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April 17, 2018

Attorney General Becerra Charges Individual for Price Gouging After North Bay Wildfires

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:02 am

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed three misdemeanor charges against Melissa “Missy” Echeverria, a real estate agent, for allegedly raising the monthly rent on property she owns in Novato, California by more than 10 percent following the devastating fires in Northern Bay Area counties last year. Due to the blazes, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on October 9, 2017. Price gouging during a state of emergency is illegal under Penal Code Section 396.

“In times of crisis, the overwhelming majority of Californians do what is right: we come together and help one another. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case,” said Attorney General Becerra. “There are some unscrupulous individuals who engage in price gouging, taking advantage of those who are already suffering. It’s wrong, it’s unconscionable, and it’s illegal. At the California Department of Justice, we are committed to ensuring that it’s not open season on innocent victims. I appreciate the strong partnership between my office and the Marin County District Attorney’s Office in this particular case.”

The investigation was conducted by attorneys and Division of Law Enforcement special agents from the California Department of Justice.

California law generally prohibits hiking the price of an item or service by more than 10 percent of what it cost before a state or local emergency was declared. This law applies to those who sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials and gasoline. The law also applies to repair or reconstruction services, emergency cleanup services, transportation, freight and storage services, hotel accommodations and rental housing. Exceptions to this prohibition exist if, for example, the price of labor, goods, or materials has increased for the vendor. (more…)

April 16, 2018

2 South L.A. Men Indicted on Federal Charges of Robbing Undercover Secret Service Agent during Counterfeit Money Investigation

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 9:50 am

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury this afternoon returned an indictment that charges two men in a scheme to rob an undercover agent with the United States Secret Service at gunpoint under the pretense of selling the law enforcement officer counterfeit money.

Richard Taron Henderson, aka “Profit,” 22, and Tyre Jordan Simmons, aka “Reckless,” also 22, were named today in a six-count indictment that alleges one transaction involving counterfeit United States currency and an armed robbery of the undercover agent.

Both men are charged with conspiracy, robbery, assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon, and using a firearm during a crime of violence. Henderson is further charged with dealing counterfeit money, and Simmons is accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The indictment alleges an October 18, 2017 incident in which Henderson allegedly sold 250 counterfeit $20 Federal Reserve Notes as part of a Secret Service investigation into the trafficking of counterfeit money.

As the investigation continued, Henderson allegedly negotiated a deal to sell $40,000 in counterfeit money. However, according to the indictment, the deal was a pretense to rob the undercover agent who was attempting to purchase the counterfeit money. (more…)

Justice Department Sends 1373 Compliance Letter to City Of Oakland, Document Request and Subpoena Threat to Two Other Jurisdictions

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 9:47 am

The Department of Justice yesterday sent the attached letters to the City of Seattle, Washington, and the State of Vermont, demanding the production of documents that could show whether each jurisdiction is unlawfully restricting information sharing by its law enforcement officers with federal immigration authorities.

The Department of Justice previously contacted these jurisdictions and raised concerns about laws, policies, or practices that may violate 8 U.S.C. § 1373, a federal statute that promotes information sharing related to immigration enforcement and with which compliance is a condition of FY2016 and FY2017 Byrne JAG awards.

The letters also state that failure to respond, respond completely, or respond in a timely manner will be subject to a Department of Justice subpoena.

The Justice Department also sent a letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf of the City of Oakland, regarding Oakland’s laws, policies, or practices, which the Department believes may violate 8 U.S.C. 1373.

“When cities and states enact policies that thwart the federal government’s ability to enforce federal immigration law, they choose to place the protection of criminal aliens over the safety of their communities,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  “The Justice Department will not tolerate this intentional effort to undermine public safety and the rule of law, and I continue to remind all jurisdictions to reconsider policies that put their residents in harm’s way.” (more…)

MAN SENTENCED TO LIFE IN STATE PRISON AFTER THIRD TRIAL FOR 1981 MURDER OF 77-YEAR-OLD VICTIM HE MET THROUGH A MAGAZINE AD

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 9:43 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was sentenced yesterday to life in state prison without the possibility of paroleafter his third trial for the 1981 murder of a 77-year-old victim he met through a magazine ad.

Defendant Charges Sentence
James Andrew Melton,

65, Los Angeles

Found guilty by a jury on May 22, 2017, of the following felony counts:

  • First Degree Murder
  • Burglary
  • Robbery

Special Circumstances Found True:

  • Murder during the commission of a burglary
  • Murder during the commission of a robbery
Life in state prison without the possibility of parole

Circumstances of the Case

  • In 1981, Melton formulated a plan to meet and rob older, wealthy men interested in romantic encounters.
  • In October 1981, the defendant met the victim, 77-year-old widow Anthony Desousa, through a male companionship advertisement placed in The Advocate.
  • On Oct. 12, 1981, the victim agreed to pick up Melton at the Disneyland Hotel and bring him back to his residence in Newport Beach. (more…)

April 13, 2018

Federal Authorities Move Against Fraudulent Tax Return Preparers and Remind All Taxpayers of their Tax Season Responsibilities

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:38 am

LOS ANGELES – As the tax filing season comes to an end, federal authorities are reminding members of the public of their obligation to timely file accurate tax documents – and that evading taxes or defrauding the Internal Revenue Service can led to substantial fines, penalties and prison sentences.

Taxpayers are also reminded to be on the lookout for unscrupulous tax return preparers who may seek to inflate refunds by falsifying deductions and other fraudulent means. Even if a tax return preparer makes an error on an individual’s tax return, it is still the taxpayer’s responsibility to pay the correct taxes.

As part of their year-round efforts to combat tax fraud, federal prosecutors with the United States Attorney’s Office have worked tirelessly with special agents at the Los Angeles Field Office of IRS Criminal Investigation to investigate and prosecute those who illegally evade their taxes. Today, they are announcing a series of cases targeting tax return preparers who allegedly defrauded the IRS by filing fraudulent returns.

“Corrupt tax return preparers compromise the tax system, harming their clients, other taxpayers and the United States government,” said United States Attorney Nicola T. Hanna. “The defendants recently charged by my office are accused of breaking a fundamental trust with their clients, and their actions place themselves and their clients into legal jeopardy.”

“Income tax return preparers are a vital part of the U.S. tax system. About 56 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare their returns,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe. “Selecting the right tax professional is critically important because taxpayers are ultimately responsible for what they submit on their tax return.” (more…)

Attorney General Becerra Announces Guilty Plea by Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer and Permanent Shutdown of the Online Sex Trafficking Website

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:37 am

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that defendant Carl Ferrer, Chief Executive Officer of online sex advertising website Backpage.com, has pled guilty to one charge of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering. The defendant entered the guilty plea in Sacramento County Superior Court, resolving charges against him in the criminal case People of the State of California v. Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin. This plea follows the permanent shutdown of Backpage.com announced on April 9. The website has been described as the world’s largest online brothel, facilitating human trafficking throughout the world.

Ferrer will cooperate in the prosecution of two controlling shareholders of the website, Michael Lacey and James Larkin. The case against alleged co-conspirators, Lacey and Larkin, continues in Sacramento County Superior Court.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it is happening in our own backyard,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The shutdown of Backpage.com is a tremendous victory for the survivors and their families. And the conviction of CEO Ferrer is a game-changer in combatting human trafficking in California, indeed worldwide.”

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Carl Ferrer agrees to: (more…)

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES NATIONWIDE INITIATIVE TO COMBAT SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN HOUSING

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:37 am

WASHINGTON — Today, as the Department of Justice recognizes the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the nationwide rollout of an initiative aimed at increasing awareness and reporting of sexual harassment in housing. The announcement includes an interagency task force between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Justice Department to combat sexual harassment in housing, an outreach toolkit, and a public awareness campaign. This three-pronged approach will strengthen the Department’s efforts to combat sexual harassment in housing.

“Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, immoral, and unacceptable,” said Attorney General Sessions. “It is all too common today, as too many landlords, managers, and their employees attempt to prey on vulnerable women. We will not hesitate to pursue these predators and enforce the law. In October, I ordered a new initiative to bring more of these cases, and we have already won relief for 15 victims. Today we announce three new steps to make the initiative more effective and to win more cases. I want to thank the dedicated and committed professionals in our Civil Rights Division and our partners in the Department of Housing and Urban Development for their hard work in this effort. We will continue to aggressively pursue harassers, because everyone has a right to be safe in their home.”

“All discrimination stains the very fabric of our nation, but HUD is especially focused on protecting the right of everyone to feel safe and secure in their homes, free from unwanted sexual harassment,” said Secretary Ben Carson. “No person should have to tolerate unwanted sexual advances in order to keep a roof over his or her head. Part of our mission at HUD is to provide safe housing and we will remain diligent in this mission to protect those we serve. I look forward to working with Attorney General Sessions and the Department of Justice as part of this task force to bring an end to this type of discrimination.”

In October 2017, the Justice Department announced an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing and launched pilot programs in Washington, D.C. and the Western District of Virginia. The initiative sought to increase the Department’s efforts to protect women from harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security guards, and other employees and representatives of rental property owners. During the pilots, the Department developed and tested ways to better connect both with victims of sexual harassment in housing and with those organizations that victims may turn to first for help – including law enforcement, legal services providers, public housing authorities, sexual assault services providers, and shelters. The Department also tested certain aspects of the initiative in other jurisdictions, including New Jersey, the Central District of California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Michigan. (more…)

April 12, 2018

Man Sentenced for Trespassing on Taylor Swift’s Property

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:55 am

A transient has pleaded no contest to trespassing onto a property owned, but not currently occupied, by singer Taylor Swift, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Justin Christoph Lilly (dob 11/3/94) entered the plea yesterday to one misdemeanor count of trespassing and refusing to leave private property.

Lilly was immediately sentenced to three days in jail, three years of summary probation and ordered to stay away from Swift’s property.

On April 8, the defendant tried to climb the wall to the property, in spite of multiple warnings by security officers to leave, prosecutors said.

The case was investigated by the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Los Angeles District Attorney / case 8AR31690 / April 11, 2018

Man Charged with Trespassing on Taylor Swift’s Property

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:55 am

A transient was charged today with trespassing onto a property owned, but not currently occupied, by singer Taylor Swift, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Justin Christoph Lilly (dob 11/3/94) faces one misdemeanor count of trespassing and refusing to leave private property.

Arraignment in case 8AR31690 is scheduled today in Department W73 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Airport Branch.

The defendant is charged with trying to climb the wall to the property, in spite of multiple warnings by security officers to leave, prosecutors said.

If convicted as charged, Lilly faces a possible maximum sentence of six months in jail.

The case remains under investigation by the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Los Angeles District Attorney / case 8AR31690 / April 10, 2018

Duarte Man Sentenced to Prison for Fatal Backyard Attack

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:50 am

A 42-year-old man was sentenced today to 91 years and eight months to life in state prison for killing his neighbor, shooting another and pointing a gun at several other individuals before fleeing from deputies, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

On Jan. 26, a jury convicted Luis Santillan Valdes of Duarte of seven felony counts in case GA099511: one count each of first-degree murder, attempted murder and fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving and four counts of assault with a firearm.

Jurors also found true special allegations that the defendant personally and intentionally discharged a firearm, which caused great bodily injury and death during the crime.

Deputy District Attorney Vanessa Alfaro, who prosecuted the case, said on the evening of Aug. 19, 2016, victim Gabriel De La Torre invited his neighbor, Luis Santillan Valdes, and several others to drink alcohol in his backyard.

While drinking, Valdes was offended by a remark and became angry that the group was laughing at him, the prosecutor said. The defendant left, but returned with a gun and fatally shot De La Torre, 32. Valdes then pointed his gun at two other men, shooting at one of them, according to the prosecutor. As the defendant walked to the front of the house, he pointed his firearm at three other people, according to the prosecutor.

Following the incident, De La Torre’s family called 911 for help and Valdes fled the scene. When authorities arrived, they were briefed about the attack and given a description of the defendant’s car, the prosecutor added.

Law enforcement located Valdes as he was driving, but he refused to pull over his car, the prosecutor said. The defendant eventually stopped his vehicle on the 210 Freeway off-ramp in Azusa and was taken into custody.

The case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Los Angeles District Attorney / case GA099511 / April 6, 2018

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