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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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MAN CHARGED WITH DRIVING STOLEN VEHICLE AND SPEEDING AT OFFICERS ON FOOT NEARLY HITTING THEM

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:50 am

WESTMINSTER – A man was charged yesterday for driving a stolen vehicle and speeding at officers on foot and nearly hitting them in order to get away. Adrian Coates, 18, Huntington Beach, is charged with one felony count of unlawful taking of a vehicle and one felony count of aggravated assault on a peace officer. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years and eight months in state prison. He is being held on $50,000 bail and was arraigned yesterday April 28, 2015. He is scheduled for pre-trial on May 6, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. in Department W-12, West Justice Center, Westminster.

At approximately 2:50 a.m. on April 26, 2015, Coates is accused of driving in a stolen vehicle when a Huntington Beach Police Department (HBPD) officer attempted to pull him over. The defendant is accused of failing to stop for the officer and driving into a cul-de-sac in a residential area. As HBPD officers prepared to block in the defendant, Coates is accused of driving toward officers, nearly hitting them, and driving away from the scene. An HBPD officer shot several times at Coate’s vehicle. None of the shots hit the defendant. HBPD officers were able to locate and arrest Coates.

The investigation in this case is ongoing. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigated this case.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Brett Brian of the special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.

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April 29, 2015

Leader Of Oxnard Gang And Mexican Mafia Associate Sentenced To Life Without Parole In Federal Prison For Drug And Gun Offenses

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 5:58 am

LOS ANGELES –– The leader of the Oxnard-based Colonia Chiques street gang was sentenced this afternoon to life without parole in federal prison, plus an additional 55-year consecutive term, for his conviction on a host of narcotics and weapons offenses, including leading a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE).

Luis Manuel Tapia, 39, of Ojai, the leader of the Colonia Chiques and a validated associate of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, was sentenced by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II.

At the conclusion of a trial in September, Tapia was found guilty of each of the 26 federal charges filed against him.

Tapia had previously sustained two narcotics convictions – one involving cocaine, and the second involving methamphetamine – in Ventura County Superior Court. Under federal law, the third drug trafficking conviction last year in federal court brought a mandatory life sentence. The CCE count – in conjunction with special findings made by the jury, such as the fact that the enterprise involved at least a kilogram of actual methamphetamine and that defendant was the organization’s principal leader – also carried a mandatory life sentence.

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Federal Judge Permanently Shuts Down Tax Preparer Who Operated Inland Empire Tax Service

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 5:55 am

LOS ANGELES – A federal court has permanently barred a woman who operated a Moreno Valley tax preparation service from preparing tax returns for others, the United States Attorney’s Office announced today.

Nancy L. Hilton, 69, who also used the name Nancy L. Olson, was ordered to never again prepare tax returns for others in a permanent injunction that was signed by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald on April 22.

The permanent injunction concludes a lawsuit filed one week ago that alleged Hilton prepared fraudulent tax returns and supervised the preparation of fraudulent tax returns by at least five others who knew they were preparing false income tax returns. The fraudulent tax returns were prepared at Hilton’s business, Nancy Olson & Associates.

The suit alleged that Hilton obtained the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of numerous people, and that Hilton used this information to file fraudulent tax returns in the names of those people. Hilton would keep a portion – typically 50 percent – of the illicit refunds which resulted from the filing of the fraudulent returns. When Hilton learned of the government’s investigation into her tax preparation business, she intentionally deleted data from business computers in an attempt to impede and obstruct the government’s investigation, according to the government’s lawsuit.

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MAN TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR STABBING-MURDER IN FRIEND’S SANTA ANA HOME

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 5:47 am

SANTA ANA – A man is scheduled to be arraigned today for stabbing and murdering a friend in the victim’s Santa Ana home. Miguel Angel Guerrero, 19, Menifee, Riverside County, was charged today with one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in state prison. The People will request he be held on $1 million bail at his arraignment scheduled today in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana. The time is to be determined.

At the time of the crime, Guerrero was friends with 54-year-old Javier Rodriguez Preciado.

At approximately 1:45 p.m. on April 26, 2015, Guerrero is accused of getting into a dispute with Rodriguez Preciado. Guerrero is accused of grabbing a knife and stabbing Rodriguez Preciado in the head and neck. The defendant is accused of then fleeing the scene.

Paramedics arrived to the home and pronounced the victim dead. At approximately 5:25 p.m., the Santa Ana Police Department, who investigated this case, arrested the defendant when he returned near the home.

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April 28, 2015

San Diego Jury Finds Former Iranian National Guilty of Illegal Scheme to Export Sensitive US Technology to Iran

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:59 am

On Thursday, April 23, a federal jury convicted a naturalized U.S. citizen and former Iranian national of violations of U.S. export and money laundering laws, arising from his involvement in a scheme to purchase marine navigation equipment and military electronic equipment for illegal export to, and end-use in, Iran, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California.

Arash Ghahreman, 45, of Staten Island, New York, was convicted of attempted export to Iran, and conspiracy to do the same, in violation of the Iran Trade Embargo (formerly known as the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations); smuggling goods from the United States, and conspiracy to the same; and aiding and abetting the transfer of money from Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), to the United States, in support of an illegal export activity, and conspiracy to do the same.  The case involved a seven-day jury trial, beginning on April 13, 2015, and ending on April 23, 2015, when the jury returned a guilty verdict on seven counts of a nine-count superseding indictment after one day of deliberation.  The jury was unable to reach a verdict on two of the counts involving the attempted exportation and smuggling of a fiber optic gyrocompass, used in both military and civilian marine navigation applications.

“The defendants used a front company to illegally send U.S. goods and technologies – including those used in military applications – to Iran,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “These violations of the Iran Trade Embargo have the potential to harm U.S. national security objectives, and we will continue to hold accountable those who seek to circumvent its restrictions.  I would like to thank the agents and prosecutors for their hard work in obtaining this conviction.”

The evidence presented at trial showed that Ghahreman acted an agent of an Iranian procurement network which used a front company in Dubai to acquire U.S. goods and technologies for illegal transshipment to, and end-use in, Iran.  Co-defendant Koorush Taherkhani, 43, an Iranian national and resident, was the managing director and founder of that front company, co-defendant TIG Marine Engineering Services.  Because of his German nationality, co-defendant Ergun Yildiz, 35, a resident of UAE, was hired by Taherkhani to be the “face” of the front company, as the president/CEO of TIG Marine.  Before Ghahreman immigrated to the United States in 2007, Ghahreman and Taherkhani had been friends and dorm mates at an Iranian university, where each received a degree in marine engineering.  Upon graduation, both Ghahreman and Taherkhani worked as engineers for various Iranian shipping companies, including the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and its subsidiaries.  After immigrating to the United States, Ghahreman was employed by various shipyards in the United States, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen.  Because of his employment and citizenship status, Ghahreman was well placed to act as an agent of the illegal procurement network.

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