Best Defender Bytes:

July 25, 2014


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

SANTA ANA – Two women were convicted today of voluntary manslaughter for killing a female patron outside a Santa Ana bar. Candace Marie Brito, 27, and Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 26, both of Santa Ana, were found guilty by a jury of one felony count of voluntary manslaughter and one felony count of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury with a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury. They each face a maximum sentence of 11 years in state prison at their sentencing Sept. 12, 2014, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-45, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

During the early morning hours on Jan. 19, 2014, 23-year-old victim Annie Pham was involved in a mutual combat with a friend of defendants Brito and Zavala outside a restaurant and bar formally known as The Crosby in downtown Santa Ana. Brito and Zavala were involved in a verbal altercation with the victim and physically assaulted her with their hands and fists as the victim was fighting with the defendants’ friend. Brito and Zavala killed Pham by kicking the victim in the head as she was on the ground fighting the defendants’ friend on the sidewalk. Portions of the attack were captured on cell phone video as the victim’s friends and a security guard unsuccessfully attempted to intervene.

Witnesses at the scene called 911. Paramedics arrived and transported Pham to St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, where she was put on life support. Pham was considered brain dead from blunt force trauma injuries suffered during the attack and was removed from life support on Jan. 21, 2014.

The Santa Ana Police Department investigated this case.


July 24, 2014

Coto De Caza Man Pleads Guilty in Investment Schemes that Bilked Physicians and Dentists out of more than $2 Million

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

SANTA ANA, California – An Orange County man pleaded guilty to defrauding dozens of doctors and others of more than $2 million in separate schemes that promised large returns on investments in the medical and dental fields.

David Rose, 57, of Coto de Caza, pleaded guilty today in United States District Court to one count of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud.

According to court documents, over a six-year period that ran through May 2011, Rose solicited physicians to invest in an Irvine company he called M.D. Venture Partners (MDVP) and falsely promised lucrative returns on investments in emerging medical technologies.

In a subsequent scheme, Rose used Technology Innovation Partners (TIP) to solicit dentists and orthodontists to invest, claiming funds would be pooled and invested in a company developing ablation technology that would be used to remove wisdom teeth in children without surgery.


Inland Empire Man Who Admitted Sex Trafficking of a Child who Worked as Prostitute Sentenced to 17½ Years in Federal Prison

Filed under: Federal Crimes Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

RIVERSIDE, California – A resident of Quail Valley who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking charges – and admitted forcing a 14-year-old girl to work as a prostitute – was sentenced today to 210 months in federal prison.

Kawaum Marquez Scott, 24, received the 17½-year sentence from United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips.

Scott pleaded guilty in May to two counts of sex trafficking of a child.

Scott’s codefendant – Nekeyia Necole Weatherspoon, who also used the name “Keey Bee,” 22, of Perris – pleaded guilty at the same time to one count of conspiracy to engage in child sex trafficking.

According to court documents, Scott and Weatherspoon forced a 14-year-old victim into prostitution. The defendants, who took photos of the victims and used the pictures to advertise services on the Internet, drove the victim to destinations in Hemet to engage in prostitution, made her use an alias, and advised her to tell male customers that she was 18 years old. Scott and Weatherspoon took all the money paid to the girl for the sex acts.


Former Bank Of America Employee Sentenced To 30 Months In Federal Prison For Taking Bribes To Approve Artificially Low-Price Short Sales

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

LOS ANGELES – A former Bank of America employee was sentenced this morning to 30 months in federal prison for taking more than $1.2 million in bribes to approve artificially low-price short sales of properties on which the bank held mortgages.

Kevin Lauricella, 29, of Thousand Oaks, was sentenced by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II. In addition to the 2½-year prison term, Judge Wright ordered Lauricella to pay $5.7 million restitution to Bank of America and to forfeit his residence, which had been purchased with some of the bribe money.

In January, Lauricella pleaded guilty to two felony charges – receiving bribes and making false entries in the bank’s books and records. The fraudulent short sales that Lauricella approved in return for the bribes resulted in at least $5.7 million in losses to the bank. The fraudulent short sales also clouded the title on the properties, which in turn resulted in expensive litigation for innocent parties, including individuals who purchased the homes later.

Lauricella worked in the Short Sale Department of Bank of America’s Simi Valley office in 2010 and 2011. He was responsible for negotiating short sale transactions, in which a lender allows property securing a mortgage or deed of trust to be sold for less than the existing loan balance, usually because the borrower can no longer make the payments due on the loan or because the fair market value of the property has dropped below the balance due. By approving the short sale, the lender agrees to release the lien on the property securing the mortgage even though the lender will receive less than the full amount owed.


July 23, 2014

Former Senior Executive of Qualcomm Pleads Guilty to Insider Trading and Money Laundering

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

Jing Wang, 51, the former Executive Vice President and President of Global Business Operations for Qualcomm Inc., today pleaded guilty to insider trading in shares of Qualcomm and Atheros Communications Inc. Wang also pleaded guilty to laundering the proceeds of his insider trading using an offshore shell company.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney L aura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California made the announcement. Wang pleaded guilty today in federal court in San Diego before U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes .

“Not satisfied with his lucrative executive position at Qualcomm, Jing Wang traded on insider information about the company’s acquisitions and earnings to gain an illegal advantage in the financial market,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Wang then laundered close to $250,000 in insider trading profits, and created a cover-up story to hide his crimes. We will continue to prosecute those who believe they can make easy money by breaking the laws that ensure a level playing field in the financial marketplace.”

“Jing Wang blatantly and repeatedly abused the trust placed in him by Qualcomm and the company’s shareholders,” said United States Attorney Duffy. “To make matters worse, he then misused the financial system to conceal his insider trading profits and enlisted his brother and stock broker to obstruct several investigations. Wang’s obstructive acts, though ultimately unsuccessful, were serious affronts to the rule of law. We will continue to use our excellent partnerships with the Criminal Division, the FBI, IRS-CI and our other law enforcement partners to not only prosecute securities fraud, but also disrupt attempts like Wang’s to obscure criminal conduct from the eyes of government investigators.”


Unlicensed Trader Pleads Guilty in Los Angeles for Role in Fraudulent High Yield Investment Program Scheme

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

An unlicensed trader who solicited $500,000 from undercover FBI agents to invest in a fraudulent high yield investment program pleaded guilty today in federal court in Los Angeles.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California and Assistant Director in Charge Bill Lewis of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.

Jessie Tolbert, 38, of Bastrop, Louisiana, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 20, 2014.

According to court documents, in December 2011, Tolbert and his co-conspirators, including Eriq Brye and Greg Preston, placed an advertisement online for an investment opportunity. Undercover federal agents responded to this advertisement. During several weeks of email and telephone communications, Tolbert and his co-conspirators informed the agents that a spot recently had opened up on a high yield investment program they purportedly were running and that a $500,000 investment in their program would generate $30 million in 30 days. Tolbert did not actually run an investment program.


Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Los Angeles Area Tax Return Preparer

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

The United States has asked a federal court in Los Angeles to bar Elton L. Barnes Jr. from preparing tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today.

In 2002, Barnes pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, but he resumed preparing returns when he was released from prison, the government alleges.  Since then, according to the complaint, Barnes has repeatedly prepared federal income tax returns, sometimes working under the names McNair Group, So Cal Financial Services and Anderson Investment Group, with fraudulent claims such as falsely inflated charitable contribution deductions and losses from imaginary home businesses.  The complaint further alleges that Barnes has prepared returns that intentionally overstate the amount of federal income tax that has been withheld from his clients’ paychecks in order to claim a larger refund.

According to the complaint, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has chosen to audit more than 180 tax returns that Barnes prepared and that have been filed since his release from prison in 2009.  The complaint also alleges that, although it has not completed its audits of all those returns, the IRS has already identified almost $2 million in false refund claims and understatements of taxes owed.

The complaint also alleges that Barnes met with a customer and obtained the customer’s personal identifying information, including his name, address and social security number.  Allegedly, without the customer’s knowledge, Barnes then used the customer’s information to file a tax return that directed the IRS to deposit the claimed tax refund into Barnes’ bank account.  The United States has identified more than 50 tax refunds that were deposited into bank accounts Barnes controls, although some deposits may have been made with the knowledge of Barnes’ clients.  It is against federal law for a tax return preparer to deposit a client’s tax refund into his own bank account.  According to the complaint, Barnes violated other laws that apply to return preparers by failing to sign returns he prepared or use his preparer tax identification number on them.


July 22, 2014

Organizer of Bank Heist That Yielded $565,000 Using Staged Kidnapping and Fake Bomb Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

Filed under: Federal Crimes Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:09 am

LOS ANGELES – A man who conspired with a former assistant manager of a Bank of America branch in East Los Angeles was sentenced today to 14 years in federal prison for plotting a heist in which his one-time girlfriend wore a fake bomb to simulate a kidnapping to steal approximately $565,000 from the bank.

Reyes “Ray” Vega, 35, of Bell, received the 168-month sentenced from United States District Judge Manuel Real. In addition to the prison term, Judge Real ordered Vega and his co-defendants to pay $556,800 in restitution.

Vega and his then-girlfriend – Aurora Barrera, 33, who now resides in Downey – were convicted in March following a one-week trial in United States District Court. The jury found the couple guilty of conspiracy to commit bank robbery and bank robbery. The jury also found that Vega and Barrera committed the robbery by assaulting a bank employee with a dangerous weapon – the hoax explosive device that Barrera wore when she entered the bank on September 5, 2012.

During the robbery, Barrera walked into the bank with what appeared to be an explosive device taped to her body, convinced a co-worker that she had been kidnapped from her home that morning by two men, and told the co-worker that they had to open the vault and place money outside the bank or else the kidnappers would harm them.


Former Rosemead Mayor Sentenced to Prison in Corruption Case involving Cash Payments, Witness Tampering, Lies to Investigators

Filed under: Federal Crimes Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:07 am

LOS ANGELES – The former mayor of the City of Rosemead was sentenced today to 21 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to attempted witness tampering and making false statements to FBI agents conducting a corruption investigation.

John Tran, 38, of Rosemead, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer.

Tran pleaded guilty late last year to the witness tampering and false statement charges. In a plea agreement filed in United States District Court, Tran acknowledged that he received approximately $38,000 in payments from a developer in exchange for Tran’s promise to help her obtain permits for a project.

The witness tampering resulted from Tran asking the developer to lie to a federal grand jury by denying that he had recently met with Tran or paid Tran any money.


Yucca Valley Man Who Worked at Area School Pleads Guilty to Federal Child Pornography Charges

Filed under: California Chid Pornography Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:04 am

RIVERSIDE, California – A school custodian who sexually abused a child over a period of several years and shared visual images of the molestations online pleaded guilty today to federal child pornography charges.

Matthew Frazer, 39, of Yucca Valley, pleaded guilty today to one count of distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.

Frazer, who has been in custody since his arrest earlier this year, is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips on October 6.

Prior to his arrest on January 31, Frazer was employed as a custodian with the Morongo Unified School District. The victim did not attend the schools where Frazer worked.


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