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February 23, 2017

California Auctioneer Charged in Rhinoceros Horn Smuggling Conspiracy

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

Jacob Chait, 34, the head of acquisitions and auctioneer of a Beverley Hills, California gallery and auction house (“Auction House #1”), appeared yesterday in Manhattan federal court in New York to face charges of conspiring to smuggle rhinoceros horns, in violation of the Lacey Act. A one-count indictment charging Chait was returned by a federal grand jury on February 15.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York and Acting Director Jim Kurth for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the announcement.

“The defendant and his co-conspirators are alleged to have engaged in a scheme to illegally traffic in the horns of highly protected rhinoceros,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood. “Illegal wildlife trafficking is a serious crime under federal law and should be vigorously prosecuted.”

“As alleged, Jacob Chait trafficked in and smuggled rhinoceros horns, further threatening an already endangered species. Rhinoceros have no known predators other than humans, and yet, driven by the illegal trade in their horns, literally worth more than their weight in gold in the black market, rhinoceros are on their way to extinction. This Office, along with our partners at the Department of Justice’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will continue to combat the illegal trade of rhinoceros horns fueling the senseless poaching of this critically endangered animal,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.

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February 22, 2017

FORMER OCSD DEPUTY CONVICTED AND SENTENCED TO SIX MONTHS IN JAIL FOR COMMITTING INSURANCE FRAUD AGAINST COUNTY OF ORANGE

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:38 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A former Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) deputy was convicted and sentenced to six months in Orange County jail and three years informal probation today on charges for committing insurance fraud by failing to disclose his true physical abilities and activities to his health care providers. Nicholas Zappas, 36, Laguna Niguel, pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts of insurance fraud. In addition to his jail time and probation, Zappas was ordered to pay $34,838.97 in restitution to the County and $1,000 to the Worker’s Compensation Fraud Assessment Fund. The defendant is also required to dismiss his 2011 and 2015 worker’s compensation claims with prejudice as a condition of his probation.

At the time of the crimes, Zappas was employed as an OCSD deputy for approximately 14 years.

On April 2, 2015, while working Harbor Patrol and engaged in a boat rescue, Zappas tripped over a fire hose and fell on his back. The defendant filed a workers’ compensation insurance claim for injuries to his left shoulder, left side of his neck, and lower back. Zappas was placed on work restrictions of no lifting, pushing, or pulling greater than 10 pounds by a medical doctor due to the defendant’s complaint of pain. OCSD accommodated the work restrictions and Zappas was assigned to dispatch.

Between May 2015 and November 2015,Zappas engaged in CrossFit, which is a high-impact exercise with varied functional movements. The defendant appeared on video while engaging in CrossFit, including lifting substantial weights in excess of 200 pounds, performing box jumps, burpees, squats, and other activities that were contrary to the limitations imposed by the doctor based on the defendant’s description of his pain, symptoms, and limitations. Zappas failed to disclose that he was participating in CrossFit to his medical physicians.

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Former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Pleads to Murdering Man

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

A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy pleaded no contest today to killing a man in Sylmar more than four years ago, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Francisco Gamez II, 45, entered his plea to one count each of second-degree murder and attempted murder. He also admitted a special allegation that he personally used a firearm.

Gamez was immediately sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli.

Deputy District Attorney Rosa Alarcon of the Justice System Integrity Division prosecuted the case.

On June 17, 2012, Gamez’s son was involved in an altercation with 38-year-old victim Armando Casillas. After his son told him about the fight, Gamez drove up to Casillas and another man, firing two shots. Casillas was killed and the other man was not injured.

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Long Beach Woman Sentenced For Helping Ex-Husband Evade Taxes

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:03 am

A 70-year-old Long Beach woman was sentenced today for concealing her ex-husband’s income to help him avoid paying state taxes, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Linda Ann Knowlton was sentenced to formal probation for three years and ordered to pay $598,000 in restitution to the California State Franchise Tax Board. She pleaded no contest to one felony count of tax evasion in September 2016.

Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Stodel of the White Collar Crime Division prosecuted the case

Linda Knowlton was married to Tommy Knowlton, who made millions of dollars in the oil business. He stopped filing income tax returns in 1996 and between 2008 and 2011 funneled more than $70 million dollars to his ex-wife’s personal checking account.

During this time, Linda Knowlton had no other source of income other than from her ex-husband. They continued living together at a home she bought in spite of her lack of personal income.

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February 21, 2017

Man Sentenced to More Than 39 Years Prison in Revenge Porn Case

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

A 20-year-old man was sentenced today to 39 years and eight months in state prison for extorting young girls for nude photos, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Cesar Mauricio Estrada-Davila, aka Cesar Estrada, of Rosemead, pleaded no contest on Feb. 15 to a total of 38 felony counts: one count of lewd act upon a child; 21 counts of distributing or showing child or youth pornography to a minor and 16 counts of possession of child or youth pornography.

As a result of the plea, Estrada also must register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.

Deputy District Attorneys Scott Yang and Steven Mac of the Antelope Valley Branch prosecuted case MA066758.

According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, Estrada reached out to young girls and befriended them on social media websites between January and April 2015. The defendant told the victims he was a modeling agent who could make them famous online. Estrada then asked the victims to send him pictures of themselves in their underwear, prosecutors said.

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Man Charged with 2001 Kidnapping, Sexual Assault of Teenage Boy in Northridge

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

A 54-year-old man has been charged with sexually assaulting a boy at gunpoint nearly 16 years ago in Northridge, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today.

Deputy District Attorney Julie Kramer said Mirek Paul Voyt (dob 10/25/62) of Los Angeles faces two felony counts: kidnapping to commit oral copulation and sodomy by force or fear; and forcible oral copulation.

The charging document includes special allegations that the defendant used a handgun during the commission of the crimes, as well as kidnapped and tied and bound the victim.

Voyt pleaded not guilty to the charges on Feb. 16.  His bail was set at more than $1 million.

The prosecutor said on June 22, 2001, the 14-year-old victim was walking with a friend near Vanalden Avenue and Chase Street when Voyt allegedly approached them, pointed a gun and forced the victim into his vehicle.

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Man Charged with Long Beach Burglaries, Sexual Assaults

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

A 39-year-old man has been charged with sexually assaulting three women – one of whom was 90 years old – while committing burglaries in Long Beach, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today.

Deputy District Attorney L. Christmas Brookens said Melvin Earl Farmer Jr. (dob 12/28/77) of Lynwood faces 14 felony counts: one count each of sexual battery by restraint; dissuading a witness from reporting a crime; assault to commit a felony during the commission of a first-degree burglary; criminal threats; second-degree robbery and elder abuse, two counts of forcible rape and three counts each of first-degree residential robbery and first-degree burglary, person present.

Case NA105864 also charges Sophia Yim (dob 4/20/85) of Lynwood with one count each of first degree residential robbery and first-degree burglary, person present.

Farmer and Yim both pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to return on March 14 in Department S01 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Long Beach Branch.

Farmer is charged with going on a burglary crime spree between Feb. 2 and 9, the prosecutor said. During the burglaries, the defendant allegedly sexually assaulted two women ages 63 and 90.

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February 20, 2017

Chicago Woman Allegedly Attempted to Smuggle Heroin and Marijuana through LAX after Grammy Weekend in Los Angeles

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

LOS ANGELES – A Chicago woman is facing a federal drug trafficking charge for allegedly trying to smuggle at least a kilogram of heroin and four kilograms of marijuana on a plane leaving Los Angeles International Airport.

Beige White, 34, was arrested Wednesday at LAX by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration. White made her initial court appearance yesterday afternoon, at which time she was ordered held without bond and was directed to appear for an arraignment on March 24, 2017.

A criminal complaint filed Wednesday in United States District Court specifically alleges that White attempted to smuggle approximately 2.28 pounds of heroin and 9 pounds of marijuana through a security checkpoint at LAX on Monday.

The narcotics were discovered in White’s luggage after she had checked in for a Southwest Airlines flight to Chicago. After seeing something suspicious in one of the bags during an image scan, the Transportation Security Administration inspected the bag and discovered a clear plastic bag containing a substance later determined to be heroin, as well as multiple sealed plastic bags containing marijuana. Another piece of checked luggage in White’s name also allegedly contained marijuana.

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MAN CONVICTED OF THROWING OBJECT THAT DAMAGED CHP PATROL VEHICLE AND INCITING RIOT AT DONALD TRUMP RALLY

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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was convicted today of throwing an object that damaged a patrol vehicle and inciting a group of protesters to riot at a Donald Trump presidential campaign rally in the City of Costa Mesa. Luis Fernando Alarcon, 20, Anaheim, pleaded guilty today to one misdemeanor count of vandalism with damage over $400 and one misdemeanor count of inciting a riot. The court reduced the felony vandalism charge to a misdemeanor. Alarcon was sentenced to one year in county jail suspended, 12 days in county jail, three years of informal probation, and was ordered to pay restitution.

On the night of April 28, 2016, a crowd protesting against the then-presidential candidate was blocking the street as the group moved south toward State Route 55. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) was dispatched to Fair Drive and State Route 55. A CHP officer activated their vehicle lights and sirens and was able to gain access to the ramp. The crowd cleared to the east and west sidewalks of Newport Boulevard. Another CHP officer who also responded observed the defendant in the crowd. Alarcon ran toward the second CHP officer’s vehicle, coming within 12 to 15 feet of the CHP officer’s patrol car, and yelled “F*** the police!” at the officer through the vehicle’s open window. The defendant again yelled as he reached into his pocket, took out an object, and hurled the object at the CHP officer’s patrol vehicle. The CHP officer heard a thud and observed an object that looked like a rock or roof tile fall to the ground. As a result, the vehicle sustained damages over $500.

Alarcon immediately turned around and went back into the crowd. The defendant was not taken into custody at that time due to the immediate need to close the ramp. The defendant continued to protest and obstruct traffic. Alarcon remained in front of the crowd of protesters and yelled toward the CHP officers, inciting the crowd of protesters while rocks were thrown at the CHP officers from within the crowd.

Alarcon was subsequently arrested by CHP, who investigated this case.

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WOMAN CHARGED WITH FATAL HIT-AND-RUN AND INSURANCE FRAUD AFTER LEAVING VICTIM AT THE SCENE AND FALSELY REPORTING VANDALISM

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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A woman was charged yesterday with fatal hit-and-run and insurance fraud after leaving the victim at the scene and falsely reporting the damage as vandalism to her insurance company and police. Belen Sicairos, 23, Santa Ana, was charged on Feb. 15, 2017, with one felony count of hit-and-run causing death, three felony counts of insurance fraud, one felony count of insurance fraud through a written claim, and one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting a crime. If convicted, Sicairos faces a maximum of eight years in state prison. The defendant was arrested today by Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Investigators, and her arraignment date is to be determined.

At approximately 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2015, Sicairos is accused of driving a 2015 Honda Accord traveling westbound on First Street in Santa Ana. The defendant is accused of hitting 35-year-old Jorge Luis Lopez-Lobato as he was crossing the street. Sicairos is accused of driving away from the scene without stopping the vehicle to render aid or assistance to the victim. Witnesses at the scene called 911 and officers from the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) responded to investigate the hit-and-run. Lopez-Lobato was pronounced dead at the scene.

At 10:36 a.m., Sicairos is accused of filing an insurance claim with Alliance United Insurance Company (Alliance United) for vandalism on her vehicle. The defendant is accused of reporting that her vehicle was parked near 17th Street in Santa Ana and that she had found the vehicle with damage to the driver’s side and windshield area at around 2:30 a.m. Sicairos is also accused of filing a police report with SAPD on Dec. 2, 2015, claiming that her vehicle had been vandalized while parked. During Alliance United’s investigation of the insurance claim, Sicairos is accused of submitting a notarized Affidavit of Loss claiming vandalism was the reason for the damage to her vehicle.

After seeing media coverage seeking additional information about the fatal hit-and-run, a witness reported a vehicle matching the description of the vehicle involved was located at an auto body shop in Bloomington.

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