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August 10, 2016

Southern California Man Pleads Guilty to Owning Fake Law Firms That Promised to Help Struggling Homeowners

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

The Department of Justice announced that an Orange County, California, man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California, for his role as the owner and operator of a multi-million dollar fraudulent mortgage modification scheme that posed as a successful law firm to defraud struggling homeowners.

Bryan D’Antonio, 50, of Brea, California, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter for the Central District of California to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for his role as owner and operator of Rodis Law Group (RLG) and America’s Law Group (ALG).  His sentencing is on Jan. 30, 2017.

“At the height of the mortgage crisis, this defendant, a convicted felon who was prohibited from any business engaged in telemarketing, created two fake law firms that promised struggling homeowners assistance saving their homes and modifying their mortgages,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Despite the many promises, these were telemarketing sales operations that took homeowners’ money and provided no meaningful assistance.”

“D’Antonio preyed on vulnerable victims – struggling homeowners,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California.  “Pretending to offer legal assistance to their victims, D’Antonio and his cohorts actually offered nothing but false hopes and empty promises.  Now, he will be held accountable in federal court for the damage he has caused so many victims.”

D’Antonio was previously convicted of mail and wire fraud and sentenced to four years in federal prison for his participation in a medical billing scheme.  He was also subject to a permanent injunction prohibiting him from having any involvement with any business that engaged in telemarketing or misrepresented the services it would provide.  As part of his plea hearing today, D’Antonio admitted that he started RLG while he was still on supervised release from his prior conviction.  In violation of D’Antonio’s permanent injunction, RLG and ALG sold their services through an extensive telemarketing operation and employees routinely misrepresented the services RLG and ALG would provide.

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Priest Pleaded Guilty to Tax Evasion

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

A priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose pleaded guilty today to four counts of tax evasion, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch for the Northern District of California and Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf for the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

Father Hien Minh Nguyen, 56, admitted that over a period of four years, he stole money his parishioners donated to the Diocese and willfully evaded paying income taxes on the money he misappropriated each year from 2008 through 2011.  He admitted that he deposited this money into his personal bank account, did not disclose this income to his return preparer, did not keep records of the donations he stole, and filed false income tax returns which did not report this money.

Father Nguyen also pleaded not guilty to bank fraud charges.  Those charges are still pending.

“Father Nguyen stole money from his parishioners and filed false returns with the IRS to evade his income tax obligations,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo.  “The department remains committed to holding all criminal tax offenders accountable for their illegal conduct, regardless of their profession.  No one is above the law.”

Sentencing on the tax evasion convictions has not been scheduled.  Father Nguyen faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and monetary penalties for each tax evasion conviction. Father Nguyen’s next scheduled appearance is a status conference on the bank fraud charges currently scheduled for Aug. 23.  An indictment is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.  Father Nguyen pleaded guilty to the tax evasion charges.  He has not pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges and remains presumed innocent of those charges.

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MAN SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON FOR PIMPING AND PANDERING TWO WOMEN HE DROVE FROM FRESNO TO ORANGE COUNTY TO SOLICIT COMMERCIAL SEX

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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was sentenced to three years in state prison today for pimping and pandering two women he drove from Fresno to Orange County to solicit commercial sex. Kurtis Chappell, 23, Fresno, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of pimping, two felony counts of pandering by procuring, and one misdemeanor count of driving a motor vehicle without a license.

Circumstances of the Case

Chappell is a human trafficker/pimp who exploits women for financial gain. Victims are often required to turn over all payment they receive for sex acts from sex purchasers to their pimp.

Prior to July 26, 2016, Chappell traveled with Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 from Fresno to Costa Mesa with the intent of having the victims engage in commercial sex for his benefit. Chappell transported the victims to areas known for prostitution and human trafficking in Orange County. Chappell kept money the victims received from sex purchasers for himself.

On July 26, 2016, Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) officers arranged to meet with Jane Doe 1 at a motel on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa. When CMPD contacted Jane Doe 1, they located Jane Doe 2 in the same motel room. Chappell waited in a vehicle outside of the motel room and walked to the victim’s room when he believed the sex purchaser had exited the room. At the time of his arrest, the defendant had large quantities of condoms in his vehicle that matched those in the victims’ motel room, and text messages containing language consistent with pimping the victims.

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August 9, 2016

OCSD DEPUTY CHARGED WITH UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT DATABASE TO VIEW CRIMINAL HISTORIES

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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – An Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) deputy has been charged with unauthorized access of a law enforcement database to view criminal histories. Angel Lora Guerrero, 57, Santa Ana, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of receiving unauthorized privileged information. If convicted, Guerrero faces a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 6, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-54, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

At the time of the crimes, Guerrero was employed as an OCSD deputy for approximately 16 years.

Between Oct. 31, 2014, and Nov. 1, 2015, Guerrero is accused of accessing a law enforcement criminal history database to view the privileged records and criminal histories of two individuals for purposes unrelated to his duties.

OCSD investigated this case.

Deputy District Attorney Gautam Sood of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.

Orange County District Attorney / Case # 16CM07158 / August 8, 2016

DRIVER SENTENCED TO 11 YEARS IN PRISON FOR KILLING TWO MEN IN HIGH-SPEED CRASH AFTER RUNNING STOP SIGN IN SANTA ANA

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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A speeding driver was convicted yesterday and sentenced to 11 years in state prison for killing two people by crashing into their car after driving through a stop sign in Santa Ana. Jorge Ocampo, 24, Santa Ana, pleaded guilty yesterday, Aug. 4, 2016, to two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, one felony count of hit and run with permanent injury or death, one misdemeanor count of driving without a valid license, and admitted to fleeing the scene after committing vehicular manslaughter.

At approximately 10:45 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2013, Ocampo drove at a high rate of speed and blasted loud music in an Audi sedan on Cabrillo Park Drive in Santa Ana. When he reached the intersection at Fruit Street, Ocampo failed to slow or stop at a posted stop sign and illegally drove through the intersection. He crashed into a Nissan sedan, which was legally making a left turn in the intersection.

Ocampo killed two victims, the driver of the Nissan, 54-year-old Alejandro Bravo, and 50-year-old passenger Juan Jose Luna Castro. Both victims died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

Ocampo left his vehicle at the scene and fled on foot. He failed to render any aid to the victims or notify police or paramedics about the crash. Ocampo was driving without a valid driver’s license.

Shortly before midnight on the night of the crash, Ocampo turned himself in to the Santa Ana Police Department, who investigated this case.

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Los Angeles Man Convicted in Federal Court of Distribution of Crack Cocaine

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

LOS ANGELES – A federal jury has returned guilty verdicts against a Los Angeles burger stand owner who distributed cocaine base in the form of crack cocaine.

Brian Sawyers, 57, of Los Angeles, was found guilty yesterday of two felony offenses of distribution of cocaine base in the form of crack cocaine after selling crack cocaine to a confidential informant working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

According to the evidence presented at the three-day trial, in two separate instances, Sawyers sold 26.9 grams and 70.6 grams of crack cocaine to a ATF confidential informant at his business, B.D. Burgers, in South Los Angeles.  In the first transaction, on February 8, 2012, following a series of recorded phone calls in which the informant and defendant discussed the purchase of crack cocaine, Sawyers met the informant at the burger stand, and sold the informant approximately one ounce of crack cocaine for $700.  On March 1, 2012, law enforcement officers and the informant conducted a second operation during which the informant went to the burger stand, where he met Sawyers.  They then went to Sawyers’ home, where Sawyers sold approximately two-and-a-half ounces of crack cocaine to the informant for $1,700.

“Narcotics trafficking poses a serious threat to the health and safety of our local communities,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker.  “Mr. Sawyers chose to conduct his sales of crack cocaine despite having been previously convicted of a federal narcotics offense.  As a result of his misguided choices, he shall now be facing a lengthy prison sentence.”

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August 8, 2016

Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca Indicted by Federal Grand Jury on Three Counts

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

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury today indicted former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on federal charges alleging that he conspired to obstruct justice, obstructed justice, and lied to the federal government.

The case against Baca is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is one in a series of cases resulting from an investigation into corruption and civil rights abuses at county jail facilities in downtown Los Angeles. As a result of the investigation, 20 current or former members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department were convicted of federal charges.

Baca, 74, of San Marino, California, was charged today in a three-count superseding indictment, with one count of conspiracy to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of making false statements.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of five years in prison, the obstruction of justice carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison and the charge of making a false statement carries a maximum term of five years in prison. If convicted on all counts, the total maximum Baca faces is 20 years in federal prison.

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Kratom Seized in California by United States Marshals Service

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

LOS ANGELES - The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that the United States Marshals Service seized more than 100 cases of products labeled as containing the dangerous and unapproved ingredient Kratom.

The products are distributed by Nature Therapeutics LLC, which does business as Kratom Therapy and is located in Grover Beach, California. The seized products are marketed under the brand name Kratom Therapy, and are worth approximately $150,000.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a civil forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging that the seized Kratom products are unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The FDA is warning consumers not to use any products labeled as containing the botanical substance Kratom. Mitragyna speciosa, commonly known as Kratom, grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Serious concerns exist regarding the toxicity of Kratom in multiple organ systems. Consumption of Kratom can lead to a number of health impacts including, respiratory depression, vomiting, nervousness, weight loss and constipation. Kratom has been indicated to have both narcotic and stimulant-like effects and withdrawal symptoms may include hostility, aggression, excessive tearing, aching of muscles and bones and jerky limb movements.

​”Kratom is a drug that has very serious health effects on users,” said United States Attorney Eileen Decker. “We will continue to partner with the FDA to protect the public from the distribution of unapproved and mislabeled substances like Kratom.”

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Florida Man Found Guilty of Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns with the IRS Claiming Nearly $470,000 in False Tax Refunds

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

LOS ANGELES – A Florida man accused of filing false and fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service claiming nearly $470,000 in fictitious tax refunds and then attempting to file false liens and encumbrances in retaliation against IRS employees for not paying his tax refund claims has been found guilty by a federal jury in Los Angeles.

Taquan Gullett, who also goes by Maalik Rashe El, 38, of Jacksonville, Florida, was convicted this afternoon in United States District Court.  The jury deliberated for two hours before finding Gullett guilty of two counts of making false claims against the United States government and two counts of retaliation against a federal employee or official by attempting to file a false lien or encumbrance.

“Unsatisfied with fraudulently submitting a false tax refund claim for 2009, this defendant doubled down by filing a second fraudulent return for 2010 and by retaliating against the IRS employees who properly rejected his false returns,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “As today’s jury verdicts reinforce, everyone has an obligation to report their income accurately to the IRS.  Furthermore, it is unlawful to retaliate against IRS employees who are simply doing their job, and our office will take such actions seriously and prosecute such behavior to the fullest extent of the law.”

The evidence presented at trial showed that in March, 2010, Gullett filed a 2009 income tax return with the IRS.  On that return, Gullett, an exercise physiologist who holds a Master’s degree in Kinesiology, reported that he earned $52,591 in wages, and falsely represented that he generated $221,306 in interest income from three financial institutions.  Gullett further represented that the federal tax withheld from his earnings and interest income totaled $221,687, and that he was therefore due a tax refund of $149,296.  Gullett requested that the refund be paid via electronic transfer to his personal checking account.

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August 5, 2016

Music Promoter Pleads in Coliseum Case

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:15 am

A music promoter and founder of the Electric Daisy Carnival pleaded no contest today to one count of conflict of interest and agreed to pay $150,000 to Los Angeles County for his role in the 2012 Coliseum embezzlement and bribery case, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Pasquale Rotella, 41, who also owns Insomniac Events, pleaded to a single misdemeanor count in a new case filed today as part of a plea negotiation. He was immediately sentenced by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy to summary probation for three years

Co-defendants Todd DeStefano, 43, the former Coliseum events manager, and Reza Gerami, 41, a concert promoter, return to Department 109 on Friday at 1:30 p.m. for further hearings in case BA396065.

A Grand Jury indictment unsealed in March 2012 charged DeStefano with diverting Coliseum event funds to his own company.

Rotella’s Insomniac and Gerami’s Go Ventures, both of which sponsored Coliseum events, allegedly participated in DeStefano’s embezzlement scheme.

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