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May 6, 2016

Eight Named in Indictment that Outlines Scheme to Launder over $60 Million in Narcotics Proceeds through ‘Black Market Peso Exchange’

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:44 am

SANTA ANA, California – A Mexican national who allegedly led an organization that assisted international narcotics traffickers launder more than $60 million in illicit drug proceeds has been taken into custody, as have three of his associates.

Gustavo Barba, 59, of Guadalajara, was arrested Tuesday evening as he attempted to enter the United States through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego. Barba made an initial court appearance in San Diego federal court yesterday and will remain in custody there until a detention hearing scheduled for May 10.

Following Barba’s arrest, special agents with IRS Criminal Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration began arresting other defendants named in a 32-count money laundering indictment. A federal grand jury in Santa Ana returned the indictment under seal on July 22, 2015, and the indictment was unsealed today after three other defendants were taken into custody. Federal authorities are continuing to search for three fugitives.

Barba, who is also known as “Gus” and “Gustavo Barba Casillas,” is the lead defendant in the indictment that alleges a series of money laundering crimes, including conspiring to launder narcotics proceeds. Barba operates Barba International, Inc., which has offices in Guadalajara and the Los Angeles Jewelry District and is also charged as a defendant. The indictment describes how Barba’s organization allegedly used a “Black Market Peso Exchange” (BMPE) scheme to convert millions of dollars generated by drug sales in the United States into pesos that are delivered to drug trafficking organizations in Mexico.

The BMPE is one of the primary methods used by drug cartels to launder proceeds generated by drug sales in the United States and return the proceeds to where the cartels are located. The BMPE involves both illegal drug trafficking and legitimate businesses operating throughout the Americas, and the scheme solves problems faced by both groups. Drug cartels have massive amounts of U.S. currency – often in small denominations – that is difficult to transport in bulk or to deposit into financial institutions. At the same time, some legitimate businesses in Mexico want U.S. dollars in the United States to pay domestic suppliers and manufacturers so they can avoid incurring fees and taxes that would result if they wired the money to the United States through legitimate channels.


San Gabriel Man Who Allegedly Operated Ponzi Scheme that Collected Nearly $7 Million Arrested on Fraud Charges

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:39 am

LOS ANGELES – The operator of a Brea-based investment company that prosecutors allege was a Ponzi scheme that brought in about $7 million with promises of breakthrough products made with graphene was arrested this morning on federal fraud charges.

Wenxing Huang, who is also known as “Di Peng” and “Fatty,” 33, of San Gabriel, was taken into custody by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A criminal complaint unsealed after this morning’s arrest charges Huang with wire fraud and money laundering, charges that together carry a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.

Huang operated Ju Ding, Inc., which solicited funds from investors with false promises that their money would be used to invest in and develop technology based on graphene, which is a layer of pure carbon that is only one atom thick. But, according to the complaint, Ju Ding does not appear to have engaged in any business or to have sold any goods.

An FBI agent who reviewed Ju Ding financial accounts determined that approximately 400 victims invested more than $6.9 million in traceable funds (which does not include cash deposits that may have been made with the company). Huang used approximately half of the funds deposited with Ju Ding to purchase a $1.3 million home in Diamond Bar, luxury automobiles and jewelry.


California Man Sentenced to Over 16 Years in Prison for Producing Child Pornography

Filed under: California Chid Pornography Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:35 am

A California man was sentenced today to 16 years and three months in prison for producing child pornography, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert of the Eastern District of California, Special Agent in Charge Ryan Spradlin of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) San Francisco Field Division and Chief of Police Robert D. Landon of the Yuba City, California, Police Department.

Nathan Penner, 26, of Yuba City, California, pleaded guilty on Nov. 5, 2015, to one count of production of child pornography.  U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley of the Eastern District of California sentenced Penner today and also ordered him to serve a lifetime term of supervised release.

In connection with his plea, Penner admitted to producing sexually explicit images and videos of a five-year old minor in September and October of 2012.  Evidence revealed that Penner shared hundreds of files of child pornography located on his computer and distributed such material using an online chat messaging service.

This case was investigated by HSI and the Yuba City Police Department.  Trial Attorney Reginald E. Jones of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh F. Sigal of the Eastern District of California prosecuted the case.  CEOS’ High Technology Investigative Unit assisted with computer forensic analysis for the case.


May 5, 2016

Monrovia Woman Arrested for Allegedly Pepper Spraying Mail Carrier

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

LOS ANGELES – Postal Inspectors this morning arrested a Monrovia woman on federal charges of assaulting a mail carrier, who allegedly was subjected to racial epithets and then pepper sprayed in the face.

Ruby Guerrero Valenzuela, 64, was arrested on charges of assaulting the United States Postal Service employee in an incident on April 20 in Pasadena.

Valenzuela is expected to make her initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Valenzuela apparently believed that the mail carrier’s vehicle had cut her off at an intersection in Pasadena. Valenzuela shouted obscenities and followed the victim to her next stop, where Valenzuela ran up the victim, who had walked to the entrance of a building on Lake Avenue. According to witnesses, Valenzuela screamed additional obscenities and racial epithets at the victim before spraying the victim in the face with pepper spray, which caused the victim to suffer severe pain and blurred vision.

“The evidence in this case indicates that a postal carrier carrying out her duties was the victim of an unwarranted attack,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “All federal employees should be able to carry out their duties without fear of attacks based on the performance of those duties.”



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

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A woman was arraigned yesterday, May 2, 2016, on charges of submitting a fraudulent insurance claim over $16,000 for a vehicle being driven by a relative in a minor collision. Amezcua Alejandra Rodriguez, 40, Santa Ana, is charged with two felony counts of insurance fraud. If convicted, Rodriguez faces a maximum sentence of six years in state prison. Rodriguez is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing June 17, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

On May 29, 2015, Rodriguez’s relative was involved in a minor vehicle collision by hitting a guardrail in Garden Grove. Rodriguez is accused of not being in the vehicle at the time of the collision.

On June 1, 2015, Rodriguez is accused of submitting a claim to Infinity Insurance stating that she was the driver of the vehicle in order to shield her relative from the collision investigation. Rodriguez is accused of subsequently receiving a claim benefit for over $16,000 from Infinity Insurance.

The California Department of Insurance (CDI) conducted an investigation into this case after Infinity Insurance reviewed Garden Grove Police Department’s report of the crash, which indicated that Rodriguez had not been the driver of the vehicle.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office often works jointly with CDI in prosecuting automobile fraud related cases. Such efforts are supported by grant funding allocated by CDI through their Automobile Insurance Fraud Program.


Riverside Man Sentenced to Decade in Federal Prison for Third Conviction of Possessing Child Pornography

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

LOS ANGELES – A Riverside man has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for possessing about 100 images depicting child pornography, including sexually explicit pictures of pre-pubescent girls under the age of 12.

James Gregory O’Neill, 58, was sentenced Monday afternoon by United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner.

O’Neill pleaded guilty in January to possessing child pornography on his mobile phone in the spring of 2015. When authorities discovered the pictures of O’Neill’s phone, he was on parole after being convicted in Riverside Superior Court of possessing matter depicting a minor in a sexual act, a crime that led to a two-year sentence. O’Neill had also been convicted in federal court in 2003 of distributing child pornography, a conviction that brought a 40-month prison sentence.

“Mr. O’Neill has now been convicted three separate times of serious felony offenses related to child pornography,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Even after his prior convictions, he was not deterred from continuing to engage in crimes that victimize children. Because of his repeated failure to behave lawfully, Mr. O’Neill earned the decade-long sentence imposed by the Court.”

The case against O’Neill was investigated by the Riverside Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).


May 4, 2016

Garden Grove Man Surrenders on Charges of Traveling to Canada to Have Sex with a Teen Girl He Persuaded to Send Naked Videos

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

SANTA ANA, California – A Garden Grove man was taken into federal custody this morning after being charged with receiving sexual videos from a 13-year-old girl he met on the Internet and traveling to Canada to have sex with the girl.

Paul Binh Do, 29, was arrested after he surrendered himself to federal authorities this morning.

Do was charged last month with one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of receipt of child pornography.  In a plea agreement also filed last month, Do agreed to plead guilty to the charges that could send him to federal prison for as long as 50 years.

“All forms of child exploitation are deeply troubling, and this case demonstrates how quickly online child exploitation can lead to physical exploitation,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Mr. Do coerced a girl that he knew was only 13 to perform sex acts on camera and then travelled to another country in the hopes of further exploiting her. If not for the timely intervention of law enforcement here and in Canada, a greater tragedy would almost certainly have occurred.”

According to the documents filed in United States District court, Do began an online relationship with a 13-year-old girl and soon thereafter they began exchanging naked videos of themselves engaging in sexual conduct.  Two years ago today, Do traveled to Canada from Orange County to celebrate the victim’s 14th birthday and have sex with her, but he was stopped by Canadian law enforcement as he attempted to enter into the country.


Sacramento Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Producing Child Pornography Used in Online Ads for Prostitution Services

Filed under: California Chid Pornography Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

LOS ANGELES – A Sacramento man was sentenced today to 15 years in federal prison today for producing child pornography that was used to advertise the victim as a prostitute.

Antonio Dickerson, 26, was found guilty in February by a federal jury of one count of sexual exploitation of a minor for production of child pornography.

Previously in this case, Dickerson’s co-defendant – D’Antoine Thomas, 26, also of Sacramento – pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor. Thomas was sentenced by Judge Wilson in March to seven years in federal prison.

The victim in the case was 16 when she met Thomas in Sacramento in 2010.  She soon started working for Thomas as a prostitute in Northern California. In April 2011, Dickerson transported Thomas, the victim and another prostitute to Orange County. During this trip, Dickerson directed the 16-year-old victim and another prostitute to simulate sex acts, which he photographed and posted on a website to advertise prostitution services involving the girls.

Dickerson also directed the victim and another 16-year old girl to engage in commercial sex acts, according to the sentencing papers filed by prosecutors, which noted that Dickerson was well aware of the victim’s age, but he “didn’t care” how old she was.


Couple Sentenced to Years in Prison in Scheme that Used Stolen Identities to Steal over $900,000 from California Disability System

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

LOS ANGELES – A Lancaster couple has been sentenced, with each receiving several years in federal prison, for conspiring to defraud the California Employment Development Department (EDD) by filing fraudulent applications for disability benefits and obtaining more than $900,000 from the agency.

Robert Lee Lett, 48, who during the time of scheme lived in Lancaster and now claims a South Los Angeles residence, was sentenced on Monday to 57 months in federal prison by United States District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. His wife, LaTanya Annette Lett, 44, was also sentenced on Monday by Judge Birotte to 46 months in prison.

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Birotte ordered the couple to pay restitution in the total amount of $900,711.

The Letts each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud on January 25. According to court documents, including the plea agreements filed in this case, from 2011 to 2015, the Letts defrauded the EDD by filing 127 fraudulent disability applications. These applications were filed in the names of identity theft victims and included bogus certifications of disability with forged doctors’ signatures.

The Letts arranged to have mail received in the victims’ names at a dozen different addresses and repeatedly used the disability benefits cards they received in the mail to withdraw over $900,000 in cash from ATM’s during the four year period.


May 3, 2016

Two Arrested on Federal Charges of Stealing Mail from Hundreds of Mailboxes at Corona Apartment Complex

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:08 am

RIVERSIDE, California – Two Corona residents were arrested this morning by Postal Inspectors on federal conspiracy and mail theft-related offenses for a scheme that resulted in them using a counterfeit Postal Service key to access 300 mailboxes at a Corona apartment complex and steal mail. A third defendant is currently a fugitive being sought by federal authorities.

Today’s arrests are the result of federal grand jury indictment filed on Wednesday. The two taken into custody today are Bernie Martinez, 23, and Kammi Leigh Vestesen, 24. These defendants are expected to be arraigned on the three-count indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside.

The third defendant named in the indictment – Hector Mendez, 29, of Corona – is being sought by authorities.

According to the indictment, Martinez and Vestesen entered the mail room of the Sierra Del Oro apartment complex on April 10 and used a counterfeit Postal Service key to open resident mailboxes. All three defendants allegedly went to the same mailroom on April 12, used the counterfeit key to open mailboxes and left the premises with a trash bag full of mail.

The indictment specifically charges all three defendants will conspiracy, mail theft and possession of a counterfeit United States Postal Service key.


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