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October 5, 2017

Catholic Priest Sentenced to Prison for Tax Evasion and Bank Fraud

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

A priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose was sentenced to 36 months in prison, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch for the Northern District of California.

According to documents and information provided to the court, from 2008 through 2011, Hien Minh Nguyen stole money that his parishioners donated to the Diocese of San Jose through cash and checks made as offerings during religious services.  He deposited such checks into his personal bank account and used the funds for his benefit.  He also wrote checks drawn on church business accounts to pay for personal expenses.  Nguyen evaded paying income taxes on the money he stole, concealing his embezzlement from his return preparer.  The court found that he embezzled $ 1,449,365 from the Catholic Church, and evaded $ 582,453 in individual income taxes that were due and owing to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In addition to the term of prison imposed, U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman ordered Nguyen to serve three years of supervised release and to pay a total of $1,883,883 in restitution, including $434,518 to the IRS.  Nguyen previously pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was convicted of bank fraud following a bench trial.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and U.S. Attorney Stretch commended special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and former Trial Attorney Gregory Bernstein of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Pitman and Thomas Moore, who prosecuted the case. (more…)


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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man is scheduled to face trial tomorrow for the special circumstances murder of a man who was dragged and run over by his truck as he was robbed in Anaheim.

Defendant Charges Maximum Sentence Court Date
Jasper Bear Belknap, 21, Anaheim Charged on June 23, 2015, with:

  • One felony count of murder

Sentencing Enhancement

  • Special Circumstances – Murder during the commission of a robbery
Life in state prison without the possibility of parole Jury trial opening statements

Oct. 4, 2017, 9:00 a.m.

Department C-41, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana

Diana Carolina Lopez, 29, Transient Pleaded guilty on Sept. 28, 2017, to:

  • One felony count of voluntary manslaughter
11 years in state prison Sentencing

Nov. 3, 2017, 9:00 a.m.

Department C-41, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana

Circumstances of the Case

  • Co-defendant Lopez knew the victim, 45-year-old Felipe Lugo, and knew that he often carried large quantities of cash.
  • On June 16, 2015, Lopez asked the victim to use his truck and drove to pick up Belknap, who is accused of hiding in the rear seat of the truck cab.
  • Lopez returned to Anaheim and picked up Lugo, who sat in the passenger seat. (more…)

October 4, 2017

Attorney General Becerra Charges San Diego Jeweler And Wife With Unlawful Financing And Debt Collection Practices Targeting Active Military Families

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

SAN DIEGO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced criminal charges against Ramil Abalkhad, owner of Romano’s Jewelers, and Melina Abalkhad, owner of MBNB Financial Inc., for conspiracy to engage in illegal financing and debt collection practices.

Romano’s Jewelers had several retail locations in California, including stores near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. The Abalkhads targeted young marines and sailors, encouraging the purchase of jewelry using MBNB Financial for credit. According to the criminal complaint, Abalkhad failed to provide legally required disclosures about monthly payments, interest rates, or others terms of financing. Those customers who fell behind on their payments were allegedly harassed by the defendants’ debt collectors. In addition, the defendants posed as an attorney, threatening servicemembers with court martial and other military disciplinary actions.

“Our servicemembers and military families sacrifice immensely for our country, the last thing they should have to worry about is being fleeced by local merchants,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “At the Department of Justice, we will vigorously protect California’s servicemembers and veterans, like all consumers in California. We will continue working with our military partners who provide legal assistance and financial counseling to educate and protect military consumers.”

The California Department of Justice filed a 14-count felony complaint that charges the defendants with conspiracy to violate the Unruh Act, which protects consumers who buy goods or services on credit, and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects Californians against unlawful debt collection practices.

Ramil Abalkhad was additionally charged with engaging in a check kiting scheme involving Romano’s Jewelers bank accounts that resulted in a loss of $270,000 to First Bank.    (more…)

United States Files Enforcement Action Against California Company and Company’s Owner to Prevent Distribution of Adulterated Seafood Products

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

The United States filed a civil complaint against Michel Cordon Bleu Inc. of Los Angeles, California, and its owner and President Michel G. Blanchet to prevent the distribution of adulterated seafood products in violation of federal law, the Department of Justice announced today.

Michel Cordon Bleu Inc. (Michel Cordon Bleu) prepares, processes, packs, holds, and distributes vacuum-packed, ready-to-eat cold and hot smoked fish and fishery products.  The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that Michel Cordon Bleu and Michel G. Blanchet adulterated seafood products by preparing, packing, or holding them under insanitary conditions whereby the seafood may have become contaminated with filth or may have been rendered injurious to health.

The Department filed the complaint at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that seafood processors comply with laws designed to protect consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively with the FDA to ensure that consumers are protected from potentially unsafe food.”

According to the complaint, FDA inspected Michel Cordon Bleu’s facility on numerous occasions, including two times in 2016.  The complaint alleges that defendants failed to comply with the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations by, among other deficiencies, failing to adequately control the risk of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) and Clostridium botulinum (C bot.) toxin formation in their vacuum-packed fish or fishery products. (more…)

Compton Man Sentenced to 13 Years in Federal Prison for Illegally Selling Firearms

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

LOS ANGELES – A Compton man with a lengthy criminal history was sentenced today to 156 months in federal prison for firearms offenses, including dealing firearms without a license.

Francisco Juantonio Hilt, 39, of Compton, was sentenced by United States District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner after a jury found him and Sean Ronaldo Alexander, 37, of South Los Angeles, guilty in March of seven illegal gun transactions involving a total of 30 guns, including military-style weapons and stolen firearms. The evidence at trial showed that the men believed they were supplying guns to the Armenian Mafia and the “Mexican Cartel,” and Hilt believed the buyer was a convicted felon. Both Hilt and Alexander were found guilty of conspiracy and engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license. Hilt was also convicted of several counts of being a felon in possession of firearms and sale of a firearm to a convicted felon.

On July 12, 2017, Judge Klausner sentenced Alexander to 24 months’ imprisonment.

A third con-conspirator – Jamie Maurice Thomas, 38, of South Los Angeles – pleaded guilty in November 2016 to conspiracy and selling a firearm to a convicted felon.  Judge Klausner sentenced Thomas to 63 months in federal prison in March.

The three defendants were charged as part of an operation last year by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) targeting the sale of guns in and around Compton and Mona Park in the Willowbrook area of Los Angeles. During the course of the year-long investigation, authorities took more than 100 illegally trafficked firearms off the streets, and 14 defendants were charged in federal and state court. (more…)

October 3, 2017

Orange County Man Sentenced to over Eight Years for Taking $2.2 Million from Distressed Homeowners in Bogus Loan Modification Scheme

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

SANTA ANA, California – An Orange County man was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison Friday for fraudulently taking $2.2 million from distressed homeowners based on false promises that he could help them avoid foreclosure by obtaining modifications to their mortgages.

Kevin Frank Rasher, 45, who has been in custody since his arrest at his Coto de Caza residence over a year ago, pled guilty to 12 counts of mail fraud in May. Rasher was sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton who also ordered him to pay $2.24 million in restitution to his victims.

According to court documents, Rasher admitted that, between 2011 and March 2016, he falsely told distressed homeowners that he was an employee of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and/or an attorney, and that the homeowners had been approved for a reduced mortgage payment or interest rate. Rasher then instructed the homeowners to mail their mortgage payments to one of his businesses, claiming that he would forward the money to the homeowners’ mortgage lenders. Instead of forwarding the money to the mortgage lenders, Rasher deposited the money into his bank accounts and used it to pay his own personal expenses.

Rasher admitted that he fraudulently obtained approximately $2.24 million from more than 500 victims.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General; the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); the United States Postal Inspection Service; the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of the Inspector General; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (more…)

Director of South Korea’s Earthquake Research Center Sentenced to 14 months in Federal Prison for Money Laundering Stemming from Million Dollar Bribe Scheme

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

LOS ANGELES – A former director of South Korea’s Earthquake Research Center at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) has been sentenced to 14 months in federal prison for using a Southern California bank account to launder bribes he received from two seismological companies, including one based in Pasadena.

Heon-Cheol Chi, 59, of South Korea, was sentenced today by United States District Judge John F. Walter on one count of engaging in financial transactions with criminally derived property stating that this sentence “should send a clear message that this will not be tolerated by the law.”  Chi was convicted in July of the money laundering charge following a four-day jury trial in United States District Court. According to the evidence presented at trial, Chi laundered the proceeds of bribes he had accepted in violation of South Korea law. In addition to the prison term, Chi was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and to serve one year of supervised release following the completion of his term in federal custody.

According to trial testimony, from at least 2009 through 2015, Chi abused his official position at KIGAM to demand and receive over $1 million in bribes from two seismological companies in exchange for providing them with unfair business advantages in the South Korean seismological market. The trial evidence showed that Chi advocated the purchase and use of equipment from these two companies by KIGAM and other South Korean customers. He also provided these companies with market intelligence and inside information, including confidential information about their competitors and the KIGAM bidding process.

The evidence showed that Chi directed that his bribe payments be paid in cash or wired to his personal account at a Bank of America branch in Glendora. Chi transferred approximately half of the bribe payments sent to that account to an investment account he held in New York City, and spent approximately 70 percent of the remaining funds in South Korea, where he resided and worked. (more…)

Owner-Operator of Burbank Clinic that Prescribed Unnecessary Services and Submitted Fraudulent Claims as Part of Scheme to Defraud Medicare Sentenced to 37 Months in Federal Prison

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

LOS ANGELES – The owner-operator of a Burbank medical clinic was sentenced today to 37 months in federal prison on federal healthcare fraud charges for participating in a scheme to defraud Medicare by prescribing unnecessary services and equipment, which often were not even provided.

Knarik Vardumyan, 53, of Burbank, who formerly owned and operated the medical clinic, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer who also ordered Vardumyan to pay $1,711,789 in restitution to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Vardumyan pleaded guilty in April to two counts of federal healthcare fraud.

According to court documents, Vardumyan admitted that she knowingly and unlawfully participated in a scheme to defraud Medicare by billing Medicare for “medically unnecessary office visits and diagnostic tests,” and by arranging “for the issuance of . . . prescriptions and orders for medically unnecessary durable medical equipment” and “home health services.” Vardumyan further admitted, “many, if not all” of the people who visited her clinic “were brought . . . by co-schemers known as ‘marketers,’ who offered promises of free, medically unnecessary [equipment] or food” to those Medicare beneficiaries who were willing to attend Vardumyan’s clinic.

In documents filed in relation to today’s sentence, the government noted that Medicare paid $1,711,789 as a result of this fraudulent scheme, and that a 37-month term of imprisonment appropriately reflects the nature and circumstances of the offense, as well as the need for the sentence to “promote respect for the law and afford adequate deterrence against this kind of serious fraud against our healthcare system and the public fisc.” (more…)

October 2, 2017

O.C. Day Care Agrees to Administer Emergency EpiPen Injections When Needed to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act

Filed under: Uncategorized — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

LOS ANGELES – A Garden Grove preschool has entered into a voluntary civil settlement agreement with the United States to resolve allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to agree to provide EpiPen injections when required and requested at its facility.

OC Kids Infant and Preschool agreed last week to modify its policies to allow its staff to administer emergency EpiPen injections to children experiencing severe allergic reactions.

The agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office resolves allegations that OC Kids was violating Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination by places of public accommodation, including day care facilities, against individuals with disabilities.

“Children with disabilities, including severe food allergies, must be given equal opportunities to attend day care,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown.  “I want to thank OC Kids for acknowledging its responsibility to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The policies and changes that OC Kids has agreed to implement should serve as a guide for other day care centers to ensure that their admissions policies and practices do not discriminate against children with disabilities.” (more…)

Fugitive Coachella Valley Doctor Who Admitted Running Cosmetic Surgery Scam that Took Tens of Millions of Dollars from Insurance Companies Sentenced to 20 Years in Federal Prison

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

SANTA ANA, California – A Rancho Mirage cosmetic surgeon who has been on the run for four months after pleading guilty in a scheme that duped health insurance companies into paying tens of millions of dollars for cosmetic procedures that were not medically necessary was sentenced in absentia this afternoon to 20 years in federal prison.

Dr. David M. Morrow, 72, a former Rancho Mirage resident whose current whereabouts are unknown, was sentenced this afternoon by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton.

Judge Staton imposed the sentence after Morrow pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and filing a false tax return.

During today’s hearing, Judge Staton noted that Morrow’s “greed knew no bounds,” and that he showed an “utter disregard for patients’ well-being and safety.” As part of the sentencing, Judge Staton found that the intended loss from Morrow’s scheme was $44,265,211. (more…)

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