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August 1, 2016

Valencia man Who Caused $11 Million in Losses Related to Precious Metal Investment Scam Sentenced to over 11 Years in Federal Prison

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

LOS ANGELES – A businessman who defrauded more than 300 investors in a precious metal investment scam was sentenced today to 135 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to federal fraud and money laundering offenses in a case that caused victims to lose nearly $11 million.

Bruce Richard Sands Jr., 54, of Valencia, was sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu, who also ordered the defendant to pay $11,039,404 in restitution.

Today’s sentencing follows Sands pleading guilty in April to four counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.

Sands owned Superior Gold Group, LLC and Superior Equity Group, LLC, which had offices in Santa Monica, West Hills and Woodland Hills. At times, the companies used an address in Irvine.

According to court documents, from about October 2007 through the end of 2010, the Superior Gold Companies solicited investments in precious metals and collectible coins. Individuals across the nation were solicited through national radio, television and Internet advertising.

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North Hollywood Pool Cue Maker Charged with Helping Smuggle Elephant Ivory

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

LOS ANGELES – A North Hollywood man surrendered to U.S. Marshals this morning after an arrest warrant was issued on federal charges of aiding and abetting the illegal smuggling of protected elephant ivory.

Cesar Ernesto Gutierrez, 75, was charged in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in United States District Court with aiding and abetting the attempted illegal exportation from the United States to Taiwan of protected African elephant ivory.

The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges that Gutierrez, a well-known custom pool cue maker in the United States, operates Ginacue, a custom pool cue manufacturing business in North Hollywood. Gutierrez allegedly manufactured and sold two people approximately 41 sections of custom pool cues containing the protected elephant ivory inlays.  The two individuals were subsequently arrested at Los Angeles International Airport when agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discovered the pool cues in their luggage.  The seized pool cues were purchased from Gutierrez for approximately $75,000 to $85,000.  Gutierrez is charged with aiding and abetting the attempted illegal smuggling of the high-value pool cues.

“The protection of threatened and endangered wildlife is an international concern,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Illegal trafficking of protected species, even small parts of them, creates a market and demand that can lead to the decimation of these vulnerable populations.”

Gutierrez appeared this afternoon in United States District Court and was released on a $10,000 appearance bond.  Post-indictment arraignment was scheduled for August 24.

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PAROLE AGENT ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF EXCHANGING EMBEZZLED CDCR FUNDS FOR PAROLEE’S PRESCRIPTION NARCOTICS

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

LOS ANGELES – The Mayor of South El Monte was charged today with bribery for accepting money from a contractor doing business with the city, as well as accepting a bribe during an FBI undercover operation.

In conjunction with the case filed today, Luis Aguinaga, 48, of South El Monte, agreed to plead guilty to one count of bribery.

In a plea agreement filed today in United States District Court, Aguinaga admitted that, from 2005 to September 2012, he took bribes from a contractor doing work for the City of South El Monte and the payments were rewards in connection with the approval of city contracts for the contractor.

The contractor – identified in the court documents as a confidential witness, or CW – made payments to Aguinaga approximately every two to three weeks, shortly after the contractor was paid by the City of South El Monte, according to the plea agreement. If the contractor failed to pay Aguinaga within a few days of being paid by the City, Aguinaga would call and ask for his payment.

The bribe amounts were initially $500, and later they increased to $1,000. According to the plea agreement, the contractor made the bribe payments by placing cash in envelopes that were left in a bathroom at the South El Monte City Hall or were left inside the passenger side pocket of a car.

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July 29, 2016

O.C. Man Previously Accused in Investment Schemes Charged in New Indictment that Adds Allegations of $3.2 Million Green Energy Scam

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:51 am

SANTA ANA, California – A federal grand jury has returned a superseding indictment that now accuses a Laguna Beach man of defrauding victims out of more than $3 million in an investment fraud scam related to green energy.

Peter Heinrich Conrad Reinert, 61, was arrested in April 2015 after a grand jury charged him in two investment fraud schemes that allegedly caused $3.6 million in losses. Since that time, federal authorities have continued to investigate Reinert for additional crimes.

According to the 35-count superseding indictment filed yesterday in United States District Court, in addition to the two scams outlined in the 2015 indictment, Reinert ran a third scheme out of the Irvine-based Income from Waste Corporation (IFW). Reinert told victims that IFW was developing a technology to convert used tires into oil. As part of the scheme, to gain legitimacy with victims, Reinert falsely claimed to be a United States Secret Service agent and a veteran.

Between January 2014 and his arrest on April 14, 2015, Reinert used IFW to fraudulently obtain $3.2 million dollars from victims from across the country, including a family of farmers in Missouri. Instead of spending the money to develop the purported green energy technology, Reinert used the money to pay for personal expenses and luxury automobiles, sales commissions and purchases at Apple’s iTunes store, as well as sending money to an account in Poland.

In addition to the IFW scam, the superseding indictment alleges that Reinert fraudulently obtained and used a United States passport in the name “Peter Michael Berger” after falsely claiming he was born in Maine. During the investigation, authorities learned that Reinert actually was born in Germany.

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Two Men Dubbed the ‘Cowboy Gun Bandits’ Found Guilty of Armed Robbery Spree Involving Large-Caliber Handgun

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:45 am

LOS ANGELES – Two men who earned the moniker the “Cowboy Gun Bandits” for brandishing a large-caliber revolver during a series of robberies – starting with gas stations and culminating in a bank robbery that netted them over $55,000 – were convicted today in federal court.

Dominic Dorsey, 48, of Hollywood, and Reginald Bailey, 71, of the Jefferson Park district of Los Angeles, were found guilty of 11 felony counts – conspiracy to interfere with commerce in violation of the Hobbs Act, five specific Hobbs Act robberies and five counts of using a firearm during the robberies.

The jury that heard evidence during a trial that lasted just over two weeks found Dorsey and Bailey guilty of five robberies:

• a September 24, 2013, robbery at a Shell gas station in Woodland Hills;

• an October 6, 2013, robbery at an ARCO gas station in Newhall;

• an October 18, 2013, robbery at a Chevron gas station in Woodland Hills;

• an October 25, 2013, robbery at an ARCO gas station in Encino; and

• a November 5, 2013, robbery of a Citibank branch in Glendale that netted more than $55,000.

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PAROLE AGENT ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF EXCHANGING EMBEZZLED CDCR FUNDS FOR PAROLEE’S PRESCRIPTION NARCOTICS

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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A parole agent was arrested yesterday on charges of exchanging embezzled California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) funds for narcotics prescribed to a parolee. Scott Patric Keblis, 49, Chino, is charged with one felony count of embezzlement by a public employee and one misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance. If convicted on all counts, Keblis faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison and one year in county jail, and would be ineligible to ever hold any office of honor, trust, or profit in California. Keblis was released from custody today after posting $20,000 bond. The defendant’s court date is to be determined.

At the time of the crime, Keblis was employed as a CDCR parole agent.

On Nov. 5, 2015, the CDCR received an anonymous report that Keblis was providing out of state bus passes in exchange for narcotics a parolee was prescribed.

On Nov. 23, 2015, the defendant is accused of obtaining two bus passes and two $40 Target gift cards from the CDCR, claiming he needed to give them to a parolee under his supervision. Later that day, Keblis is accused of driving to Huntington Beach to meet with a different parolee, who was not under Keblis’ supervision, in his state vehicle. Keblis is accused of exchanging the bus passes, gift cards, and $30 of his personal money for 26 of the parolee’s prescription hydrocodone pills.

On July 27, 2016, Keblis was arrested by CDCR Internal Affairs, who investigated this case.

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July 28, 2016

Former ICE Special Agent Sentenced to Federal Prison for Taking Bribes from Businessman Being Investigated for Human Trafficking

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

LOS ANGELES – A former special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was sentenced today to 10 months in federal prison for accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from a Korean businessman.

Joohoon David Lee, 43, who currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, who called the bribery “a very, very grave crime.”

Lee pleaded guilty last December to one count of bribery.

“This defendant sold his position of authority as a law enforcement officer for a few thousand dollars,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “As a consequence of this abuse of trust, he will now pay a far more significant price. This defendant’s crime, however, should not cast a shadow over the tens of thousands of law enforcement officers across the country who are carrying out their duties with honor and dedication.”

Lee accepted bribe money from a Korean man identified in court documents at “H.S.” According to court documents, Lee, who was assigned to HSI’s Human Trafficking unit in Los Angeles, interviewed a woman in March 2012 who claimed that she was entering the United States to be a sex slave for H.S.

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Orange County Man Who Allegedly Impersonated ICE Agent Faces Federal Charge

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

SANTA ANA, California – An Orange County man who allegedly posed as an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in an attempt to extort money from at least one female victim made his first federal court appearance this afternoon after being charged with impersonating a federal officer.

Luis A. Flores-Mendoza, 26, of Santa Ana, was arrested Monday by Special Agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). He was charged in a criminal complaint that federal prosecutors filed last week.

Flores-Mendoza was initially arrested and charged in state court earlier this month after an investigation by the Placentia Police Department.

According to the federal complaint, the female victim told Placentia police detectives that Flores-Mendoza arrived at her workplace last month clad in police tactical gear, including a vest, badge, and a firearm, which later proved to be a pellet gun. After allegedly identifying himself as an ICE agent, the victim said Flores-Mendoza presented her with a letter, purportedly from ICE, stating there was an immigration case against her. The defendant then allegedly instructed the victim to pay him $5,000 to prevent her and her child from being deported. At the time of his original arrest on the state charge earlier this month, Flores-Mendoza was driving a vehicle equipped with police-style strobe lights and a siren.

“Impersonating a federal agent not only harms the victim who encounters the impersonator, but it can also undermine the public’s confidence in law enforcement officers,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “In this case, the defendant allegedly posed as a federal agent in an effort to extort money from a vulnerable victim, who fortunately reported it to police.”

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Former Payroll Clerk at Two Family-Owned Businesses Agrees to Plead Guilty to Wire Fraud Charge in $2 Million Embezzlement

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

LOS ANGELES – A longtime employee of two Los Angeles-area businesses involved in earring manufacturing was charged today with wire fraud for stealing approximately $2 million from the companies.

In conjunction with the case filed today, Claudia Alvarez Calderon, 45, of La Crescenta, agreed to plead guilty to the wire fraud charge.

In a plea agreement filed today in United States District Court, Calderon admitted that she used the names of several non-existent or former employees who were no longer entitled to receive pay to fraudulently obtain wages and expense reimbursements from Onyx, Inc., a Harbor City-based manufacturer of earrings and ear piercing equipment, and Quadrtech, Inc., a Gardena-based company that finished and packaged the earrings and ear-piercing systems.

“At times, defendant would cause deposits of up to four fake employees into one bank account in her own name,” according to the plea agreement. “These direct deposits were often over $18,000 a month, and sometimes as high as $28,000 a month.”

Over the course of nearly a decade, Calderon fraudulently entered information into a computer system that caused Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP) to make direct deposits or issue checks for the bogus employees. Calderon maintained several bank accounts to receive the money from Onyx and Quadrtech.

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July 27, 2016

COURT OF APPEAL UPHOLDS OCDA’S RIGHT TO FILE PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE TO DISQUALIFY JUDGE

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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three (DCA), granted the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) five writ petitions filed with the DCA, in response to the orders issued in December 2015, by the Honorable Richard M. King, “Order Denying Motion to Disqualify Judge.” The respondent, Orange County Superior Court, filed its response to those writ petitions by the Jan. 15, 2016, deadline. The OCDA’s writ litigation was handled by by Senior Deputy District Attorneys Stephan Sauer and Brian Fitzpatrick of the Appellate & Training Unit.

On Dec. 17, 2015, the OCDA filed five writ petitions with the DCA, challenging the five rulings by Judge King denying prosecutors from utilizing their right to file a peremptory challenge. The five cases include: People v. Jesus Montes and Ismael Zacaula (Case # 12CF2292), People v. Rito Tejeda (case # 14ZF0338), People v. George Galvan (case # 12NF1681), People v. Thomas Wilhelm (case # 12ZF0154), People v. Aleksandar Apostolovic (case # 15ZF0002).

Although the OCDA agrees with the DCA’s ruling, the OCDA maintains that there has never been “blanket papering” of any judicial officer. Any exercise of preemptory challenge made by any member of the OCDA has been the individual prosecutor’s decision to do what is in the best interest of the People, public safety, and crime victims.

The published opinion in its entirety can be found at http://www.courts.ca.gov/4dca.htm. To read the People’s March 25, 2016 reply, please visit www.orangecountyda.org and select, “People v. Rito Tejeda Formal Reply,” in Reports under the Reports pull-down menu.

Law

The California Code of Civil Procedures section 170.6 gives every party the right to exercise a single peremptory challenge against any judge that litigant believes, in good faith, is prejudiced against him or her or his or her case. The authority conveyed by section 170.6 is a substantial right that is part of our system of due process and exists to ensure fair and impartial trials. The law does not require any party to explain their reasons for peremptorily challenging a judge, nor may a court inquire into those reasons.  It requires only that the party have a good faith belief that prejudice exists.

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