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April 12, 2016

Two Men Charged After Police Pursuit in LA County

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

Two men were charged today with breaking into a home and leading police on a pursuit that began in Cerritos and ended in South Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Herschel Reynolds (dob 12/8/95) and Isaiah Dewayne Young (dob 12/17/96) have each been charged with four counts in case VA141652: two counts of hit and run driving resulting in property damage and one count each of first-degree residential burglary and fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly.

Young was arraigned this afternoon and pleaded not guilty to the charges. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 18 for a preliminary hearing setting in Department J of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Norwalk Branch.

Reynolds is scheduled to be arraigned on May 10 in Department 3 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Bellflower Branch.

Prosecutors said on April 7 a woman drove up to her Cerritos home and saw an unknown car in her driveway. The woman began honking her horn at the car, at which point the vehicle in the driveway pulled out and sped away. When the woman went inside her home, the back door was smashed and there were items missing from the house, prosecutors added.

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April 11, 2016

Wells Fargo Bank Agrees to Pay $1.2 Billion for Improper Mortgage Lending Practices

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

The Department of Justice announced today that the United States has settled civil mortgage fraud claims against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (Wells Fargo) and Wells Fargo executive Kurt Lofrano, stemming from Wells Fargo’s participation in the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Direct Endorsement Lender Program.  In the settlement, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $1.2 billion and admitted, acknowledged and accepted responsibility for, among other things, certifying to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), during the period from May 2001 through December 2008, that certain residential home mortgage loans were eligible for FHA insurance when in fact they were not, resulting in the Government having to pay FHA insurance claims when some of those loans defaulted.  The agreement resolves the United States’ civil claims in its lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, as well as an investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York regarding Wells Fargo’s FHA origination and underwriting practices subsequent to the claims in its lawsuit and an investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California into whether American Mortgage Network, LLC (AMNET), a mortgage lender acquired by Wells Fargo in 2009, falsely certified and submitted ineligible residential mortgage loans for FHA insurance.

The settlement was approved today by U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman for the Southern District of New York.

“This settlement is another step in the Department of Justice’s continuing efforts to hold accountable FHA approved lenders that unlawfully submitted false claims at the expense of American homeowners and taxpayers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “In addition to today’s resolution with Wells Fargo, the department has pursued similar misconduct by numerous other lenders, returning more than $4 billion to the FHA fund and the Treasury and filing suit where appropriate.  We remain committed to protecting the public fisc from all who seek to abuse it, whether they do business on Wall Street or Main Street.”

“This Administration remains committed to holding lenders accountable for their lending practices,” said Secretary Julián Castro for HUD.  “The $1.2 billion settlement with Wells Fargo is the largest recovery for loan origination violations in FHA’s history.  Yet, this monetary figure can never truly make up for the countless families that lost homes as a result of poor lending practices.”

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Woman Sentenced to Prison for Plotting to Kill Her Mother

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

A 43-year-old woman was sentenced today to 31 years to life in state prison for planning to kill her mother in Long Beach, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

On Dec. 3, 2015, a jury convicted Holly Ramos of seven felony counts in case NA097487: two counts of forgery and one count each of conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, first degree robbery, second-degree commercial burglary and grand theft of labor.

Ramos’ husband and co-defendant, Frank Haverly, was found guilty by a jury on Dec. 3, 2015, of three felony counts: conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder and first degree robbery. He was sentenced on March 11 to 31 years to life in state prison.

The third defendant, Keith Phillips, was convicted on Dec. 4, 2015, of first degree robbery and sentenced to 10 years in state prison.

Deputy District Attorneys Irene Lee and Rachel Bodley, who co-prosecuted the case, said Ramos had been defrauding her mother, the victim, of money between July and September 2013.

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Pair Sentenced For Murder, Attempted Murder Outside of Westlake District Church

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

Two women were sentenced today to decades in state prison for killing a man and attempting to kill another person outside a Westlake district church in 2012, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Janeth Lopez, 26, was sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison, while Ivy Navarrete, 34, was given a 60 years-to-life term by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Curtis Rappe. They were found guilty in November of second-degree murder, attempted murder and felony vandalism. Gun and gang allegations also were found to be true.

At an earlier trial, Pedro Martinez, 27, was convicted of similar counts and was sentenced last March to 100 years to life in prison.

Deputy District Attorney Robert Rabbani of the Hardcore Gang Division said the trio were responsible for the slaying of 25-year-old Andres Ordonez on Nov. 4, 2012.

Lopez sprayed graffiti on the walls of the Iglesia Principe de Paz church in the Westlake area when Ordonez and another parishioner came outside, the prosecutor added.

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April 8, 2016

Glendale Tax Return Preparer Arrested on Federal Fraud Charges

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:13 am

LOS ANGELES – The operator of a Glendale tax preparation business was arrested this morning on charges that he defrauded customers of his tax preparation business by diverting their tax refunds into his own bank accounts.

Michael Joseph Calalang Cabuhat, 40, a resident of the Hollywood Hills West neighborhood of Los Angeles, who refers to himself in online postings as “celebritytaxguy,” was arrested by special agents with IRS Criminal Investigation and the United States Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

This morning’s arrest was made pursuant to a criminal complaint that charges Cabuhat with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements.

“Corrupt tax return preparers harm their clients, other taxpayers, and the United States government,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Mr. Cabuhat’s clients entrusted him with an important duty that we all have at this time of year, and he abused that fundamental trust.”

Cabuhat is half-owner of VisionQwest Resource Group, Inc., which operates VisionQwest Accountancy Group and Icon Tax Group, Inc., in Glendale. According to a 36-page affidavit filed in the case, Cabuhat defrauded his clients in at least two ways.

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Corona Man Arrested on Federal Charges Related to Scheme to Steal, ‘Wash’ and Cash Checks Stolen from the U.S. Mail

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:08 am

RIVERSIDE, California – A Corona man who had a stolen, blue mail-collection box in his living room was arrested today on federal charges that allege he stole mail, “washed” checks that he found and cashed the checks using a stolen identity.

Paul Wagner, 28, was arrested this morning without incident and is expected to be arraigned in United States District Court this afternoon on a three-count indictment.

Wagner is charged with bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of stolen mail.

Wagner allegedly participated in a scheme that stole mail to find checks. Once Wagner obtained the checks, he would “wash” the checks – meaning that he would remove the payee’s name by physically scraping off the ink or using chemicals to erase the ink. After the check had been washed, Wagner altered the payee to make the check payable to the name of the identity theft victim, according to the indictment.

The indictment specifically alleges that Wagner cashed a check at a Bank of America branch on November 15, 2015 using a driver’s license with the name of an identity theft victim.

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Los Angeles and San Francisco County District Attorneys Reach $25 Million Settlement With Uber

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:05 am

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced a $25 million settlement today with Uber Technologies Inc. over allegations the ridesharing company misled the public about background checks on its drivers.

“We are pleased that Uber has agreed to comply with state consumer laws,” District Attorney Lacey said. “With this settlement, the ridesharing company has pledged to communicate honestly about its driver background checks and airport fees, important steps to protecting the residents of California.”

“The result we achieved today goes well beyond its impact on Uber,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. “It sends a clear message to all businesses, and to startups in particular, that in the quest to quickly obtain market share, laws designed to protect consumers cannot be ignored. If a business acts like it is above the law, it will pay a heavy price.”

As part of the stipulated judgment approved today by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Mary Wiss, Uber agreed to pay a civil penalty of $10 million to Los Angeles and San Francisco counties within the next 60 days. Uber will have to pay an additional $15 million civil penalty if the company does not comply with the terms of the settlement over the next two years.

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April 7, 2016

Former No. 2 of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Found Guilty of Obstructing Federal Investigation into Misconduct at County Jails

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

LOS ANGELES – Paul Tanaka, who was the second in command of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, was found guilty today of two obstruction of justice charges for overseeing efforts to derail a federal investigation into corruption and civil rights violations by sheriff’s deputies at two downtown jail complexes.

After only a few hours of deliberations, a federal jury convicted Tanaka of being the leader of a broad conspiracy to obstruct the federal investigation, a scheme that started when the Sheriff’s Department learned that an inmate at the Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) was an FBI informant. Tanaka directed a conspiracy that has previously resulted in the conviction of eight other former LASD deputies.

In addition to the conspiracy count, Tanaka was found guilty of one substantive count of obstructing justice.

Tanaka, 57, faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson on June 20.

“Another jury has spoken and sent a clear message that the former leaders of the Sheriff’s Department who abused their positions by encouraging, and then concealing, a corrupt culture, must be held accountable,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Mr. Tanaka joins eight of his former subordinates who have been found guilty of actively working to undermine a federal investigation into illegal conduct at the jails. Law enforcement agencies that house inmates, even dangerous ones, must remain steadfast in upholding the law and protecting the civil rights of all of the individuals in their custody. This is required by both the higher standard to which law enforcement is held and their sworn oath to uphold the law.”

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Gang Member Convicted in Meth Case Sentensed to 14 Years

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

LOS ANGELES – A street gang member has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison after being found guilty of two narcotics trafficking charges in relation to the sale of about two ounces of methamphetamine during an undercover investigation.

Aaron “Droopy” Ramos, 31, a resident of the Florence-Graham district of Los Angeles, was Monday yesterday afternoon to 168 months in federal prison by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder.

Following a jury trial in December, Ramos was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine. (Ramos was also convicted at trial in 2014, but that conviction was reversed by Judge Snyder because of comments made by a juror.)

“Drug trafficking continues to be a core activity of street gangs,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Taking this violent drug trafficker off of our streets both protects the community and cuts off a source of funding for the gang.”

A second defendant in the case – Sharon “Hyper” Paiz, 35, of Lancaster – who obtained the narcotics involved in the transaction, pleaded guilty and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison when she is sentenced by Judge Snyder on June 20.

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Northern California Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Interstate Travel to Engage in Sexual Acts with a Minor

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

Blake Robert Johnston, 42, of Martinez, California, was sentenced to 30 years in prison late yesterday and ordered to serve a lifetime on supervised release for traveling across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual acts with a minor, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch and Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin for Homeland Security Investigations.

Johnston pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2015, to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.  According to the plea agreement, Johnston admitted to flying to Oregon for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act with a 14-year-old victim.  Johnston also admitted that, approximately a week later, he drove to Oregon, picked up the victim, drove her to California and engaged in sexual acts with her at his home in Martinez.

Johnston was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 2, 2015.  He was charged with: travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor; transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; online enticement of a minor, production of child pornography (two counts with different victims); possession of child pornography; and distribution of child pornography.

According to the criminal complaint, this investigation began in October of 2014, when the first identified victim’s mother called police in Salem, Oregon, to report that her 14-year-old daughter was missing.  Based on mobile phone records and the victim’s computer history, Salem police were able to determine the probable location of the victim and the identity of the suspect.  Within 24 hours of the victim’s disappearance, Martinez police found the missing girl in Johnston’s bed.  According to a status conference update filed by the government, a hard drive seized from Johnston’s bedroom contained approximately 500 folders labeled with different females’ names.  The majority of those 500 folders each appear to contain images and/or videos of child pornography no law enforcement investigators had previously encountered.

At the time the government’s sentencing memorandum was filed, investigators identified 94 minor victims, from at least 30 states and six countries, whom Johnston enticed into creating child pornography or sexually exploited online.  Investigators confirmed that four minor victims met with Johnston and engaged in illicit sexual activity with him.  In Johnston’s communications with underage victims, he encouraged the girls to commit harmful and violent acts such as cutting themselves, penetrating their bodies with foreign objects, strangulation and drug abuse.

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