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May 11, 2016

Orange County Man Who Embezzled from Employer – while on Bond in another Federal Embezzlement Case – Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:40 am

SANTA ANA, California – An Orange County man has pleaded guilty to embezzling approximately $1.4 million from his employer, a crime he committed when he was pending sentencing in another embezzlement case involving another former employer.

Peter Suk Lee, 49, a resident of the City of Orange, pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon to a federal bank fraud charge and admitted that he embezzled company funds from Contempo Inc. USA, a family-owned, Los Angeles-based business that imports and distributes fashion accessories.

As a result of this week’s guilty plea and the earlier federal charges, Lee faces a statutory maximum sentence of 90 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge David O. Carter on August 15.

From August 2014 through September 2015, Lee was the controller at Contempo. During this time, Lee embezzled money by forging the signatures of the company officers on 92 unauthorized checks that were made out to him and several associates. The total value of these checks was $1.38 million. Lee admitted that he deposited $393,400 embezzled from Contempo into his personal TD Ameritrade account, and caused other embezzled funds to be wired to casinos for his use.

At the time, Lee was free on bond and awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to wire fraud for embezzling money from another business. In that prior case, Lee admitted that he embezzled approximately $2.65 million from Glovis America, Inc., an Irvine-based automotive logistics company where Lee had been employed as the accounting manager.

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Two L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputies involved in Use-of-Force Incident against Shackled Inmate Sentenced to Prison

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:33 am

LOS ANGELES – Two Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies who were found guilty after a two-week trial earlier this year of falsifying reports with the intent to obstruct justice related to their assault of a waist-chained  inmate were sentenced to prison terms today.

Former deputies Joey Aguiar, 28, and Mariano Ramirez, 40 were sentenced respectively to 18 months and 13 months in prison by the Honorable Beverly Reid-O’Connell. When imposing sentence Judge O‘Connell found that, in addition to falsifying their reports, Aguiar and Ramirez had engaged in excessive force against the shackled inmate, who was struck, kicked, repeatedly hit by a flashlight, and pepper-sprayed, while he was on the ground.

Aguiar was convicted of one count of falsification of records for submitting a report that falsely stated the inmate, Bret Phillips, who is now 44, was beaten after he had attempted to headbutt deputy Aguiar’s face and that Phillips violently kicked at Aguiar. Mr. Phillips did neither, according to testimony presented at the trial.

It was undisputed that Mr. Phillips was waist-chained with handcuffs binding his hands to a chain around his stomach throughout the entire beating.

During the trial, Chaplin Paulino Juarez, who was an eyewitness to the event, testified that he repeatedly raised concerns about what he had seen with senior LASD officials, but was rebuffed. Chaplin Juarez ultimately relayed his concerns to the ACLU.  The information provided to the ACLU by the chaplain later came to the attention of the FBI.  By this time the FBI had begun a wide-ranging investigation into civil rights abuses by the LASD in custodial settings, particularly excessive uses of force by deputies on the 3000 Floor of the Men’s Central Jail. Another witness, who was an inmate when Mr. Phillips was beaten, testified that he hid in the shower to avoid being seen by LASD personnel as he watched the deputies beat a defenseless and unmoving inmate.  During the sentencing, Judge O’Connell stated that she believed the testimony of Chaplain Juarez and Mr. Maestaz.

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Mexican Mafia Member who Controlled Latino Street Gangs in Orange County Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:30 am

SANTA ANA, California – A longtime member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang who controlled Latino street gangs in Orange County for at least three decades was sentenced today to 15 years in federal prison after being found guilty earlier this year of federal racketeering offenses.

Peter Ojeda, 74, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge James V. Selna, who said the defendant, notwithstanding his age, still represented a “danger to the community.”

A federal jury in January found Ojeda guilty of two offenses: conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and conspiracy to commit violent crimes in aid of racketeering.  The jury found that Ojeda ordered murders and assaults while incarcerated in federal prison for a prior racketeering conviction.

Ojeda, who is also known as “Sana” and “The Big Homie,” has been in federal custody since he was indicted in the prior racketeering case in 2005.

“Ojeda is a career criminal and a Mexican Mafia leader, which means he is intimately familiar with the violence, drug trafficking, and extortion that fuels this criminal organization,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Prior criminal cases against Mr. Ojeda have not had any deterrent effect, but today’s sentence makes it unlikely that Mr. Ojeda will ever be able to walk freely on the streets where his criminal organization has caused so much harm.”

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May 10, 2016

Former IT Administrator Faces Federal Charges of Hacking into Computers of Prior Employer, an Irvine-based Company

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:41 am

SANTA ANA, California – A former Garden Grove resident pleaded not guilty this afternoon to federal charges of hacking into the computer system of Blue Stone Strategy Group – an Irvine-based company and the man’s former employer – and deleting files.

Nikishna Polequaptewa, 34, who currently resides in Polacca, Arizona, was arrested this morning after surrendering to federal authorities. At his arraignment this afternoon, he entered a not guilty plea, was ordered released on a $25,000 bond and was ordered to stand trial on June 28.

Polequaptewa was indicted by a federal grand jury in March on one count of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.

“IT administrators often hold the ‘keys to the kingdom’ for companies,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Disgruntled IT administrators can therefore pose a grave threat to businesses, which must take measures to protect themselves when letting such an employee go.”

According to the indictment, Blue Stone provided consulting services to Native American tribal governments throughout the United States. Polequaptewa was responsible for information technology at Blue Stone until November 2014, when he was relieved of his duties, which led to his resignation. Immediately following his resignation, Polequaptewa repeatedly accessed the Blue Stone internal server, a desktop computer, and remote accounts held by Blue Stone, and allegedly deleted various files belonging to the company.

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Senior Member of Montebello Street Gang Convicted of Federal Racketeering and Firearm Charges

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

LOS ANGELES – A longtime member of the Mexican Mafia-affiliated Southside Montebello street gang was found guilty this afternoon of federal racketeering charges that included providing a firearm used by another gang member to kill a rival.

George Vera Sr., 48, was convicted by a federal jury that determined he conspired to violate the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The jury also found Vera Sr. guilty of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

As a result of today’s convictions, Vera Sr. faces a statutory maximum penalty of life in federal prison, and a mandatory minimum prison term of five years. United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee, who presided over a three-week trial, will schedule a sentencing hearing for later this year.

Vera Sr., who was also known as “Rascal” and “Big Rascal,” was a senior “OG” member of Southside Montebello. At trial, prosecutors argued that he led a double life, working as an electrician for Los Angeles County during the day, and acting a gang leader and gang shot-caller during his off hours.

According to court document filed in court, Vera Sr. “engaged in hiding a firearm with a fellow gang member, provided a firearm to a younger gang member that was used in a murder, stored firearms and ammunition at his home for gang members to use, hosted gang meetings, was involved in the payment of ‘taxes’ to the Mexican Mafia on the gang’s behalf, directed younger members of the gang to protect his home from disrespect from rival gangs, and agreed to lie to his son’s probation officer to shield him from prosecution for drug dealing.”

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California Man Convicted of Drug and Money Laundering Charges Relating to Methamphetamine Deliveries to Oregon

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:34 am

A California man was convicted late Friday by a federal jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Criminal Division; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Cam B. Strahm of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Portland District Office; Special Agent in Charge Gregory Bretzing of the FBI‘s Portland Division; and Chief Lawrence P. O’Dea III of the Portland Police Bureau, made the announcement today following the jury’s verdict.

Fulgencio Arias Jr., 43, of Whittier, California, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine, conspiracy to commit money laundering, distribution of 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine, and attempted distribution of 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine.

The defendant was charged in an indictment on Dec 15, 2011.  The evidence at trial showed that the defendant was the leader of a drug trafficking organization from approximately January 2008 until Dec 15, 2011.  The defendant sent large quantities of methamphetamine from the Los Angeles area to Oregon and other states in the Pacific Northwest through the use of couriers.  One of the defendant’s Oregon-based co-conspirators received the methamphetamine for distribution in Oregon.  In turn, co-conspirators returned proceeds from the distribution to the defendant using hidden bulk cash shipments and nominee bank accounts.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug 30, 2016.  The defendant faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

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May 9, 2016

Two Doctors Convicted of Falsely Certifying ‘Patients’ as Terminally Ill as Part of $8.8 Million Healthcare Fraud Scheme

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:45 am

LOS ANGELES – Two doctors were found guilty today of federal health care fraud charges for falsely certifying that Medicare patients were terminally ill, and therefore qualified for hospice care, when the vast majority of them were not actually dying.

Following a two-week trial, the doctors were found guilty of participating in a scheme related to the Covina-based California Hospice Care (CHC). Between March 2009 and June 2013, CHC submitted approximately $8.8 million in fraudulent bills to Medicare and Medi-Cal for hospice-related services, and the public health programs paid nearly $7.4 million to CHC.

The two doctors convicted today by a federal jury are:

· Sri Wijegoonaratna, known as Dr. J., 61, of Anaheim, who was found guilty of seven counts of health care fraud; and

· Boyao Huang, 43, of Pasadena, who was found guilty of four counts of health care fraud.

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FOUR MEN ARRAIGNED FOR DEFRAUDING OVER $1 MILLION FROM INVESTORS FOR PROJECT TO BUILD MINI GOLF COURSE AND WATER PARK IN SAN CLEMENTE

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:42 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – Four men were arraigned today for defrauding investors of over $1 million from investors for a project to build a miniature golf course, restaurant, and water park in San Clemente. Christopher Schlegel, 36, Rancho Santa Margarita, is charged with four felony counts of using an untrue statement in the purchase or sale of a security and one felony count of using a device with a scheme to defraud with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, property damage or loss over $65,000, property loss over $200,000. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 16 years in state prison. He is being held on $530,000 bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond.

Co-defendants Jourdan Tyson Groves, 37, Laguna Beach, Michael Ruffner, 50, San Clemente, and Michael Scott Melcher, 55, San Clemente, are each charged with 12 felony counts of using an untrue statement in the purchase or sale of a security and one felony count of using a device with a scheme to defraud with sentencing enhancement allegations for over $100,000 loss, aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, property damage or loss over $65,000, and property loss over $200,000. If convicted, Groves, Melcher, and Ruffner each face a maximum sentence of 24 years in state prison. Groves is out of custody on $1 million bail. Melcher and Ruffner are being held on $1 million bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond. The defendants are scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on June 22, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

On March 17, 2009, the City of San Clemente entered into a 20-year lease agreement with Melcher to use land within the Vista Hermosa Sports Park for two miniature golf courses. On June 7, 2011, the San Clemente city council approved an amendment to the lease to include one 18-hole mini golf course, one wave machine, and a food and beverage concession stand.

Between Feb. 6, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2012, Schlegel, Groves, Ruffner, and Melcher are accused of seeking out investors and collecting money with the intent of using the funds toward the Surf N Turf San Clemente project and promising investors they would see a return on their initial investment money. The defendants are accused of collecting over $500,000 and misrepresenting to investors about investing their money into the project.

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FRESNO MAN SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS IN PRISON FOR TRAFFICKING AND PIMPING TEEN GIRL

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:38 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A Fresno man was convicted and sentenced today to five years in state prison for trafficking and pimping a teenage girl, who was on a website known for commercial sex and prostitution. Akili Shakur Foster, 18, Fresno, pleaded guilty today to one felony count of pimping and one felony count of human trafficking.

Circumstances of the Case
Foster is a pimp who exploits women for financial gain. Victims are often required to turn over all payment they receive for sex acts from sex purchasers to their pimp.

Sometime between March 1, 2016, and April 20, 2016, Foster persuaded Jane Doe to solicit commercial sex which included posting sexually explicit photos and advertisements of Jane Doe on a website known for human trafficking and prostitution. An undercover officer from the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF) contacted the number in the advertisement that featured Jane Doe and arranged to meet with the victim at a motel in Anaheim.

OCHTTF observed Foster entering and exiting the room with personal belongings and was arrested a short time later. Foster had in his possession $300 in cash at the time of his arrest and further investigation showed that he used social media to brag about his commercial sex operation.

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May 6, 2016

Eight Named in Indictment that Outlines Scheme to Launder over $60 Million in Narcotics Proceeds through ‘Black Market Peso Exchange’

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:44 am

SANTA ANA, California – A Mexican national who allegedly led an organization that assisted international narcotics traffickers launder more than $60 million in illicit drug proceeds has been taken into custody, as have three of his associates.

Gustavo Barba, 59, of Guadalajara, was arrested Tuesday evening as he attempted to enter the United States through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego. Barba made an initial court appearance in San Diego federal court yesterday and will remain in custody there until a detention hearing scheduled for May 10.

Following Barba’s arrest, special agents with IRS Criminal Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration began arresting other defendants named in a 32-count money laundering indictment. A federal grand jury in Santa Ana returned the indictment under seal on July 22, 2015, and the indictment was unsealed today after three other defendants were taken into custody. Federal authorities are continuing to search for three fugitives.

Barba, who is also known as “Gus” and “Gustavo Barba Casillas,” is the lead defendant in the indictment that alleges a series of money laundering crimes, including conspiring to launder narcotics proceeds. Barba operates Barba International, Inc., which has offices in Guadalajara and the Los Angeles Jewelry District and is also charged as a defendant. The indictment describes how Barba’s organization allegedly used a “Black Market Peso Exchange” (BMPE) scheme to convert millions of dollars generated by drug sales in the United States into pesos that are delivered to drug trafficking organizations in Mexico.

The BMPE is one of the primary methods used by drug cartels to launder proceeds generated by drug sales in the United States and return the proceeds to where the cartels are located. The BMPE involves both illegal drug trafficking and legitimate businesses operating throughout the Americas, and the scheme solves problems faced by both groups. Drug cartels have massive amounts of U.S. currency – often in small denominations – that is difficult to transport in bulk or to deposit into financial institutions. At the same time, some legitimate businesses in Mexico want U.S. dollars in the United States to pay domestic suppliers and manufacturers so they can avoid incurring fees and taxes that would result if they wired the money to the United States through legitimate channels.

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