with counterfeit Dolby trademarks. Chen and his co-conspirator were then arrested and charged. The employee was convicted in January

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