Category Archives: Orange County

OC Teacher Arrested For Unlawful Sex With Minor

Photo Courtesy:  SAPD Alvar Albert Gonzalez

Photo Courtesy: SAPD
Alvar Albert Gonzalez

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – On Fri., Sept. 4, after a joint investigation between the Santa Ana Police Department and the Santa Ana Unified School District Police, Detectives arrested Alvar Albert Gonzalez, 45, of Santa Ana, for possessing/producing obscene matter and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

According to the Santa Ana Police Department, the female victim first met the suspect when she was in his class her freshman year at Santa Ana High School. In 2013, Gonzalez arranged to meet the 16-year old victim in his classroom during school lunch breaks. There, Gonzalez allegedly engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with the victim on over nine occasions. This activity was initially not reported.
In 2014, Gonzalez approached a second female student and kissed her. As a result of that incident, Gonzalez was placed on administrative leave by the Santa Ana Unified School District. While investigating this incident, Santa Ana Unified District Officials discovered inappropriate electronic images of youthful looking females on Gonzalez’ electronic media storage devices. Detectives identified one of these females by name, located her, and obtained her statement. Further investigation revealed additional images depicting criminal activity between Gonzalez and the victim occurring in 2013.
At this time, Detectives continue to investigate the possibility that there are additional victims. The Santa Ana Police Department is requesting members of the public to call Detectives if they suspect Gonzalez had inappropriate contact with other students. Please call Santa Ana Police Detectives at (714) 245-8542.
Gonzalez was booked into the Santa Ana Jail, and is being charged with Possessing/Producing Obscene Matter of a person under 18, and Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a minor).

Orange County: Burglary Arrest Assisted By Airship “Duke”

Photo Courtesy:  SAPD OC Sheriff’s Airship, “Duke,” assists Officers in burglary arrest.

Photo Courtesy: SAPD
OC Sheriff’s Airship, “Duke,” assists Officers in burglary arrest

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – On Mon., Aug. 31, at approximately 8:50 a.m., a resident reported seeing a suspicious male knocking on his neighbor’s door. When the male received no answer at the door, he went through the side yard to the rear of the residence and out of sight.

Responding officers requested the assistance of Orange County Sheriff’s Airship, “Duke.”

According to the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD), the suspect – matching the description provided by witnesses – was located by Duke in the rear yard of a residence where two window screens had been removed.

When Duke arrived on scene, the suspect observed the airship and ran out of the yard, entering the passenger side of a vehicle. Duke directed responding units to the vehicle, and a car stop was conducted. The male subject fled from the vehicle and ran through the apartment complex at the northeast corner of Fairview St. and Segerstrom Ave.

The female driver – Bianca Renee McNair, 25, of Santa Ana, was taken into custody without incident at the stop.

A SAPD motor officer located the suspect – Stephone Jawonn Fellows, 27, of Los Angeles – in the apartment complex and had to deploy his taser to take him into custody. Further investigation showed that Fellows had successfully forced entry into the garage of a residence in the 3000 block of South Griset Pl.; however, it appears the crime was interrupted by the arrival of Duke on scene.

Both suspects were arrested for Burglary and Conspiracy to Commit a Crime.

Orange County Barber Arrested For Lewd Acts With Minor

Public assistance requested in identifying additional victims

 

Photo Courtesy: SAPD Ruben Olguin

Photo Courtesy: SAPD
Ruben Olguin

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – On Fri., Aug. 14, at approximately 11 a.m., Santa Ana Police Detectives arrested Ruben Olguin, 51, of Santa Ana, for Lewd Acts with a Child. Olguin was arrested from his place of employment, the Salon De Belleza Nuevo Guadalajara, located at 118 E. 4th St. in Santa Ana.
According to the SAPD, this past July, a 14-year old victim and his mother went to their usual barber – Olguin – at the Salon De Belleza Nuevo Guadalajara. The victim and his mother had been to the same barber several times and trusted him. Olguin took the victim to a private location in the back of the Salon to wash and shampoo the child’s hair. There, it is alleged that Olguin molested the victim while the mother waited in the front of the store.
Olguin is currently being held at the Orange County Jail with bail set at $100,000.
Due to Olguin’s access to children and the public, the SAPD is asking for the public’s help in identifying any additional victims or witnesses who may have observed him acting inappropriately.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Detective Corporal Javier Aceves at (714) 245-8542 or Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.

Orange County: West Nile Virus Active

Photo Courtesy:  nwmadil.com Mosquito breeding sources

Photo Courtesy: nwmadil.com
Mosquito breeding sources

Staff Reports

Orange County – The Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District (OCMVCD) would like to make residents aware, in portions of Northeastern Orange County, that mosquito and dead bird samples have tested positive for West Nile virus.
In 2014, Orange County reported the highest number of human infections of West Nile virus in the nation with 280, including nine deaths. OCMVCD uses more than ten years of sampling data collected during routine monitoring and testing of mosquitoes, dead birds, and human infections to determine areas of greater risk throughout the county.
To date in 2015, OCMVCD confirmed West Nile virus-positive test results from the cities of Anaheim, Cypress, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Orange, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Tustin, and Yorba Linda. So far this year, OCMVCD has reported a total of 81 positive mosquito samples and ten dead birds. There are no reported human cases at this time. A total list of all positives can be found at www.ocvcd.org.
Mosquitoes acquire the virus when they feed on infected birds, and subsequently pass the virus along when they bite humans. There is no cure for West Nile virus.
Partnership to Protect Your Community: All mosquitoes need standing water to complete their life cycle. Even though OCMVCD Inspectors are conducting investigations to find mosquito breeding in communities all over Orange County, standing water sources remain unidentified. These unidentified sources are maintaining mosquito populations and threaten your quality of life. OCMVCD is asking for your help to find and eliminate hidden sources.
How You Can Help: It takes just two minutes of your time to help prevent future outbreaks of West Nile virus. Simply inspect your property and dump or drain any water found, and take the necessary steps to prevent the source from refilling. In addition to common breeding sources, above and underground remnants of our agricultural past (standpipes, well heads, irrigation channels) may be present on your property and can breed mosquitoes. This easy practice is the most effective method of controlling mosquitoes. If you observe any standing water not on your property, alert OCMVCD. An inspector will be dispatched to catalogue and treat the source with mosquito control products.
Residents can also take an active role in reducing the threat of West Nile virus by taking the following steps:
· Eliminate any standing water around your home.
· Ensure that swimming pools, spas, and ponds are properly maintained.
· Change the water in pet dishes, birdbaths, and other small containers weekly.
· Request FREE mosquitofish for placement in ornamental ponds.
· Make sure all window and door screens on your house are in good repair.
· Wear a repellent containing DEET®, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or IR 3535.
· Contact the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District to report dead birds or neglected pools by calling (714) 971-2421 or (949) 654-2421, or visit www.ocvcd.org

Orange County: Officers Arrest Bank Robbery Suspect

Photo Courtesy:  SAPD Alleged Bank Robber, Dia Chanh Diep, 43

Photo Courtesy: SAPD
Alleged Bank Robber, Dia Chanh Diep, 43

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – On Tues., Aug. 4, at approximately 4:57 p.m., a male Asian suspect entered the Bank of America located at 102 W. 4th Street in Santa Ana.  He presented the teller with a note, which stated he had a gun and demanded money. Out of fear for her safety, the teller provided the suspect with an undisclosed amount of U.S. currency. The suspect fled the location on foot.

With the assistance of Orange County Sheriff’s Air Support, “Duke,” the suspect was located and Officers were directed to the area of 600 W. Santa Ana Blvd.  When the Officers arrived, they were lead to a possible suspect by a security guard. The suspect was ultimately located and detained.

The suspect was positively identified during a field show-up as Dia Chanh Diep, 43, a transient. Money believed to have been taken in the robbery was located with the suspect.

Robbery Detectives and the FBI were both notified and assisted in the investigation. The suspect was arrested for bank robbery and booked at the Santa Ana Police Jail.

Photo Courtesy:  SAPD Alleged Bank Robber, Dia Chanh Diep, 43

Photo Courtesy: SAPD
Alleged Bank Robber, Dia Chanh Diep, 43

Photo Courtesy:  SAPD Alleged Bank Robber, Dia Chanh Diep, 43

Photo Courtesy: SAPD
Alleged Bank Robber, Dia Chanh Diep, 43

Orange County: Streetcar Project Takes Next Step

Image Courtesy:  City of Santa Ana

Image Courtesy: City of Santa Ana

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – The OC Streetcar project marked its latest milestone this week as the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors agreed to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the city of Santa Ana, outlining the roles and responsibilities associated with the development, implementation, operations and maintenance of the project.
The OC Streetcar is planned for travel through the cities of Santa Ana and Garden Grove, and intended to provide easy connections for people traveling from trains and buses to employment, retail and recreational areas.
According to the City of Santa Ana, the streetcar is scheduled to operate along a route of approximately four miles. The route will run from the Santa Ana train station, through Downtown Santa Ana and the Civic Center, along the Pacific Electric right of way, and connect to a new multimodal transit hub at Harbor Boulevard and Westminster Avenue in Garden Grove.
“This agreement is another big step toward the realization of Orange County’s first modern streetcar,” said Santa Ana Mayor and OCTA Director, Miguel Pulido. “The streetcar will improve the way people move through the heart of our county and provide needed transportation alternatives for a modern work environment.”
Up to seven streetcars are planned to run along the route, stopping at 12 stations. By 2035, the streetcar is expected to carry more than 6,000 riders a day. Initial estimates put the project cost at $250 million, with OCTA pursuing local, state and federal funding.
The streetcar is expected to move into the design phase later this year with construction planned to begin in 2017. On the current schedule, the streetcar would begin running in 2019.
To read the full MOU, visit http://atb.octa.net/AgendaPDF/2729.pdf.

Orange County: Rockin’ Round The Zoo

Santa Ana Zoo holding black-tie Fundraiser

Photo Courtesy:  City of Santa Ana

Photo Courtesy: City of Santa Ana

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – The Friends of Santa Ana Zoo (FOSAZ), a non-profit organization, are pleased to announce tickets sales, media and sponsorship opportunities for its 23rd annual “Rockin’ Round the Zoo” at Zoofari High fundraising event.
Tickets to this year’s exclusive black-tie gala under the stars are $250 each, or $2,500 for a private table of ten. All tickets must be purchased in advance of the event, which will take place Sat., Aug. 29, from 5:30 p.m. to midnight at the Santa Ana Zoo in Prentice Park – located at 1801 Chestnut Avenue in Santa Ana. Space is limited and tickets will not be sold at the door.
With an expected attendance of more than 400 guests, the glamorous Zoofari fundraising event includes valet parking service underwritten by Tudor House Productions, a first-class dining experience catered by Parties by Panache, and a hosted bar including a special “Love Potion #9” signature drink made with Tito’s Handmade vanilla vodka, root beer and vanilla ice cream. Partygoers will enjoy photos with Elvis, 1950s themed décor by R.W.B. Party Props, dancing to the sounds of Groove Factory, and an opportunity to bid on wonderful trips, beautiful baskets, and one-of-a-kind gifts during the event’s live and silent auctions hosted by renowned auctioneer, Kimberly Fladeboe Anderson. Honorees this year include FOSAZ Board Members Patti Mickey, Patty McClendon and Steve McGuigan.
“For more than 20 years, Zoofari has played an integral role in raising the funds needed for all the special projects and improvements going on here at our favorite community zoo, including educational programs, breaking ground on new animal habitats, tackling important conservation initiatives, introducing new rides and upgrading service facilities for our guests to use and enjoy,” says Cathi Decker, event host and Executive Director of FOSAZ.
“Zoofari is a first-class fundraising event that demonstrates the love and investment the local community, surrounding businesses and FOSAZ have for the Zoo,” says David Exline, President of the FOSAZ Board. “This year’s Rockin’ Round the Zoo at Zoofari High promises to be another endearing and festive evening our guests will cherish, and a night of giving that will have a lasting and positive impact on the Santa Ana Zoo for years to come.”
To find out more about 2015 Rockin’ Round the Zoo at Zoofari High, discuss potential sponsorship opportunities or to reserve seats and purchase tickets, call (714) 953-8555, ext. 10, or visit www.santanazoo.org.
The Santa Ana Zoo is home to more than 150 animals, including 50 of the most interesting and engaging monkeys and several endangered species, like the Golden Lion Tamarins. The gates open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  General Zoo admission is $10.00 for adults, $7.00 for seniors and children 3-12 years. Children under 3 are free. The Conservation Carrousel Rides are $3 each, Zoofari Express Train Rides are $4 each, and combo tickets are $6 each. Children under 2 are free to ride with paid adult on the Train and adults standing with children on the Carrousel are free. For more information call (714) 836-4000 or visit our website at: www.santaanazoo.org.

Orange County: Disney Employee Arrest

Cast Member attempts to trade park tickets in exchange for sex with minor

 

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – On July 1, a Disneyland Resort employee allegedly posted an ad on Craigslist seeking women willing to engage in sexual acts in exchange for tickets to the Resort parks.

According to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA), the suspect – Darreck Michael Enciso, 27, of Adelanto – is accused of communicating with a Huntington Beach Police Department (HBPD) Undercover Officer, whom he thought was a 14-year old girl, interested in the tickets.  On July 9, Enciso showed up at the designated meeting place on Beach Blvd. in Huntington Beach with condoms and Disneyland park tickets in his possession.

Enciso was arrested and charged with one felony count of attempted lewd acts upon a child, one felony count of contacting a child with the intent to commit a specified sex crime, and one felony count of meeting a minor with the intent to engage in lewd conduct.

Enciso was scheduled to be arraigned on Mon., July 13.  If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of four years and eight months in prison, as well as mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender.  He is reportedly being held on $100,000 bail at the Santa Ana Central Jail.

The Disneyland Resort reportedly terminated Enciso following his arrest.

The OCDA and the HBPD are seeking the public’s help in identifying potential additional victims of Enciso, who is accused of posting several similar ads on Craigslist.  Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Mark Gutierrez at (714) 347-8794, or HBPD Detective, Angela Bennett, at (714) 536-5960.

Orange County: 4th Of July Trouble

Photo Courtesy:  SAPD

Photo Courtesy: SAPD
Ryan Matthew Brown

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – On Sat., July 4, at approximately 9:40 p.m., Santa Ana Police Officers responded to the 2500 block of North Linwood Avenue to assist first responders with a male who was lying in the street, unresponsive.  Officers arrived to find Orange County Fire personnel performing CPR on a 55-year old male.

The victim was transported to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where he was pronounced deceased.

In their preliminary investigation, Homicide Detectives found that a fight occurred during a large neighborhood Fourth of July party.  The victim was a participant in the fight, but it is unclear is the male sustained an assault injury, or died as a result of a medical condition.  The cause of death is pending autopsy.

Anyone with information regarding this incident as asked to call SAPD Homicide Detectives at (714) 245-8390, or Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.

In another incident that occurred on Wed., July 1, at approximately 6:47 p.m., SAPD Officers responded to the 900 block of West 17th Street in reference to a fireworks complaint.  Officers were advised that a resident at a complex had thrown a makeshift bottle bomb at a juvenile victim as he was walking in the alley.

Remnants of the device were recovered at the scene which consisted of a legal firework that was modified to explode inside of a bottle.

At the time of the initial investigation, the suspect – Ryan Matthew Brown, 37, of Santa Ana – fled the scene through the rear of his residence.  Officers returned to the suspect’s home at approximately 10:30 p.m., and took Brown into custody without incident.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad assisted officers with this investigation, and Brown was booked on felony charges of Using a Destructive Device Causing Bodily Injury, and Willful Cruelty to a Child with Possible Injury or Death.

Orange County: Nation’s Birthday Celebrated With A Bang

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – Join the Mayor and City Council for family style fun and a spectacular fireworks show at the City of Santa Ana’s 2015 Independence Day Celebration.  The event will be held at Centennial Park on Sat., July 4, from 4 to 9:30 p.m.

“Santa Ana’s annual tradition on the 4th of July is to have fun, show your patriotism, picnic at the park, enjoy great music, learn about history, and watch a spectacular fireworks show over the Centennial Park lakes,” said Santa Ana Council Member, David Benavides.
The Independence Day celebration will feature live performances by the Full Spectrum Band and Santa Ana High School. The celebration will also feature a History Walk with costumed characters from our nation’s history educating children, a kid’s zone play area with three bounce houses and games, Civil War cannons, and recognition of our Armed Forces. The fireworks show will begin at 9 p.m.  Bring a picnic basket or enjoy the various food vendors throughout the park. Admission is free and guests are encouraged to arrive early to find a spot in the park.
Council member, Roman Reyna, who leads a group of youth to volunteer in helping produce the event, said, “I am particularly thrilled that every year we get Santa Ana Youth more and more involved in these types of events. This is the best way to engage and motivate our youth to become leaders.”
Centennial Park is located at 3000 W Edinger Ave, in Santa Ana.  For more information, contact Enrique Marban at Emarban@santa-ana.org, or call (714) 571-4254.

Orange County: Citizen Helps To Arrest Robbery Suspect

Anonymous caller sees suspect vehicle shown in TV news story

Photo Courtesy:  SAPD Heriberto Escalera Contreras

Photo Courtesy: SAPD
Heriberto Escalera Contreras

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – On Mon., June 15, at approximately 7:30 a.m., a woman entered a 7-Eleven convenience store located at 2242 S. Grand Ave.; her 10-year old daughter waited in the car.

A man parked his van next to the woman’s vehicle and was able to look down into her car and see a wallet in the center console.  The man exited his van, opened the woman’s car door, grabbed the wallet and got back into his van.

The 10-year old got out of her car and opened the man’s van door in an attempt to retrieve the stolen wallet.  The man attempted to close the door, and a struggle between the two ensued with the door opening and closing for about a minute’s time.  Eventually, the man handed the girl the wallet.

As the man was about to leave, the mother exited the store.  When the girl told her mother what had happened, the mother ran up to the suspect and told him she was calling the police.  The girl used her cell phone to photograph the van’s rear license plate as the suspect drove from the parking lot.

The child was not injured, and the wallet – containing cash – was retained by the victim.

On Thurs., June 18, at approximately 4:50 p.m., Officers responded to the Mobile Gas Station at Edinger and Main streets after an anonymous citizen called to report that the suspect vehicle that was shown on TV news of the robbery that occurred at the 7-Eleven on June 15 was currently parked in the gas station lot.  Officers located the subject in question – Heriberto Escalera Contreras, 36, of Santa Ana – in the vicinity and detained him without incident.

Contreras had the keys to the vehicle in his pocket and acknowledged that the van was his.  Officers arrested the subject on an unrelated warrant for Burglary and possession of Methamphetamine. The suspect was also found to have concealed narcotics on his person while being booked into the Santa Ana Jail Facility. Contreras was interviewed by Santa Ana Police Department Robbery Detectives, where he made statements placing him at the robbery scene. Contreras was positively identified by the victim as the suspect in the June 15 robbery.

OC Man Arraigned For Hit And Run Deaths

Crash killed woman and her 2-year old granddaughter

Photo Courtesy:  Irvine PD Alec Scott Abraham, 20, charged with hit-and-run deaths

Photo Courtesy: Irvine PD
Alec Scott Abraham, 20, charged with hit-and-run deaths

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – On Mon., June 15, Alec Scott Abraham, 20, of Costa Mesa, was arraigned for causing a hit-and-run crash that killed a woman and her granddaughter in Irvine. Abraham is charged with two felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, one felony count of hit-and-run with permanent injury or death, one felony count of reckless driving with bodily injury, and one misdemeanor count of petty theft by taking and carrying away, and sentencing enhancements for fleeing the scene of a vehicular manslaughter and inflicting great bodily injury.

At approximately 8:50 p.m. on June 10, Abraham was driving a Ford Mustang and traveling westbound on Alton Parkway in Irvine. He is accused of speeding and failing to stop for a red light at the intersection of Alton and Barranca parkways. Abraham reportedly slammed into the driver’s side of a Chevy Cruze being driven by Katherine Hampton, 54, who was traveling southbound on Barranca Parkway through a green light – with her daughter and two grandchildren also in the car. The crash forced the vehicles into a Honda Civic that was stopped at the red light going eastbound on Alton Parkway. The solo driver in the Honda Civic was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and released.

Shortly after the crash, Abraham allegedly approached a bystander and requested to use their cell phone.  He took the bystander’s phone, fleeing from the scene of the crash on foot.

The Orange County Fire Authority arrived on scene and transported the victims to local hospitals. Hampton died at the scene as a result of her injuries sustained in the crash.

Hampton’s daughter, 28-year-old Jane Doe, was seated in the passenger seat of the Chevy Cruze and was treated for a broken jaw. Jane Doe’s son, 7-year old John Doe, who was seated in the rear passenger seat, was treated for a broken collarbone. Jane Doe’s daughter, 2-year old Kaydence Hampton, who was seated behind the driver’s seat, was in cardiac arrest following the crash. She was revived at the hospital, but had significant brain swelling, and was pronounced dead on June 14.

Abraham was arrested at a Costa Mesa park on June 11 by the Irvine Police Department.  If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in state prison. He is being held on $1 million bail.

SAPD Arrests Suspect In Bank Robbery

Photo Courtesy:  SAPD Suspect Justin Thomas Yrrarazaval

Photo Courtesy: SAPD
Suspect Justin Thomas Yrrarazaval

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – On Thurs., May 28, at 4:41 p.m., Officers were dispatched to a bank robbery that had just occurred.  The investigation revealed that a Hispanic male suspect – armed with a black handgun – entered the Schools First Bank located at 2115 N. Broadway, demanding money and stating that he had a bomb.  The bank teller complied with the suspect’s demands and an undisclosed amount of U.S. Currency was taken.

The suspect – who was described as a male adult in his 20s, with a dark complexion, brown eyes, scar on his left cheek, wearing a trucker hat, plaid shirt and carrying a backpack – was last seen walking eastbound toward Main Street.

On Fri., May 29, at approximately 9 a.m., a Santa Ana Police Department Officer observed suspect, Justin Thomas Yrrarazaval, 20, of Santa Ana, walking in the 1300 block of North Spurgeon Street. The Officer believed Yrrarazaval was the same suspect he observed on surveillance video during the bank robbery the previous day.

Robbery Detectives responded to the Officer’s location and transported the suspect to the Police Department where he was questioned about his involvement in the Bank Robbery.  Yrrarazaval was then booked into the Santa Ana Police Jail on the charge of Bank Robbery.

“Sorry, We Are No Longer In Business”

PennySaver abruptly closes its doors after 53 years

The iconic PennySaver

The iconic PennySaver

Staff Reports

Brea – On Friday evening, May 22, employees of the PennySaver in Brea, California, received quite a shock after a full week of business as usual and looking forward to a long Memorial weekend.  Reportedly hundreds of employees were laid off – without notice – after they had met the deadlines on their very last issue.  Some left under security; all read the crudely written signs placed on the gates and front doors that read, “CLOSED.  Sorry, we are no longer in business.”

PennySaver employee, Luann Benton, told CBS Los Angeles, “I’ve been with the company for over 30 years and everything is a complete shock.  We had no idea the company was going to shut down…”

A mailbox stable for more than 50 years, the iconic periodical leaflet was the go-to for whatever you happened to be in the market for.

The PennySaver was founded in Huntington Beach in 1962, and presented itself as “Champion of the little guy, trying to level the playing field for small businesses through print and online classifieds and coupons that are tailored to a specific targeted local community.”

PennySaver CEO, Ronald Myers, reportedly issued a statement stating empathy for his employees during this difficult time.

“PennySaver did everything possible to try to stay in business and was in the process of pursuing a number of alternatives when our lender unexpectedly ceased our funding late Friday evening. Without any funding the company was forced to immediately cease operations,” Myers said in a statement to CBS.

Although employees received no notice and little – if any – explanation, the PennySaver has not heard the last from them. Labor laws will be called into question as they wait for answers to questions posed at a post-layoff meeting held at the Brea headquarters on Tues., May 26.  Executives reportedly stated that employees would not be receiving final paychecks or benefits.  The office of California’s Labor Commissioner is said to be looking into the situation.

 

OC Attorney Charged With Witness Tampering

Irvine lawyer arrested after accepting money to smuggle a witness out of the U.S.

Photo Courtesy:  U.S. Department of Justice   Attorney Ken Zhiyi Liang

Photo Courtesy: U.S. Department of Justice
Attorney Ken Zhiyi Liang

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – An Irvine-based immigration attorney has been arrested and charged with attempted witness tampering after agreeing to help a Chinese national flee from the United States after the woman had been designated as a “material witness” in a criminal investigation into “birthing houses” operating in Southern California.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office, Ken Zhiyi Liang, 38, of Irvine, was arrested on the afternoon of Fri., May 15, after accepting $6,000 from the witness in exchange for assisting her abscond to China. In a criminal complaint filed on May 16, Liang was charged with attempted witness tampering.  Liang was scheduled to make his initial court appearance on Mon., May 18 in United States District Court.

The Chinese national had been designated as a material witness in the federal investigation, meaning she was subject to a court order preventing her from leaving the U.S. without authorization from the government or court. Liang had represented the witness in the matter until the court removed him as attorney of record, over his objections, on Apr. 17.

The federal investigation – which became known when authorities executed dozens of search warrants in early March – focuses on so-called birthing houses that “provided services to Chinese nationals, who travelled into the United States from China, for the purpose of giving birth to children so that the children could obtain United States citizenship,” according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Liang.

The affidavit, which was written by a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, recounts several video- and audio-recorded calls and meetings between Liang and the witness. During these conversations, Liang outlined a plan in which he would assist the witness by having her board a commercial airliner in the United States without travel documentation, so she could escape to China undetected by federal authorities. At one of the meetings, Liang told the witness that he could guarantee her safe return to China in exchange for a $6,000 fee for himself, and up to $3,000 to pay for help provided by three others.

During the meetings detailed in the affidavit, Liang refused to provide a written contract to the witness and requested that she pay him in cash, delete text messages and call logs, and begin using a prepaid cellular phone for all future communications.

Unbeknownst to Liang, the witness was cooperating with federal agents, who were monitoring the conversations between Liang and the witness. Liang was arrested by federal authorities as he was walking with the witness toward his car, supposedly to begin a trip to a coffee shop in Corona, where he was going to introduce the witness to the co-conspirators, who are not identified in the affidavit. After his arrest, Liang led agents back to his office, where he returned the $6,000 he had accepted from the witness.

According to the affidavit in Liang’s case, the attorney provided assistance to two other material witnesses – LongJing Yi, and her husband, Jun Xiao – who fled to the U.S. on Apr. 4 and were subsequently charged in relation to their flight from the U.S.  Another material witness who allegedly received help from Liang was intercepted at Los Angeles International Airport on Apr. 15.

If convicted, Liang could face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

OC Firefighter Pleads Guilty

Child porn charges to produce explicit photos of young girls abroad

 

Staff Reports

Santa Ana – A Huntington Beach commercial firefighter pleaded guilty on Fri., May 8, to a federal charge of attempting to produce child pornography.

John McArthur, 57, a California-licensed fire captain – who at the time of the criminal conduct in 2012 worked for a ConocoPhillips oil refinery in San Pedro – pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Josephine Staton.

An investigation revealed that in Jan. 2012, McArthur had online conversations with a person he believed was a 13-year old girl in the Philippines. During those online conversations, McArthur agreed to send money for the purchase of a camera that would be used to take sexually explicit photographs of the girl and an 11-year old friend. McArthur later went to a Western Union agent to transfer the money to the minor.

Unbeknownst to McArthur at the time, the person posing as the 13-year old girl was Robert Oliver Clark, 75, a United States citizen residing in the Philippines. Clark was arrested in September 2014 in a related case, and he has agreed to plead guilty to possession of child pornography. In a plea agreement recently filed in United States District Court, Clark admitted that he “possessed, in his computer hard drive and in his email accounts, 5,443 images and 53 videos of child pornography, including 43 images and 1 video portraying sadistic or masochistic conduct and 16 images portraying toddlers.” Clark, who resided in Texas prior to moving to the Philippines, is scheduled to enter his guilty plea on May 21 in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

During this investigation, law enforcement authorities discovered that McArthur received hundreds of images and several videos of child pornography through his email accounts.

McArthur is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Staton on Aug. 21, at which time he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.

The investigation into McArthur and Clark was headed by the United States Postal Inspection Service, which received substantial assistance from the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; and the Los Angeles Joint Regional Intelligence Center.

“Protecting children from crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation is a priority for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service,” stated Robert Wemyss, Inspector in Charge for the Los Angeles Division. “I’m proud of the work of the Postal Inspection Service and our investigative partners to bring child predators to justice. U.S. Postal Inspectors have investigated these crimes for more than a century. While the predators’ use of technology has evolved, the core harm has not changed: a child’s lost innocence. We will not lose sight of this, and remain steadfast in our efforts to investigate, apprehend, and assist in the prosecution of those who seek to exploit children via the U.S. Mail, wherever in the world they may be.”

 

Two Guilty In Nip And Tuck Bust

Staff Reports

Orange – A federal jury has convicted two local women in connection with a scheme to defraud union and private health insurance programs by submitting bills for more than $71 million – and receiving over $50 million in payments – for medically unnecessary procedures on patients who received free or discounted cosmetic surgeries.

According to the Assistant United States Attorney’s Office, on Thurs., Mar. 5, Theresa Fisher, 45, of Tustin, was found guilty on five counts of mail fraud; and Lindsay Hardgraves, 30, of San Pedro, was found guilty on two counts of mail fraud.

The evidence presented during a six-day trial showed that members of the scheme lured insured “patients” to a surgery center in Orange, with promises that they could use their union or PPO health insurance plans to pay for cosmetic surgeries, which are generally not covered by insurance. The surgery center was known at various times as Princess Cosmetic Surgery, Vista Surgical Center, and Empire Surgical Center.

Marketers such as Hardgraves referred “patients” to the surgery center, where they were told they could receive free or discounted cosmetic surgeries if they underwent multiple, medically unnecessary procedures that would be billed to their union or PPO health care benefit program. Fisher was a consultant at the surgery center who scheduled procedures after telling the “patients” about the free cosmetic procedures they could receive, and coaching them to fabricate or exaggerate symptoms so that their medical procedures would be covered by their insurance.

The unnecessary procedures typically performed on the “patients” were endoscopies, colonoscopies and cystoscopies. Once the health care benefit program paid the claims, the patients were given free or discounted cosmetic surgeries, including “tummy tucks,” breast augmentations and liposuction. In some cases, the surgery center simply billed cosmetic procedures (such as tummy tucks) as if they were medically necessary procedures (such as hernia surgeries).

A large number of the fraudulent claims were submitted to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Operating Engineers Union health insurance plans. Other victim insurers included Aetna and Anthem.

Fisher and Hardgraves are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge, Josephine L. Staton, on May 29. At sentencing, each defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each count of mail fraud.

 

Drug-Infused Bread Closes OC Bakery

Staff Reports

An example of Rosca de Reyes (or Three Kings Bread)  (Photo courtesy of Google Images)

An example of Rosca de Reyes (or Three Kings Bread) (Photo courtesy of Google Images)

Santa Ana – On Tues., Jan. 6, the Orange County Health Care Agency closed Cholula’s Bakery in the City of Santa Ana to begin a food-borne illness investigation after receiving several reports of illness related to eating Rosca de Reyes Bread distributed by the bakery on Jan. 5 and 6.

According to the Santa Ana Police Department, the O.C. Sheriff’s Crime Lab results from analysis of product samples of the bread returned positive for JWH122 – classified as a “synthetic cannabinoid,” which mimics some of the symptoms of cannabis consumption.

Wikipedia states synthetic cannabis/cannabinoids as synthetic marijuana, the effects of which are categorized in the genre of “designer drugs” and are sold as natural highs under brand names such as K2 or Spice (often termed a “spice product”).

Adverse health effects associated with ingesting synthetic cannabinoids include seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, racing heartbeat and elevated blood pressure.

Cholula’s Bakery was initially closed until the investigation into the food-borne illness was completed, and it was confirmed that the bakery completed a professional restaurant-grade cleaning of the establishment, disposed of all opened foods and all ingredients used to make the Rosca de Reyes bread, and completed mandatory food safety training for all employees.

With the synthetic drug findings by the O.C. Sheriff’s Crime Lab, the future of Cholula’s Bakery may be in jeopardy.  The case has been returned to the Santa Ana Police Department for criminal investigation.

Anyone who believes they have consumed the tainted bread is encouraged to contact the Santa Ana Police Crimes Against Persons Unit at (714) 245-8390.

Lakewood Woman Embezzles Thousands In Credit Union Scheme

FBI News Release

Santa Ana – A Lakewood woman who pleaded guilty to a protracted embezzlement scheme, which resulted in the failure of a credit union, was sentenced today to 21 months in federal prison.

Wendy Wall, 50, was sentenced by United States District Judge James V. Selna, in Santa Ana, California. In addition to the prison term, Judge Selna ordered a four year term of supervised release, to include 12 months of home confinement, and ordered Wall to pay $480,273.77 in restitution.

Wall pleaded guilty to bank fraud on September 2, 2014, for engaging in the embezzlement scheme while employed at the Pepsi Cola Federal Credit Union.

Beginning in 1993 and continuing to February 2014, Wall was the manager and sole employee at the Pepsi Cola Federal Credit Union, a small financial institution in Orange County that served local Pepsi Bottling Company employees. While employed there, Wall operated an embezzlement scheme over a period of more than a decade by using her position to create fictitious bank accounts. Wall withdrew funds against those accounts by creating fictitious loans and by writing checks using the accounts. Wall then deposited the misappropriated funds into bank accounts belonging to Wall or her family members.

The scheme was discovered following an audit by the National Credit Union Association, whose personnel contacted the FBI to investigate further. Analysis indicates that the embezzlement scheme led to the eventual failure of the Pepsi Cola Federal Credit Union; however, members were indemnified against losses under an agreement with the National Credit Union Administration.

This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in Orange County.

Orange County: Missing Irvine Woman Found

Lisa Cimbaluk, 35, of Irvine, missing since Dec. 29, 2014, was recently found in deceased in the waters of Big Bear Lake. (Photo Courtesy:  SBCounty.gov )

Lisa Cimbaluk, 35, of Irvine, missing since Dec. 29, 2014, was recently found deceased in the waters of Big Bear Lake. (Photo Courtesy: SBCounty.gov )

Staff Reports

Irvine/Big Bear – On Dec. 29, 2014, the parents of Lisa Cimbaluk, 35, reported their daughter missing from her home in Irvine. From that point, the story takes a downward turn, resulting in tragedy.
On Sun., Jan. 4, at approximately 2:15 a.m., San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) Deputies from the Big Bear Station discovered Cimbaluk’s snow-covered vehicle at the Woodland Trailhead in the mountain town of Fawnskin.
According to SBSD, Deputies and volunteers began an exploration of the immediate area, but because of the snow and extreme overnight temperatures, they suspended their search until daylight.
On Mon., Jan. 5, the search for Cimbaluk continued, with 25 search and rescue members searching the area around the North Shore Parking Lot where her car was found, as well as the Woodland Trail. Patrol Citizens handed out flyers in surrounding communities, and SBSD began aerial searches of the area.
After suspending activity for the night, the search resumed again on Tues., Jan. 6, with more than double the number of search and rescue members actively looking for Cimbaluk, including assistance from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Kern counties.
The search continued, and on Thurs., Jan. 8, at approximately 10 a.m., a body was located in the water near the South Shore area of Big Bear Lake from an aerial exploration. Personnel responded to the area and confirmed it to be a deceased female. The Coroner took charge and was able to positively identify the body as that of Lisa Ann Cimbaluk.
Whether Cimbaluk became lost or injured on the trail, or was the victim of foul play, is not known. SBSD will continue its investigation into her death, and hopefully be able to piece together the final days of Lisa Cimbaluk.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Sheriff’s Department at (909) 866-0100.