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June 24, 2016

THIRD-STRIKER GANG MEMBER PAROLEE CHARGED WITH SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES SHOOTING-MURDER OF INNOCENT BYSTANDER FATHER ON FATHER’S DAY

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:20 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A third-striker criminal street gang member parolee was charged today with special circumstances murder of an innocent bystander father on Father’s Day. Jose De Jesus Gomez-Ochoa, 30, Tustin, is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder for criminal street gang purpose, one felony count of unlawful possession of a firearm, and sentencing enhancements for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death, criminal street gang activity, the personal use of a firearm, and prior strike convictions for participation in a criminal street gang in 2011 and 2012, and criminal street gang member in possession of a firearm in 2012. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison without parole. The defendant is being held without bail and is scheduled for a continued arraignment on July 15, 2016, at 10:00 a.m. in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana.

At the time of the crime, Gomez-Ochoa was a parolee and is accused of being a member of a criminal street gang.

On June 19, 2016, at approximately 7:10 p.m., Gomez-Ochoa is accused of being at the 1700 block of South Evergreen Street in Santa Ana. A rival criminal street gang member was purchasing something from a parked food truck, which belonged to and was being operated by 52-year-old Eliu Armando Gramajo. Gomez-Ochoa is accused of spotting the rival gang member from a distance, gesturing a gang sign with his hand, aiming his gun at the rival criminal street gang member, and firing his gun. The defendant is accused of missing his intended target and instead shooting Gramajo, an innocent bystander and husband and father of three. Gomez-Ochoa is accused of then fleeing the scene in a vehicle.

Witnesses called 911 and the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) responded to the scene. Gramajo was transported to a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound in his upper torso. Instead of spending that evening celebrating Father’s Day with his wife and children, Gramajo died at the hospital as a result of the gunshot wound.

SAPD investigated this case and arrested Gomez-Ochoa at his home the next day on June 20, 2016.

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June 23, 2016

Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Macy’s

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:47 am

The Justice Department reached an agreement today with Macy’s over allegations that the large national retailer violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens at its Glendale, California, location.

The department’s investigation was based on a charge filed by a lawful permanent resident whose hiring was delayed in October 2015.  The charging party alleged, and the investigation found, that she was not able to begin working at Macy’s even though she showed sufficient proof of her work authorization because a Macy’s hiring official incorrectly believed that lawful permanent residents were required to produce unexpired permanent resident cards.  The investigation also found that other human resource employees in Macy’s Glendale location were imposing the same unnecessary requirement on four other lawful permanent residents.  In contrast, U.S. citizens were permitted to choose whichever valid documents they wanted to present to prove their work authorization.  Under the INA, lawful permanent residents do not have to show their permanent resident cards when they start working.  Instead, like all workers, they can choose whichever documentation the would like to present, such as a driver’s license and unrestricted social security card, from the lists of acceptable documents.

Under the settlement agreement, Macy’s will, among other things, provide additional training to its employees and assess its employees’ understanding of applicable rules.  Macy’s will also pay an $8,700 civil penalty and periodically produce Form I-9 information to the department for review.

“Macy’s did the right thing by immediately resolving the charging party’s delayed hiring and by giving her full back pay,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “All employers should take care not to impose unlawful burdens on employees because of their citizenship or immigration status and address issues promptly when they make mistakes.”

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Endorses Legislation to Reduce Recidivism

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:44 am

SACRAMENTO – Today Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced her support for two legislative proposals, Senate Bill 1157 and Assembly Bill 1597, that would help individuals reintegrate into their communities and avoid return to custody.

“We must hold criminals accountable for their crimes, but our criminal justice system should also provide tools and support individuals in their efforts to successfully reenter society and rebuild their lives,” said Attorney General Harris. “I applaud Senator Mitchell and Assemblymember Stone for championing ‘smart on crime’ bills that will curb recidivism and help inmates get their lives back on track.”

Senate Bill 1157, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D- Los Angeles), would guarantee that city and county correctional facilities that elect to utilize video and electronic visitation also provide a certain number of in-person visits for their inmates.  Research shows that in-person visits are a crucial component of successful rehabilitation and reentry, and cultivating positive influencers in the inmates’ lives has been integral to Attorney General Harris’ recidivism reduction pilot program, Back on Track-Los Angeles.  SB 1157 will be heard in Assembly Public Safety Committee this morning, Tuesday, June 21.

Assembly Bill 1597, authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D- Monterey), would enable inmates in county jail who have not yet been sentenced to earn credit reductions toward any resulting sentence by participating in rehabilitative programs and completing performance objectives known as “milestones.”  The bill would further specify that an inmate’s participation in such a program could not be used as evidence of guilt in court.  Under current law, only inmates who have been sentenced are eligible to participate in these programs and earn time off of their confinement.  Studies show that inmates who receive educational and vocational training are much less likely to return to prison and much more likely to succeed upon reentry into the community.  AB 1597 was enrolled to the Governor on Friday, June 17, and awaits his signature.

Attorney General Harris has been a longtime leader in the fight to curb recidivism in California. In 2005, then-San Francisco District Attorney Harris created the original Back on Track initiative, a reentry program that aimed to reduce recidivism rates of low-level, non-violent drug offenders.  The program successfully reduced recidivism among its graduates to less than 10 percent over a two-year period and was recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a model for law enforcement.

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Supports Legislation to End Juvenile Confinement

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:42 am

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced her support for Senate Bill 1143, legislation authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would significantly limit the practice of isolating juveniles in room confinement.

“Subjecting young people to prolonged periods of isolated confinement is cruel, inhumane and counterproductive to rehabilitation. This unnecessary and punitive practice undermines the goal of helping this vulnerable young population become healthy and productive members of our society.  Through this legislation and other reforms, California will lead the nation in providing standards that improve the safety and welfare of both youth and staff at juvenile facilities,” said Attorney General Harris. “I applaud Senator Leno for his leadership on this issue.  I am proud to support common-sense, ‘smart on crime’ legislation that helps those currently and formerly incarcerated overcome obstacles to get their lives back on track, and meet their full potential. ”

SB 1143 would restrict the use of juvenile room confinement in facilities throughout the state. SB 1143 would limit the amount of time a minor may be placed in a locked sleeping room or cell without contact from others, aside from attorneys or facility staff. The bill expressly bans punitive, coercive, retaliatory confinement, as well as confinement used purely for convenience. It also expressly states that confinement shall not be used to the extent that the mental and physical health of the minor would be compromised. The bill then sets reasonable baselines for how long a minor may be confined prior to steps being taken to reintegrate them into the general population.

“The extensive support of SB 1143 is a testament to the harmful effects of prolonged confinement and isolation on the troubled youth in our care,” said Senator Leno. “This bill will help ensure detained young people receive the rehabilitative opportunities they need to safely reintegrate into the community. I am grateful for Attorney General Harris’s commitment to protecting vulnerable children in our state.”

Attorney General Harris created the Bureau of Children’s Justice in 2015, a first-of-its-kind bureau within the California Department of Justice to enforce children’s civil rights in education, foster care, and juvenile justice; hold those who prey on children accountable; and work with policymakers to craft and implement policies that improve outcomes for children.

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June 22, 2016

Two California Men Convicted of Conspiring to Join ISIL

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:54 am

A federal jury today convicted two Orange County, California, men – one of whom attempted to travel to the Middle East to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization – of conspiring to provide material support to ISIL.

The verdict was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California and Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre Fike of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

Nader Elhuzayel, 25, and Muhanad Badawi, 25, both of Anaheim, California, were convicted today in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California following a two-week trial.  Elhuzayel was found guilty of attempting to provide material support and Badawi was found guilty of aiding and abetting the attempt to provide material support to ISIL.

“Foreign terrorist fighters have traveled from countries around the world to join ISIL and are responsible for some of the most despicable acts of violence committed by the terrorist organization,”  said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “ISIL depends on these travelers as a significant part of its fighting force.  Stopping Americans from engaging in terrorist activity on behalf of ISIL here or abroad will remain one of the highest priorities of the National Security Division.”

“These two defendants betrayed their country and sought to join ISIL, a terrorist organization dedicated to brutally murdering innocent people,” said U.S. Attorney Decker.  “The FBI and the Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force did outstanding work in investigating and apprehending these men before their plans could be completed.  The fine work of law enforcement undoubtedly saved lives, both in the United States and abroad.”

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Organizer of $9 Million Scam Sentenced to 8 Years in Federal Prison in Scheme to Provide Hospice to Patients who were not Terminally Ill

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:51 am

LOS ANGELES – A Placentia woman was sentenced today to 96 months in federal prison related to her operation of a hospice that submitted more than $9 million in fraudulent bills to Medicare and Medi-Cal for purportedly providing end-of-life care to patients who were not actually dying.

Priscilla Villabroza, 70, was sentenced by United States District Judge S. James Otero, who characterized the defendant’s conduct as “callous” and “despicable.” In addition to the eight-year prison term, Judge Otero ordered the defendant to pay $7,433,329 in restitution.

Villabroza is one of 10 defendants who were charged in relation to a fraud scheme run out of the Covina-based California Hospice Care, which Villabroza purchased in late 2007 while under investigation in a prior health care fraud case.

Between March 2009 and June 2013, California Hospice submitted nearly $9 million in fraudulent bills to Medicare and Medi-Cal for hospice-related services, and the public health programs paid nearly $7.5 million.

“This scheme is one of many that has victimized taxpayers who fund public healthcare programs,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This scheme also victimized patients who were needlessly put into hospice and had changes made to their treatment for non-medical reasons. As this case clearly demonstrates, healthcare fraud is not a victimless crime.”

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United States Settles with Trader Joe’s to Reduce Ozone-Depleting and Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Stores Nationwide

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:48 am

The national grocery store chain Trader Joe’s Company has agreed to reduce emissions of potent greenhouse gases from refrigeration equipment at 453 of its stores under a proposed settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.  Under the settlement, Trader Joe’s will spend an estimated $2 million over the next three years to reduce coolant leaks from refrigerators and other equipment and improve company-wide compliance.  The company will also pay a $500,000 civil penalty.

The United States alleged that Trader Joe’s violated the Clean Air Act by failing to promptly repair leaks of R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) that is an ozone-depleting substance and potent greenhouse gas used as a coolant in refrigerators. The company also failed to keep adequate servicing records of its refrigeration equipment and failed to provide information about its compliance record.

“By reducing the amount of ozone depleting refrigerants and potent greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere, this settlement will assist our efforts to control these two major global environmental problems,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “The consent decree will also help assure Trader Joe’s future compliance with the Clean Air Act, by requiring heightened auditing, leak monitoring, centralized computer recordkeeping, and searchable electronic reporting to EPA.”

Trader Joe’s will now implement a corporate refrigerant compliance management system to comply with federal stratospheric ozone regulations and to detect and repair leaks through a new quarterly leak monitoring program.  In addition, Trader Joe’s will achieve and maintain an annual corporate-wide average leak rate of 12.1 percent through 2019, well below the grocery store sector average of 25 percent.  The company must also use non-ozone depleting refrigerants at all new stores and major remodels and at least 15 of these stores must use advanced refrigerants, such as carbon dioxide which have significantly less global warming potential compared to typical refrigerants.

“Taking action to combat climate change is a priority for the Obama Administration and this settlement will result in substantial cuts to one of the most potent greenhouse gases,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.  “The company-wide upgrades Trader Joe’s will make are not only good for the environment, they set a high bar for the grocery industry for detecting and fixing coolant leaks.” (more…)

June 21, 2016

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Arrest in San Diego Human Trafficking Case

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

SAN DIEGO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of three individuals as part of an ongoing investigation into a sex trafficking case in San Diego.  The joint investigation and operation, “Operation Hotel Tango,” was conducted by the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, which includes the California Department of Justice and 18 local and federal law enforcement agencies.

“Human traffickers exploit vulnerable children and adults, subjecting their victims to manipulation, violence, and unspeakable cruelty while forcing them into labor and prostitution,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.  “I thank our law enforcement partners in the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force and our California Department of Justice Special Agents for working diligently and collaboratively to protect victims of trafficking and hold accountable those who profit from the insidious crime of human trafficking.”

Tyrone Evans, 40, in San Diego County was arrested and charged on 22 felony counts of human trafficking, pimping and pandering.  Lila Leflorsm, 36, and Natasha McElrath, 37, were also arrested in connection with the operation and are suspected of using social media to recruit teenage women and negotiate transactions.

Through the investigation, law enforcement discovered that Tyrone Evans was involved in the sex trafficking of several women in San Diego County and across the country.  Evans utilized social media websites to recruit and exploit his human trafficking victims.

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PAROLEE SEX OFFENDER ON GPS MONITORING DEVICE SENTENCED TO EIGHT YEARS IN PRISON FOR PANDERING AND ATTEMPTED PIMPING OF 18-YEAR-OLD WOMAN

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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A parolee sex offender on a GPS monitoring device was sentenced Friday, June 17, 2016, to eight years in state prison for the pandering and attempted pimping of an 18-year-old woman. Eddie Bridges III, 38, Compton, was found guilty by a jury on July 29, 2015, of one felony count of attempted pimping and one felony count of pandering by procuring. The defendant’s sentencing enhancements for prior prison convictions in Los Angeles County in 2007 for the pimping and pandering of a minor, pimping and pandering of an adult, and a prior prison conviction in 2011 for attempted pandering, and serving separate prison terms but not remaining free for five years, were also found to be true.

Circumstances of the Case
Bridges is a pimp who exploits women and/or children for financial gain. Pimps often establish rigid rules that their victims are expected to follow such as addressing the pimp as “Sir” or “Daddy.”

At the time of the crime, Bridges was wearing a GPS monitoring device as a parole condition and considered a high-risk registered sex offender.

Between May 17, 2014, and May 21, 2014, Bridges drove 18-year-old Jane Doe to Santa Ana to an area known for prostitution with the intent of having the victim engage in commercial sex. The defendant pandered Jane Doe by persuading the victim to engage in commercial sex for his benefit. Bridges also attempted to derive financial support from the victim through the earnings and proceeds of prostitution.

At approximately 3:50 a.m. on May 21, 2014, a Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) officer observed the victim actively soliciting sex purchasers in the area. SAPD contacted Jane Doe and began investigating this case. During the investigation, SAPD located Bridges in a nearby car, and discovered a ticket in the vehicle that the victim had received in Los Angeles County on May 17, 2014, for loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution. SAPD identified Bridges as Jane Doe’s pimp and arrested the defendant at the scene. The defendant’s GPS monitoring device confirmed his location.

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ADDITIONAL CHARGES FILED FOR FORMER CITY OF PLACENTIA FINANCE SERVICES MANAGER CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLING $5.2 MILLION

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

FULLERTON, Calif. – Additional charges were filed today against the former Finance Services Manager for the City of Placentia (Placentia) charged with embezzling $5.2 million from the city. Michael Minh Nguyen, 34, Irvine, is charged with an additional 19 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds, 66 felony counts of money laundering, one felony count of making a non-sufficient funds check, and two felony counts of falsifying records. The Court also issued a temporary restraining order on the assets held by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) that were seized from the defendant.

On April 14, 2016, Nguyen was charged with 17 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, and property loss over $3.2 million. If convicted on the new charges, Nguyen faces a maximum sentence of 97 years and eight months in state prison and a fine of $10.3 million. Nguyen is being held on $4.3 million bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond. The defendant is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on July 22, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. in Department N-12, North Justice Center, Fullerton.

Nguyen was hired on April 21, 2008, by Placentia as their Financial Services Manager, which allowed him access to city accounts. He was responsible for wire transfers and keeping financial city ledgers.

Between Jan. 27, 2014, and April 12, 2016, Nguyen is accused of making 36 wire transfers from a Placentia account to several other accounts personally belonging to him and other recipients. In the past four months alone, the defendant is accused of wire transferring $2 million from the Placentia account. On April 11, 2016, he is accused of wiring over $300,000 to a personal account, and the next day, on April 12, 2016, he is accused of again wiring another $1.5 million. Shortly thereafter, with the help of the FBI Cyber Task Force, the $1.5 million that was successfully transferred was frozen and reverted back to Placentia. Nguyen is accused of concealing the embezzlement by altering the financial ledgers. The defendant is accused of embezzling approximately $5.2 million in the above time frame by depositing the money into his own personal accounts.

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