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November 13, 2014

Armenian Power Leader Sentenced to 32 Years in Prison for Racketeering, Extortion and Fraud

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

A leader of the Armenian Power gang, who was convicted at trial of 57 counts for his role in a racketeering conspiracy that included extortion, bank fraud, and a sophisticated credit and debit card skimming scheme, was sentenced today to 32 years in prison.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura of the Central District of California made the announcement.

Mher Darbinyan, aka “Hollywood Mike” and “Capone,” 39, of Valencia, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner of the Central District of California.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Darbinyan was a leader of Armenian Power, a gang responsible for extortion, firearms offenses, fraud, and identity theft throughout the Los Angeles-area.  Among other activities, Darbinyan operated a sophisticated bank fraud scheme that used middlemen and runners to deposit and cash hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent checks drawn on the accounts of elderly bank customers and businesses.  Separately, Darbinyan also organized and operated a sophisticated debit card skimming operation targeting customers of 99 Cents Only Stores across Southern California.  This expansive scheme involved the installation and use of skimmers to steal thousands of customers’ debit card numbers and PIN codes.

Evidence at trial also showed that Darbinyan conspired to extort money from a member of the Armenian community by threatening violence against the victim and his family members.  On two separate occasions, Darbinyan also possessed firearms and ammunition after having previously been convicted of felony grand theft for his role in a 2004 debit card fraud scheme. (more…)

Real Estate Developer Sentenced to 121 Months in Prison for $50 Million Dollar Securities Fraud Scheme

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

A commercial real estate developer and mortgage broker was sentenced to serve 121 months in prison today for his role in a $50 million securities fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California and Special Agent in Charge Douglas G. Price of the FBI’s Phoenix Division made the announcement.  U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo of the Southern District of California imposed the sentence.

Bradley Holcom, 57, of Canby, Oregon, previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with the sale of approximately $50 million worth of promissory notes to more than 150 investors located throughout the United States.

Holcom admitted that he solicited investors to provide funds for the development of raw land for commercial and residential purposes through an investment program he called the Trust Deed Investment Program.  Holcom falsely told investors who purchased notes through the program that they would receive a lien on a specific piece of property, and that the lien would be in first position.  Holcom admitted, however, that he never provided investors with a lien, and instead conveyed a lesser interest that did not allow investors to directly foreclose on the property to protect their investment.  In addition, he admitted that while promising investors that their purported lien would be in first position, he knew the properties were already encumbered by first position liens.  Holcom also admitted that he sold the properties that were supposedly serving as the security for the promissory notes without informing investors.  Despite his declining financial condition in 2008 and 2009, Holcom continued to solicit investors by misrepresenting the manner in which he would use their investments.  As a result of the scheme, Holcom admitted that his conduct caused approximately $50 million in losses to investors.

In addition to the prison sentence, Holcom was ordered to pay restitution to his victims, with the final amount to be determined at a subsequent hearing.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Phoenix Division – Yuma Resident Agency.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Henry P. Van Dyck and Deputy Chief Daniel Braun of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pletcher of the Southern District of California.  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also provided substantial assistance. (more…)

Fourth Defendant Found Guilty in Lancaster Ranch Killings

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

A fourth codefendant has been found guilty of two murders at a plastic surgeon’s ranch in Lancaster, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake said Arturo Rosales Verdín, 47, was found guilty late yesterday of two counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances of committing them for financial gain, lying in wait and multiple murders in case MA039342.

Verdín is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, along with codefendants Nicolas Cordoba, 63, and Antonio Martínez, 51, at a hearing scheduled on Jan. 23 in Department 106 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

Martínez was found guilty of the same counts and special circumstances on Aug. 28.

(more…)

November 12, 2014

San Fernando Valley Pastor Sentenced to Over 10 Years in Prison for Running $7 Million Ponzi that Targeted Spanish-Speaking Investors

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

LOS ANGELES – A Chatsworth man has been sentenced to 121 months in federal prison for running an investment scheme that lured more than 82 victims into investing approximately $7 million.

Luis Alonso Serna, 61, a pastor at Zion Living Word Christian Center (formerly Amistad Cristiana) in San Fernando who operated a foreign currency investment company called Architects of the Future Investments, was sentenced Monday by United States District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell.

Serna, who pleaded guilty in August to a wire fraud charge, was also ordered to pay $4.6 million in restitution, which represents to amount of losses suffered by his victims.

“This case involves an egregious fraud that targeted the non-wealthy victims who believed in the defendant because he was a pastor,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. “The effects of this crime on the victims are truly devastating in every way.”

(more…)

Armenian Power Leader Sentenced to 32 Years in Federal Prison for Racketeering, Extortion and Sophisticated Fraud Schemes

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

LOS ANGELES – A leader of the Armenian Power gang, who was convicted at trial of 57 counts for his role in a racketeering conspiracy that included extortion, bank fraud, and a sophisticated credit and debit card skimming scheme, was sentenced this afternoon to 32 years in prison.

Mher Darbinyan, 39, of Valencia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, who described the defendant’s string of crimes as “heinous.”

Darbinyan – who was also known as “Hollywood Mike” and “Capone” – was a leader of Armenian Power, a gang responsible for extortion, firearms offenses, fraud and identity theft throughout the Los Angeles area. Among other offenses, Darbinyan operated a sophisticated bank fraud scheme that used middlemen and runners to deposit and cash hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent checks drawn on the accounts of elderly bank customers and businesses.

Darbinyan also organized and operated a sophisticated debit card skimming operation targeting customers of 99 Cents Only Stores across Southern California. This expansive scheme involved the installation and use of skimmers to steal thousands of customers’ debit card numbers and PIN codes.

(more…)

Man Charged for Police Pursuit Into Manhattan Beach Pier

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

A Cypress man was charged today in connection with a police pursuit which ended with a crash at the Manhattan Beach Pier, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Devin Ashley Chavez (dob 2/6/86) faces one felony count each of fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle and driving against traffic and fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly.

Case YA091541 also charges Chavez with one misdemeanor count each of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and possessing a controlled substance, cocaine.

Chavez pleaded not guilty to the charges today and is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 25 in Department 4 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Torrance Branch.

(more…)

November 11, 2014

DRUNKEN DRIVER TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR MURDER FOR CRASHING INTO BRICK WALL AND REMOVING PASSENGER FROM VEHICLE AND LEAVING VICTIM IN GUTTER

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:19 am

SANTA ANA – A drunken driver is scheduled to be arraigned today for murder for crashing into a brick wall and removing the passenger from the vehicle and leaving the victim in the gutter. Jonathan Samoff, 25, Westminster, is charged with one felony count of murder. If convicted, Samoff faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison. Samoff is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled for continued arraignment today, Nov. 7, 2014, at 9:00 a.m. in Department W-2, West Justice Center, Westminster.

At approximately 3:15 a.m. on March 8, 2014, Samoff is accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol and speeding in the City of Westminster. Samoff is accused of crashing the vehicle into a brick wall and landing on the sidewalk in front of a light-pole. The defendant is accused of causing the crash that killed 26-year-old passenger Isaias Tang. Samoff is accused of removing Tang from the vehicle and leaving him in the gutter.

Prior to the murder, Samoff had signed an advisement, after being convicted of one felony count of driving under the influence in Los Angeles County in 2009, that he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Samoff is accused of fleeing to Omaha, Nebraska after committing the crime. The Westminster Police Department (WPD) became aware of his whereabouts through a tip and notified the Omaha Police Department who arrested Samoff on a warrant and turned him over to WPD.

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LAW ENFORCEMENT SEEKS POTENTIAL ADDITIONAL VICTIMS OF VOLUNTEER CHURCH LEADER CHARGED WITH UNLAWFUL SEXUAL INTERCOURSE AND LEWD ACTS UPON A CHILD

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:15 am

WESTMINSTER – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Garden Grove Police Department (GGPD) are seeking the public’s help identifying potential additional victims of a volunteer church leader who is charged with unlawful sexual intercourse with a child and committing lewd acts upon a child. Vincent Daniel Lavello, 50, Garden Grove, is charged with one felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a child at least ten years younger than the defendant and six felony counts of lewd acts upon a child. If convicted, Lavello faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail. The defendant is being held on $50,000 bail. His arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 5, 2014, at 8:30 a.m. in Department W-1, West Justice Center, Westminster.

At the time of the crime, Lavello was a volunteer church leader at Calvary Chapel West Grove in Garden Grove.

Between approximately June 2014 and November 2014, Lavello is accused of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse and committing lewd acts upon 14-year-old Jane Doe on multiple occasions. Lavello is accused of sending inappropriate text messages to Jane Doe, which his wife discovered and reported to the church pastor. The pastor contacted GGPD, who investigated this case. The defendant is also accused of grooming the victim by providing financial assistance to the victim’s family, helping them get an apartment, and buying the victim gifts.

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact GGPD Detective Dave Young at (714) 741-5836 or Supervising District Attorney Investigator Kelly Core at (714) 347-8794.

Deputy District Attorney Lexie Elliott of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.

Orange County District Attorney / Case # 14WF4071 / November 6, 2014

MAN SENTENCED 18 YEARS TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR SHOOTING-MURDER OF RIVAL 17-YEAR-OLD

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:11 am

SANTA ANA – A man was sentenced yesterday, Nov. 5, 2014, to 18 years to life in state prison for shooting and murdering a 17-year-old rival. Reda Hassan Safieddine, 21, Fountain Valley, was found guilty by a jury Sept. 18, 2014, of one felony count of second degree murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death and one misdemeanor count of brandishing a firearm.

At the time of the crime, Safieddine, then 18-years-old, and the victim had an ongoing rivalry. A few hours before the shooting on Aug. 13, 2012, the defendant encountered the victim and argued with him in a residential neighborhood in Santa Ana. After the verbal confrontation, Safieddine and the victim went separate ways.

At approximately 1:20 p.m. the defendant drove and parked his car in a convenience store parking lot in Fountain Valley. The defendant then grabbed a shotgun from the backseat of his car upon seeing the victim drive into the parking lot.

Safieddine stood outside his car as the unarmed victim walked toward the defendant’s vehicle. Safieddine murdered the victim by firing one round from his shotgun and hitting the victim’s neck. The victim died at the scene.

(more…)

November 10, 2014

Operation ‘Cat Eyes’ Targets Illegal Sale of ‘Misbranded’ and Adulterated Cosmetic Contact Lenses that Pose Risk to Eyesight

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:16 am

LOS ANGELES – Federal prosecutors this week filed a series of criminal charges against Los Angeles-area retail outlets, as well as their owners and managers, that allegedly sold contact lenses without prescriptions – some of which were contaminated with dangerous pathogens.

Two criminal informations filed this morning, as well as four additional informations filed on Tuesday, charge a total of 12 defendants with the illegal sale of decorative and cosmetic contact lenses.

All six cases allege that the defendants sold “misbranded” contact lenses because they were sold without prescriptions.

Two of the cases also allege that the defendants sold adulterated contact lenses that were contaminated with bacteria known as Bacillus cereus. According to court documents, the Bacillus cereus bacterial strain can cause severe infections that, even with prompt treatment, can lead to blindness.

(more…)

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