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May 5, 2015

OFF-DUTY OCSD DEPUTY ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF ILLEGALLY OBTAINING PRESCRIPTION PILLS BY FRAUD

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:15 am

SANTA ANA – An off-duty Orange County Sheriff’s deputy was arrested today on charges of illegally obtaining prescription pills by lying to doctors about what prescription pills he was already taking.Mark Wayne Hewlett, 35, Yorba Linda, is charged with five felony counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, subterfuge, and/or concealment. If convicted, he faces a sentence ranging from probation to a maximum sentence of five years and eight months in jail. Hewlett is in custody on $20,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, May 5, 2015, at 10:00 a.m., in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana. If the defendant bails out, the arraignment date and time is subject to change.

On five occasions between Sept. 9, 2013, and Nov. 15, 2013, Hewlett is accused of going to four different doctors to obtain a prescription for the controlled substance hydrocodone, more commonly known as Norco or Vicodin. When at a doctor’s office, Hewlett is accused of fraudulently omitting that he was recently prescribed and currently taking hydrocodone in order to illegally obtain an additional prescription of the same drug.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD), who investigated this case, arrested Hewlett today, May 1, 2015.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.

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MAN SENTENCED TO 26 YEARS TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR 1994 STABBING MURDER OF EX-GIRLFRIEND AND LOCKING HER BODY IN TRUNK OF HER CAR

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:10 am

SANTA ANA – A man was sentenced today to 26 years to life in state prison for stabbing and murdering his ex-girlfriend and locking her body in the trunk of her car in 1994. Samuel Agustin Lopez, 43, Placentia, was found guilty by a jury on March 3, 2015, of one felony count of first degree murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon.

Samuel Lopez’s cousin, Xavier Francisco Lopez, 43, Anaheim, is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder involving the infliction of torture. He faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on May 29, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-34, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

Samuel Lopez’s older brother, Armando Antonio Lopez, 46, Placentia, is charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact and one felony count of dissuading a witness from reporting a crime. He faces a maximum sentence of 36 months in state prison and is scheduled for jury trial on May 15, 2015, in Department C-34, Central Justice Center.

Circumstances of the Case

Samuel Lopez, then 23 years old, had a previous on and off romantic relationship with Cathy Torrez, a 20-year-old California State University, Fullerton honors student. A week before the crime, Samuel Lopez and Torrez were in a romantic relationship, he had asked the victim to marry him, to which she declined.

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May 4, 2015

Gang Member Sentenced to Life for South San Francisco Murders, Attempted Murder of Federal Agents and Racketeering Conspiracy

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

Victor Flores, 23, of Petaluma, California, a member of the 500 Block/C Street Gang of South San Francisco, was sentenced to life in prison, announced U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, Acting Special Agent in Charge Tatum King of Homeland Security Investigations and Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson of FBI.

Flores was convicted after a three-month trial spanning from April through July of 2014 before the Honorable U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.  According to the evidence presented at trial, during the evening of Dec. 22, 2010, Flores, along with fellow 500 Block/C Street gang member Joseph Ortiz, shot at seven victims who they perceived to be members of the rival Cypress Park Locos gang as the victims walked down Eighth Lane in South San Francisco. Gonzalo Avalos, Omar Cortez and Hector Flores were killed while three of the others were wounded.  In addition, on May 3, 2012, when special agents of the Los Angeles Special Response Team of Homeland Security Investigations tried to arrest Flores at his home in Petaluma, Flores shot at the agents with an AK-47-style assault rifle, emptying two full magazines of ammunition and wounding three agents before eventually surrendering to law enforcement.

The jury convicted Flores of racketeering murders of Avalos, Cortez, and Flores; racketeering attempted murders of the other four victims on Eighth Lane; attempted murders of three federal agents; using a firearm in furtherance of the December 22, 2010, and May 3, 2012, murders and attempted murders; conspiring to conduct the affairs of the 500 Block/C Street Gang through a pattern of racketeering; conspiring to commit murder in aid of racketeering; and conspiring to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering.

“Nothing can erase the pain and sorrow caused by Flores’ vicious, unrepentant, criminal behavior,” said U.S. Attorney Haag.  “I hope that the life sentence imposed against him brings some measure of relief to Flores’ victims and their families and that they will at least feel a sense of justice.  I am extraordinarily proud of the professionalism and bravery demonstrated by the men and women of law enforcement in this case.  They are true heroes and we are especially thankful for their service and commitment to the pursuit of justice.”

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Ten Chinese Nationals Charged With Violating Court Orders To Remain In U.S. As Witnesses For ‘Maternity House’ Investigations

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

SANTA ANA, California – Ten Chinese nationals who fled the United States earlier this month were charged today with violating federal court orders to remain in the country during investigations into “Chinese maternity houses” that allegedly helped women come to the U.S. on fraudulent visas so they could give birth to children who would become U.S. citizens.

Criminal complaints filed in United States District Court this afternoon accuse 10 of the defendants with obstruction of justice and contempt of court for leaving the United States after being ordered to remain in the country and provide information in an investigation into businesses that allegedly helped mainly Chinese women come to the U.S. to give birth.

In addition to the charges related to the alleged violations of the court orders designating them as material witnesses, 10 of the defendants are also charged with making false statements on visa applications for allegedly lying to federal immigration authorities about the true purpose of their trips to the United States.

An eleventh defendant who had not been formally ordered to remain in the United States as a material witness is charged only with visa fraud.

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Chief Of Los Angeles Port Police Named In Federal Corruption Case

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

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury today indicted the chief of police for the Port of Los Angeles on corruption and tax charges. The corruption charges in the indictment relate to a scheme in which the chief stood to financially benefit from the development of a social networking program that would become the official smartphone app for the Port and would then be marketed to other law enforcement agencies.

Ronald Jerome Boyd, 57, of Torrance, who in January was named as chief of public safety and emergency management at the port, was charged in a 16-count indictment returned by a grand jury. The indictment accuses Boyd of corruption, lying to FBI agents, failing to file federal corporate tax returns for a private security company he created, and tax evasion.

At the center of the case are four “honest services” wire fraud charges that accuse Boyd of executing “a scheme to defraud the citizens of the City of Los Angeles and the Harbor Department for the City of Los Angeles of their right to the honest services of defendant Boyd by means of bribery and kickbacks, materially false and fraudulent pretenses and representations, and the concealment of material facts.” The corruption scheme centers on a program called Portwatch, which was developed to provide information to the public and to allow citizens to report criminal activity at the port.

In 2011, Boyd and two business partners formed BDB Digital Communications, a company that entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with the unnamed company developing Portwatch. The parties involved with BDB intended to generate revenues by marketing and selling a similar app – called Metrowatch – to other government agencies. “Under the terms of this agreement, defendant Boyd would receive approximately 13.33 percent of all gross revenues generated by the sale of the Metrowatch application throughout the United States,” according to the indictment.

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May 1, 2015

Hawthorne Woman Sentenced To 6½ Years In Federal Prison For Running Wheelchair Scam That Cost Medicare Nearly $3.5 Million

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:08 am

LOS ANGELES – A Hawthorne woman who ran a company that submitted more than $7 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare – primarily for power wheelchairs that were not needed by patients – and caused the government health insurance program to lose nearly $3.5 million has been sentenced to 78 months in federal prison.

Adeline Ekwebelem, 51, was sentenced yesterday afternoon by United States District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, who also ordered the defendant to pay $3.45 million in restitution to the Medicare program.

Following a seven-day trial last September, a federal jury found Ekwebelem guilty of 16 counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and payment of illegal kickbacks.

The evidence presented at the trial showed that Ekwebelem’s Gardena-based durable medical equipment (DME) supply company, Adelco Medical Distributors, Inc., billed Medicare for medically unnecessary DME – primarily power wheelchairs – for beneficiaries often recruited off the street. As part of the scheme, which ran from January 2007 through December 2011, Ekwebelem illegally paid kickbacks to “marketers” who recruited those beneficiaries and then paid kickbacks to a handful of complicit doctors in exchange for fraudulent prescriptions for DME.

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PHYSICIAN CHARGED FOR EMBEZZLING $220,000 IN DONATIONS FROM HOSPITAL FUND FOR CHARITY FOUNDATION

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:04 am

NEWPORT BEACH – A physician was arraigned today for embezzling $220,000 from a hospital fund that was designated for donations for a charitable foundation to the Hoag Hospital Donation and tax evasion by willfully failing to file personal and business state income tax returns. Bruce Allan Hagadorn, 56, Newport Beach, is charged with one felony count of embezzlement by fiduciary of trust and eight felony counts of willful failure to file tax return, with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime and property loss. If convicted, Hagadorn faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and four months in state prison. He is out of custody on $200,000 bail and was arraigned today. He is scheduled for pre-trial on May 28, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. in Department H-1, Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach.

At the time of the crime, Hagadorn was the Chief of Staff at Irvine Regional Hospital and served as a board member of the Medical Executive Committee.

Between January 2009 and December 2010, Hagadorn is accused of misappropriating $220,000 from the medical staff account at Irvine Regional Hospital that the hospital physicians established and funded as a non-profit charitable organization. Prior to the hospital’s closure in January 2009, the Medical Executive Committee members voted to donate the funds remaining in the account to the Hoag Hospital Foundation and assigned Hagadorn with coordinating the donation.

Prior to donating any funds to the Hoag Foundation, the defendant is accused of writing numerous checks from the account, paying himself in cash, and depositing the money into his personal medical practice, Canyon Pacific OB/GYN, in Irvine.

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UNILEVER TO PAY OVER $770,000 IN PENALTIES AND COSTS FOR PACKAGING AND ADVERTISING AXE HAIR PRODUCTS IN MISLEADING MANNER

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:00 am

SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) has obtained a settlement of over $770,000 in civil penalties and costs in a consumer protection lawsuit against Unilever United States, Inc. (Unilever) for advertising and packaging certain varieties of its Axe hair styling products in a deceptive manner. The final judgment which was signed April 23, 2015, in the Superior Court of California in Orange County by the Honorable Franz E. Miller, includes injunctive terms and orders the defendant to pay over $770,000 in civil penalties and costs of the investigation and prosecution.

Unilever is a large international consumer goods company.

This case came to light in August 2013, when a student interning in the Consumer Unit of the OCDA brought a container of Axe hair styling product into the office and explained that the container appeared to have a false bottom. The Orange County Department of Weights and Measures conducted an investigation and disassembled Axe containers purchased in local stores and found that the container tubs misrepresented the quantity of the hair product they contained because they were fraudulently constructed and also contained substantial empty space.

Unilever has been ordered to pay $750,000 in civil penalties, $24,000 in costs of investigation to OCDA, and about $3,900 in costs of investigation to the Orange County Department of Weights and Measures. Unilever has also agreed to strict injunctive terms barring it from engaging in unfair or deceptive sales and advertising practices in the future.

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April 30, 2015

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces $7.5 Million Settlement With Lehigh Cement For Environmental Violations

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:58 am

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and the Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice, today announced a $7.5 million settlement with Lehigh Cement to resolve allegations of environmental violations. The settlement requires that the Lehigh cement plant near Cupertino reduce toxic discharges to Permanente Creek, a tributary to San Francisco Bay, and pay $2.55 million in civil penalties.

“Lehigh Cement discharged millions of gallons of industrial wastewater that flowed into the San Francisco Bay,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.  “This settlement holds Lehigh Cement accountable for its actions and will prevent future toxic discharges.  I thank our state and federal partners for their work to protect this precious resource and consumers from the serious environmental and health damage caused by water pollution.”

“Today’s Clean Water Act settlement, done jointly with the state of California, will remove selenium and other toxic substances from Permanente Creek and help protect the fragile and life-sustaining ecosystem of San Francisco Bay,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “By bringing this older facility up to contemporary standards, and by pushing it to introduce cutting-edge treatment technology, the Department of Justice and our partners are helping create a level playing field, where all industry members are held to the same standards and no company can gain an economic advantage over its competitors by shortchanging environmental compliance.”

“EPA and California are working together to enforce the Clean Water Act and help restore San Francisco Bay,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Every action we take to remove selenium and other toxic metals improves water quality and leads to a healthier and more resilient Bay.”

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Justice Department, EPA and State of California Require Lehigh Cement to Cut Toxic Discharges to San Francisco Bay

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:54 am

Today, the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California announced a settlement requiring the Lehigh cement plant near Cupertino, California, to reduce toxic discharges of selenium and other metals to Permanente Creek, a tributary of San Francisco Bay.  The company, owned by Hanson Permanente Cement Inc. and operated by Lehigh Southwest Cement Co., will spend more than $5 million to install wastewater treatment and make other facility improvements to prevent future violations.  The company will also pay $2.55 million in civil penalties to settle the case.

The settlement addresses Lehigh’s and Hanson’s violations of the Clean Water Act.  The Cupertino facility routinely discharged excessive selenium into Permanente Creek in violation of Lehigh’s permits from at least 2009 to 2014.  The plant’s discharges also routinely exceeded standards for total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, turbidity, and pH and in some cases exceeded standards for mercury, hexavalent chromium, nickel and thallium.

“Today’s Clean Water Act settlement, done jointly with the state of California, will remove selenium and other toxic substances from Permanente Creek and help protect the fragile and life-sustaining ecosystem of San Francisco Bay,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “By bringing this older facility up to contemporary standards, and by pushing it to introduce cutting-edge treatment technology, the Department of Justice and our partners are helping create a level playing field, where all industry members are held to the same standards and no company can gain an economic advantage over its competitors by shortchanging environmental compliance.”

“EPA and California are working together to enforce the Clean Water Act and help restore San Francisco Bay,” said Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld for EPA for the Pacific Southwest.  “Every action we take to remove selenium and other toxic metals improves water quality and leads to a healthier and more resilient Bay.”

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