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May 22, 2018

ICE Agent Impersonator Who Possessed Destructive Devices Sentenced to 24 Months’ Imprisonment

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:11 am

LOS ANGELES – An individual who impersonated an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) Agent and who possessed multiple destructive devices was sentenced today to 24 months in federal prison.

Matthew Ryan Johnston, 26 of Fontana, was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson for possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Throughout 2017, Johnston used fake ICE badges and uniforms to falsely represent himself as an ICE agent to unsuspecting members of the public. On one occasion, Johnston used unauthorized red and blue police lights to chase another car, causing a traffic collision. On another, Johnston’s ex-girlfriend accidentally activated the red and blue police lights in Johnston’s car. When she was pulled over by a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) detective, Johnston pretended to be an ICE agent while on the phone with the SBSD detective at the scene. Johnston further impersonated an ICE agent when he took a report from an individual about a potential undocumented person, and he falsely identified himself as an ICE agent to various employees and patrons at the Déjà Vu Showgirls club in Industry, California.

In October 2017, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Johnston’s residence. Agents recovered a cache of weapons, illegal destructive devices, approximately 10,000 rounds of ammunition, a fake ICE identification card, body armor carriers with “ICE” and “Federal Agent” patches affixed to them, and red and blue police emergency lights. Among the destructive devices recovered was a home-made, slam-fire device designed to shoot 12-gauge shotgun shells, as well as an AR-15 .223 caliber rifle equipped with an attached 37 mm flare launcher and improvised shotgun shell with anti-personnel ammunition. Using geo-coordinates from Johnston’s cell phone, federal agents subsequently searched open desert land, and discovered five unexploded or partially exploded improvised explosive devices, an expended smoke grenade, an exploded container of a binary explosive, and the remnants of an exploded pipe bomb. (more…)

Authorities Arrest Longtime Fugitive Charged with Attempted Murder of Undercover Officer in Federal Racketeering Case

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:08 am

LOS ANGELES – Early Thursday morning, law enforcement authorities arrested an alleged gang member who had been a fugitive for nearly two years after the unsealing of a federal racketeering indictment that charges him in the attempted murder of an undercover Whittier Police Officer.

Frankie Vasquez, 39, of Carson, was arrested in connection with an indictment that charges him and 50 other members and associates of the Canta Ranas organization, a wide-ranging criminal enterprise which operates primarily in Santa Fe Springs and Whittier under the control of a member of the Mexican Mafia.

The arrest of Vasquez was the result of efforts by agents and officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the United States Marshals Service, the Whittier Police Department, the Montebello Police Department, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. HSI’s Special Response Team and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives provided assistance.

The racketeering indictment, which was unsealed in June 2016 and superseded in October 2017 to add additional charges, alleges that an incarcerated member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang exerts control over the Canta Ranas street gang and other gangs, and that he received compensation in the form of “rent” or “taxes” generated by drug trafficking and other offenses committed in gang territory.

The first superseding indictment also alleges that Vasquez, a member of the Varrio Keystone street gang and a key supplier of narcotics to the Canta Ranas organization, along with another defendant who was part of the Canta Ranas organization, attempted to murder a detective with the Whittier Police Department when they shot at him in his unmarked vehicle while he was conducting undercover surveillance as part of a narcotics investigation. (more…)

May 21, 2018

Rabobank NA Sentenced for Conspiring to Impair, Impede, and Obstruct Its Primary Regulator

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 9:26 am

Rabobank National Association (Rabobank), a Roseville, California subsidiary of the Netherlands-based Coöperatieve Rabobank U.A., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller of the Southern District of California for impairing, impeding and obstructing its primary regulator, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the OCC), by concealing deficiencies in its anti-money laundering (AML) program and for obstructing the OCC’s examination of Rabobank.  Rabobank was sentenced to a two-year term of probation, and ordered to pay the statutory maximum fine of $500,000.  Additionally, as part of its guilty plea, Rabobank forfeited $368,701,259 to the United States as a result of allowing illicit funds to be processed through the bank.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman for the Southern District of California, Special Agent in Charge Dave Shaw of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Diego and Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.

“Rabobank’s branches on the Mexican border processed hundreds of millions of dollars in suspicious transactions likely tied to international narcotics trafficking, organized crime, and money laundering,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “Instead of filing reports that would have alerted law enforcement to the suspicious activity, as required by law, the bank looked the other way and then compounded its misconduct by conspiring to cover-up its failures and deceiving its regulator.  Today’s sentence and the related forfeiture demonstrate that the Department of Justice will use all the tools at our disposal to combat drug trafficking and transnational crime—including prosecuting financial institutions that turn a blind eye to illicit proceeds moving through their customers’ accounts.”

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is intent on securing our border and preventing the laundering of narco-dollars through financial institutions like Rabobank,” said U.S. Attorney Braverman.  “In doing so we will safeguard our communities and protect our citizens from drug traffickers and corporate criminals alike.” (more…)

DRUNKEN DRIVER CHARGED WITH MURDER FOR CRASHING INTO FAMILY OF FOUR ON THE SIDEWALK AND KILLING THE MOTHER

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 9:23 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A drunken driver was charged today with murder for swerving onto the sidewalk and crashing into a family of four, killing the mother and injuring her husband and two teenage children.

Defendant Charges Maximum Sentence Court Date
Kamal Akwette Attoh, 37, Santa Ana Charged today with the following felony counts:

  • Murder
  • (3) Driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury
  • (3) DUI with blood alcohol .08% or more causing bodily injury

Sentencing Enhancements

  • Causing great bodily injury
22 years and four months to life in state prison Pre-trial hearing

July 12, 2018, 8:30 a.m.

Department H-7, Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach

Bail: $1 million

Circumstances of the Case

  • On May 16, 2018, at approximately 8:00 p.m., Attoh is accused of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) near the intersection of Ridgeline and Turtle Rock Drive in Irvine. The defendant was previously convicted of DUI in Orange County in 2001 and Ventura in 2002.
  • The defendant is accused of swerving off the roadway and onto the sidewalk, striking a pedestrian family of four, driving down an embankment, and coming to a stop after hitting a tree. (more…)

Registered Sex Offender Convicted of Rape, Sexually Abusing Minors

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 9:20 am

A registered sex offender pleaded no contest yesterday to raping one teen and having unlawful sex with two others, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

At Thursday’s court appearance, Richie Esquivel Corvera, 30, of Whittier pleaded no contest to three felony counts in case VA141094: one count of forcible rape – child victim over 14 years and two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse.

The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced May 31 in Department R of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Norwalk Branch. Corvera is expected to be sentenced to 11 years in state prison.

Deputy District Attorney Chad Gillette, who prosecuted the case, said on Oct. 8, 2015, the defendant struck up a conversation with a 16-year-0ld girl at a store and offered to take her to a coffee shop. (more…)

May 18, 2018

Attorney General Becerra Announces Criminal Charges Against Four Individuals Behind Cyber Exploitation Website

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:25 am

SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft against four defendants who are allegedly behind the exploitative website Mugshots.com. The website mines data from police and sheriffs’ department websites to collect individuals’ names, booking photos and charges, then republishes the information online without the individuals’ knowledge or consent. Once subjects request that their booking photos be removed, they are routed to a secondary website called Unpublisharrest.com and charged a “de-publishing” fee to have the content removed. Mugshots.com does not remove criminal record information until a subject pays the fee. This is the case even if the subject had charges dismissed or had been arrested due to mistaken identity or law enforcement error. Those subjects who cannot pay the fee may subsequently be denied housing, employment, or other opportunities because their booking photo is readily available on the internet.

“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Those who can’t afford to pay into this scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others. This is exploitation, plain and simple.”

The defendants named in the complaint are Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee, and David Usdan. They are the alleged owners and operators of Mugshots.com. Over a three-year period, the defendants extracted more than $64,000 in removal fees from approximately 175 individuals with billing addresses in California. Nationally, the defendants took more than $2 million in removal fees from approximately 5,703 individuals for the same period.

The Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force (NC3TF), a multijurisdictional group of top law enforcement personnel and the State’s District Attorneys focused on tackling cyber crime, led the investigation with assistance from the California Attorney General’s Office. The defendants currently reside in other states, and the California Attorney General’s Office is seeking their extradition to California. Arrest warrants were served with the assistance of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, working with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office; the Connecticut State Police, working with the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice - State’s Attorney’s Office; and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General. (more…)

Three Indicted in Immigration Fraud Scheme that Exploited Immigrant Farmworkers by Charging Prohibited Fees for Visas, Living Expenses

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:23 am

LOS ANGELES – Three Southern California men were arrested today pursuant to a federal grand jury indictment alleging they participated in an immigration fraud scheme that, among other things, illegally charged Mexican nationals thousands of dollars to obtain H-2A work visas and additional money for expenses once they arrived in the United States.

The indictment alleges that Mexican farmworkers were charged illegal fees for transportation, room and board after the company arranging for the workers’ visas promised the United States Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that the workers had not paid and would not have to pay for these expenses.  In addition, the indictment alleges that the farmworkers were made to pay fees to obtain their visas, which is prohibited under the H-2A visa program.

The defendants arrested this morning are:

· Jorge Vasquez, 58, of Fontana, the owner of H-2A Placement Services, a farm labor recruiting company based in Rancho Cucamonga;

· Melquiades Jacinto Lara, 62, of Santa Paula, the owner of J&D Harvesting, which contracted workers to farms in Ventura County; and

· Ricardo Mendoza Oseguera, 39, of Santa Paula, the owner of Discoteca Mi Pueblito, a music and convenience store in Santa Paula, which redeemed vouchers given to workers for J&D Harvesting after deducting fees from the workers’ pay. (more…)

Man Sentenced for Attempted Sexual Assault on Elderly North Hills Woman

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:20 am

A man who tried to sexually assault a woman who was 93 years old at the time has been sentenced to 18 years in state prison, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Ted Noriega (dob 3/30/72) pleaded no contest yesterday to one felony count each of assault with intent to commit rape and kidnapping.

Deputy District Attorney Pamela Revel said Noriega was immediately sentenced and ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

On July 6, 2017, Noriega walked past the victim who was sitting on a chair outside of her home on the 9900 block of Woodley Avenue in North Hills, the prosecutor said. According to evidence presented at the preliminary hearing, the defendant grabbed the woman by the shoulders and pushed her through the front door of her house into her kitchen, held her up against a counter and started to unzip his pants

The victim called out for help and her 73-year-old daughter came into the kitchen, causing the defendant to flee. A neighbor who recognized Noriega as someone who lived nearby followed him to his location on another day and called police, the prosecutor added. (more…)

May 17, 2018

Real Estate Developer Arrested in Federal Bribery Case

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:42 am

LOS ANGELES – A well-known commercial real estate developer was arrested this morning on federal bribery charges alleging that he paid monthly bribes to a Los Angeles County employee for six years and submitted offers to purchase the employee a Santa Rosa residence for nearly $1.1 million in exchange for the developer obtaining a $45 million county lease.

Arman Gabaee, known professionally as Arman Gabay, 57, of Beverly Hills, was arrested at his home without incident this morning by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Gabaee, who is charged in a federal criminal complaint with one count of bribery, is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

Gabaee, a co‑founder and co‑managing partner of the Charles Company, a Hollywood-based real estate development firm, allegedly paid cash bribes to the county employee for more than six years. According to the complaint, the employee, who is not named and is cooperating with the FBI, negotiated leases for the county to rent office space from private parties and had “significant autonomy to contractually bind the county.”

The complaint alleges that Gabaee paid the employee cash bribes of $1,000 or more every month for six years “in exchange for county leases, non-public information, and other benefits.” According to the complaint, Gabaee paid the employee thousands of dollars during covertly recorded meetings in late 2016 and early 2017. (more…)

Glendale Police Officer Arrested on Federal Charges of Lying to Federal Agents Investigating His Ties to Organized Crime

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:42 am

LOS ANGELES – Agents and officers associated with an FBI-led task force late this afternoon arrested a Glendale Police officer on federal charges of making false statements during interviews with investigators who were probing his connections to the Mexican Mafia and Armenian organized crime.

Detective John Saro Balian, 45, of Seal Beach, was taken into custody without incident at his residence.

Balian, who is charged in a criminal complaint with making false statements to investigators during an interview last year, is expected to make his initial appearance Wednesday afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

According to the complaint, which was filed Monday and unsealed after his arrest, Balian was interviewed by several law enforcement agencies over a six-month period in 2017 and repeatedly made false statements and misrepresentations about his links to criminal figures.

For example, Balian lied during an April 2017 interview with an FBI agent and Los Angeles Police Detectives “in an effort to hide his associations and criminal collaborations with gang members, the Mexican Mafia and Armenian organized crime,” according to an affidavit signed by a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). (more…)

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