By Marissa Mitchell
Chino Hills – Chino Hills citizen Juan C. Rosas Santillana, age 33, is scheduled to plead guilty on April 21 for participating in a racketeering scheme by acting as a recruiter in a large-scale bribery operation.
On Wednesday, March 29, a former clerk of the Orange County Superior Court pled guilty to federal racketeering charges. With the aid of above Chino Hills resident Juan Rosas and other recruiters, the clerk collected more than a $250,000 in bribes to illegally resolve both criminal cases and traffic offenses.
The clerk, Jose Lopez Jr., age 36 of Anaheim, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Lopez admitted that he was at the center of a scheme in which co-conspirators (including Chino Hills resident Santillana) paid him as much as $8,000 in bribes to “fix” cases.
Chino Hills resident Juan Rosas Santillana and others were middlemen who “recruited” individuals with pending cases to pay money to resolve their cases without authorization of the court.
With the help of aforementioned middlemen, or recruiters, “defendant [Lopez] improperly resolved approximately 1,034 cases, including 69 misdemeanor driving under the influence cases, 160 other misdemeanor cases and 805 traffic-related infraction cases.” Lopez admitted to these charges on the plea agreement.
Over the course of 5 years, recruiters sent to Lopez and Lopez subsequently “resolved” cases by entering information in court computers to do any or multiple of the following: making it appear that a defendant had pled guilty, making it appear that required fees had been paid and/or community service time served, and even that drunk driving charges had been dismissed or defendants had already served required jail time.
Moreover, Lopez was also found to have forged the signature of a prosecutor within the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The conspiracy finally ended in the spring of 2015 when the court discovered the misconduct and took steps to reopen cases that Lopez and his affiliates had interfered with.
“This defendant compromised the justice system in Orange County to line his pocket with money he used to travel abroad, take trips to Las Vegas and open a Mexican restaurant,” stated United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “This scheme affected hundreds of cases and caused havoc in the Orange County Superior Court – problems that were further complicated when the former clerk encouraged others to lie about the scheme.”
Lopez pled guilty before United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on September 22. Consequently, Lopez faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
“The defendant ignored the rule of law and potentially undermined public safety by essentially serving as judge and jury in scores of cases to enrich himself,” declared Deirdre Fike, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI and our partners will continue to investigate complaints of corruption by public officials and those with access to sensitive information.”
With Lopez’s guilty plea, there remain 10 people charged last fall with participating in the racketeering scheme by acting as recruiters.
The other 10 defendants who have pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty are the following:
- Juan C. Rosas Santillana, 33, of Chino Hills, who is scheduled to plead guilty on April 21;
- Ricardo Quinones, 33, of Santa Ana;
- Ramon Salvador Vasquez, 28, of Santa Ana;
- Manuel Galindo Jr., 27, of Santa Ana;
- Gibram Rene Lopez, also known as “Ivan,” 27, of Anaheim;
- Agustin Sanchez Jr., 32, of Santa Ana;
- Luis Alberto Flores Guillen, also known as “Bills,” 26, of Santa Ana, who pleaded guilty earlier today;
- Oscar Centeno, also known as “Mosquito,” 27, of Santa Ana;
- Jeff Reynes Fernandez, also known as “Lean,” 25, of Fullerton; and
- Jesus Saldana, 28, of Garden Grove.
Special agents within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS Criminal Investigation continue to investigate this case.