Best Defender Bytes:

August 11, 2015


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

Two tax return preparers with offices located in California, Maryland and New York were sentenced today in Los Angeles for facilitating an offshore tax fraud scheme, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

David Kalai was sentenced to serve 36 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, with a condition of home confinement to last the entire term of release, and ordered to pay a $286,000 fine, and Nadav Kalai, David Kalai’s son, was sentenced to serve 50 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.  The defendants’ sentences were imposed by U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. of the Central District of California.

On Dec. 19, 2014, a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted the Kalais of one count of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  The Kalais were also each convicted of two counts of willfully failing to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).  An alleged co-conspirator, David Almog, who is charged in the second superseding indictment, remains a fugitive.  The Kalais advised and assisted their high net-worth clients in concealing millions of dollars of assets and income in secret foreign bank accounts and filing false federal income tax returns.  The defendants also maintained a secret offshore account of their own at Bank Leumi in Luxembourg in the name of a foreign sham corporation and failed to disclose the account to the IRS or the U.S. Treasury.

“The sentences imposed today make it clear that the department is aggressively prosecuting financial professionals like the Kalais, who assist U.S. taxpayers in concealing assets offshore and evading their tax and reporting obligations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo.  “The days of hiding behind numbered accounts and sham corporations are over; accountholders are coming in, accepting responsibility and cooperating against their accountants, attorneys and advisors who actively facilitated their criminal conduct.”


August 10, 2015

Owner of Orange County Real Estate Investment Firm Found Guilty in Fraud Scheme that Ended in $169 Million Bankruptcy

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 11:51 am

SANTA ANA, California – The CEO of a now-defunct Southern California real estate investment firm was convicted this afternoon of federal fraud charges for perpetrating a scheme that ended with the bankruptcy of the company and hundreds of investors collectively losing as much as $169 million.

Michael J. Stewart, 68, who currently resides in San Clemente, was found guilty of 11 counts of mail fraud following a nine-day jury trial before United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.

Stewart owned and was the chief executive of Pacific Property Assets (PPA), which had offices in Long Beach and Irvine. Along with co-defendant John Packard, Stewart created PPA in 1999 to purchase, renovate, operate, and resell or refinance apartment complexes in Southern California and Arizona. Typically, PPA financed property acquisitions through mortgages, and it raised money from private investors to pay for renovations to the properties. After several years, PPA would refinance (or sometimes sell) each property.

Although PPA’s apartment rental operations were not profitable, it was able to raise cash through refinancing and selling properties. As real estate values were generally increasing until approximately 2007, the properties were refinanced at ever-higher values, which enabled PPA to use the extra refinancing proceeds to not only pay off the original mortgages, but also to make payments on other loans, make payments to investors, to pay other business expenses, and to pay Stewart and Packard. In its 10 years of operations, PPA acquired more than 100 real estate properties and raised hundreds of millions of dollars from hundreds of investors. As Stewart told prospective investors, from 2004 to 2007, PPA was named three times to Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest growing privately held companies in the United States, was a regional finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Program, and was listed by the Orange County Business Journal as one of fastest growing businesses in Orange County.



Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 9:34 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A woman is scheduled to be arraigned today for shooting and killing her boyfriend outside their mobile home in Garden Grove. Arlene Kathyrn Bautista, 20, Garden Grove, is charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter by lawful act in an unlawful manner with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in state prison. The People will request she be held on $80,000 bail at her arraignment this afternoon in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana. The time is to be determined.

At approximately 3:35 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2015, Bautista is accused of shooting her boyfriend, 25-year-old Luis Vidal, while they were outside their mobile home in Garden Grove. The victim died as a result of the gunshot wound.

The Garden Grove Police Department, who investigated this case, was contacted and arrived to scene and arrested the defendant. The investigation in this case is ongoing and no further information about this case will be released at this time.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Herrera of the Homicide Unit is investigating this case.

Orange County District Attorney / Case # 15WF1727 / August 7, 2015

Two Convicted of 2010 Christmas Murder

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 9:25 am

Two gang members were convicted today of the special circumstance murder of a Los Angeles woman fatally shot on Christmas night 2010 in front of her 3-year-old daughter, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Gunman Darnell Houston, 38, and getaway-driver Lamar McKnight, 28, also were convicted of the attempted, premeditated murder of a second victim in case BA388294. After one day of deliberations, jurors also found true gang and gun allegations and a special circumstance allegation that the defendants killed while they were active members of a criminal street.

Deputy District Attorney Antonella Nistorescu of the Hardcore Gang Division prosecuted case.

Houston and McKnight are expected to be sentenced on Sept. 16 in Department 109 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Houston and McKnight face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.


August 7, 2015


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:33 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A truck driver was convicted today of killing a bicyclist in a hit-and-run crash after dragging the victim through the street. Filemon Reynaga, 49, Sylmar, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count of hit and run causing death and one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. He faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison at his sentencing Sept. 25, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

At approximately 5:35 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2013, Reynaga drove a semi-trailer truck with an attached trailer out of a driveway on Missile Way onto Orangethorpe Avenue in Anaheim. He drove through a stop sign and made a right turn when he struck 19-year-old bicyclist Manuel Rodriguez and dragged him, along with his bicycle, onto Orangethorpe Avenue. Reynaga then got out of his truck, walked over to the victim, got back inside his truck and drove away from the scene without rendering aid to the victim or contacting police.

Rodriguez was subsequently struck by a second vehicle, but the driver in that crash stopped at the scene and cooperated with the Anaheim Police Department (APD), who investigated this case. Rodriguez died as a result of multiple blunt trauma injuries in the two collisions.

APD arrested Reynaga on Jan. 8, 2014, after further investigation.


Former LAUSD Teacher Pleads to Child Abuse

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:31 am

A former fourth grade teacher at Rosewood Elementary School in Los Angeles pleaded no contest today to one count of child abuse for placing a plastic bag over a student’s head in class, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Thelmo Garcia, 37, was ordered to attend weekly psychiatric counseling for an undetermined amount of time and to complete 100 days of CalTrans work. In addition, he must complete 52 weeks of child abuse counseling and he is barred from teaching minors under 18 while on probation for five years in case BA434476.

Deputy District Attorney Samuel Hulefeld with the Family Violence Division, who prosecuted the case, said if Garcia successfully completes all of the required terms and conditions, his felony conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor when he returns for sentencing in two years.

Garcia admitted placing a plastic bag over a 10-year-old girl’s head during class on Feb. 5. After several seconds, he removed the bag. The child was uninjured.


Man Receives 18-Year Prison Sentence for One-Day Crime Spree

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:28 am

A Los Angeles man was sentenced today to 18 years in state prison for carrying out a one-day crime spree involving several victims in West Los Angeles and El Segundo, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Deputy District Attorney Sarah Ballog said Jason Faison, 23, entered a no contest plea today to two felony counts of second-degree robbery in case SA086079.

Faison also admitted a prior strike allegation for case TA124781, a first-degree burglary, person present conviction in 2012.

On Dec. 22, 2013, the defendant stole a pick-up truck and robbed a man at a gas station, the prosecutor said. Faison then robbed a woman at a restaurant and then fled in the stolen truck and hit a man with his car, the prosecutor added.


August 6, 2015

Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Los Angeles County To Implement Sweeping Reforms on Mental Health Care and Use of Force throughout the County Jail System

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:25 am

LOS ANGELES – The Justice Department has reached a comprehensive settlement agreement with the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Sheriff to protect prisoners from serious suicide risks and excessive force in the Los Angeles County jails, United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Kappelhoff announced today.

The settlement agreement was filed this morning, along with a complaint that alleges a pattern or practice of inadequate mental health care and excessive force at the jails in violation of prisoners’ federal constitutional rights. The Justice Department, together with the county and the Sheriff, has requested that the District Court enter the settlement agreement as an order to bring court oversight to the reforms, to ensure that the reforms are implemented fully and transparently, and to strengthen public confidence in the jails.

Today’s settlement resolves claims stemming from the Justice Department’s long-standing civil investigation into mental health care at the jails, which found a pattern of constitutionally deficient mental health care for prisoners, including inadequate suicide prevention practices. In addition, the settlement agreement includes remedial measures to address a separate civil investigation into use of force by jails staff.

The Justice Department’s investigations involved an in-depth review of thousands of pages of documents and other records, on-site visits and interviews with numerous jails staff members, prisoners and others. The Justice Department was assisted by subject matter experts in the fields of mental health care, suicide prevention and correctional practices.



Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:20 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon for the stabbing murder of his stepbrother in their Garden Grove home. Andres Adolfo Serrat, 25, is charged with one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a knife. If convicted, Serrat faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in state prison. The defendant is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned today, Aug. 5, 2015, in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana. The time is to be determined.

At the time of the crime, the defendant lived with his stepbrother, 20-year-old Donte Barcelona and other family members.

At approximately 6:00 p.m. on Aug. 3, 2015, Serrat is accused of using a knife to stab the victim in thechest and the side of his stomach. Serrat is accused of fleeing from the residence.

A relative of the two victims was in the home at the time of the crime and called the Garden Grove Police Department (GGPD). Shortly thereafter, paramedics responded to the scene and transported the victim to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center where the victim died from the stab wounds. GGPD investigated this case, and arrested the defendant several blocks from the residence.


Former Santa Monica Doctor Pleads in Prescription Fraud Scheme

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:13 am

A former Santa Monica physician pleaded no contest today to obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Dr. Daniel Shin, 50, returns to court on Nov. 4 for sentencing before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo. Under the terms of a negotiated plea, he will be sentenced to three years in county jail in case BA421892.

Deputy District Attorneys Emily Street and Keith Koyano of the Major Narcotics Division are prosecuting the case.

Shin, who has since lost his license to practice medicine, operated a pain management clinic in Santa Monica. Prosecutors said Shin along with his office manager, Thomas Mark Oseransky, 50, and a colleague, Dyno Travato West, 39, orchestrated a complex scheme to write and fill prescriptions for oxycodone.


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