Results tagged “Los Angeles” from The Court Reporter

Ojai Businessman Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

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LOS ANGELES - The owner of a residential and commercial paint business pleaded guilty today to failing to report to the Internal Revenue Service wages paid to employees totaling over $1.5 million, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

 

Scott G. Titus, 53, of Ojai--owner and operator of Scott Titus Painting--pleaded guilty to one count of subscribing to a false quarterly employment tax return in 2008,  federal officials stated.

 

According to the plea agreement,  during the years 2008 through 2010, Titus owned and operated Scott Titus Painting, IRS officials stated.

 

Titus painted residential and commercial properties and was paid by his clients per job.  For the years in question, Titus failed to report $1,594,971 in wages paid to the employees of Scott Titus Painting on the quarterly and annual employment tax returns filed with the IRS resulting in a tax loss to the government of at least $666,748, according to the IRS.

 

The count to which Titus pleaded guilty today relates to the employment tax return for the 2nd quarter of 2008.  Specifically, Titus reported paying wages to employees of $22,195, when in fact he paid wages of $215,774, falsely underreporting the wages paid by $193,579, IRS officials stated.

 

Titus faces a statutory maximum sentence of three years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 when sentenced in July, authorities stated.

Ten Southland Suspects Arrested Today and Charged with Growing Marijuana

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RIVERSIDE -- Ten suspects were arrested this morning and charged with being involved in a wide-ranging drug conspiracy that operates marijuana grow hours across Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to federal authorities.

            During the execution of arrest and search warrants at 26 locations, which included 15 grow houses, stretching from Arcadia to Corona to Fontana, 10 out of 11 people named in the criminal complaint were arrested.

Authorities seized more than $250,000 in cash, seven guns (including an assault rifle) and more than 8,000 marijuana plants, officials stated.

        A 124-page affidavit in support of the criminal complaint outlines an investigation into a narcotics trafficking ring allegedly led by Arcadia resident Raymond Lam.

            Federal officials allege that the drug trafficking organization purchased or leased single-family residences, which were converted to indoor farms with the sole purpose of growing marijuana.

            Each house contained industrial-size marijuana growing operations that contained, on average, 1,000 to 2,000 marrijuana plants.

        The marijuana grow houses exhibited identical arrangements that included specific types of hydroponic growing equipment and stolen electricity obtained through sophisticated bypasses of utility meters, authorities stated.

 After the marijuana was harvested, it was sold throughout California and across the United States, officials stated. 

The investigation was spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Former Congressman and LA Native Going to Prison for Tax Fraud

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LOS ANGELES--A former U.S. congressman has been sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison in a tax fraud case related to his failure to disclose to the IRS nearly $500,000 of investor funds he received from a $10 million investment fraud scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced today.

Wester Shadric Cooley, 80, a native of Los Angeles who now resides in Bend, Oregon, was sentenced Monday afternoon in federal court.

Cooley will begin serving the prison term on March 11, federal officials stated.

Cooley, who represented Oregon's 2nd congressional district during a two-year term that began in January 1995,  pleading guilty in November 2011 to subscribing to a false tax return. He admitted receiving about $1.1 million during the scheme and that he failed to report approximately $494,000 on his 2002 tax return.

The tax fraud case relates to a mail fraud and wire fraud scheme that defrauded more than 400 victim-investors out of over $10 million.

In the FBI and IRS investment fraud scheme, former IRS Revenue Agent George Tannous and convicted felon De Elroy Beeler Jr. solicited hundreds of victims across the country to purchase unregistered stock in the Tujunga-based Bidbay.com, Inc. and related companies AskGT.com and Rose Laboratories.

Cooley was the vice president of Bidbay and an executive of AskGT.com and Rose Laboratories.

Federal official stated that victims were enticed to put money into the companies by several false statements, including that the companies would conduct initial public offerings.

Investors were also told that Bidbay.com and/or the shell companies would soon be acquired by Ebay, Inc. for $20 per share, federal prosecutors stated.

 Ebay never had any intention of acquiring Bidbay.com and had even sued Bidbay.com for trademark infringement over the use of "bay" in its name, according to federal officials.

Tannous pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of subscribing to a false tax return in 2008. Tannous was sentenced in March to 33 months in prison.

Beeler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of mail fraud in late 2008. Beeler is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 4, 2013.

Q&A: Ventura County Jail and the LA Jail Report

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The Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence report was released last month by the Los Angeles County board of supervisors that was very damaging to Sheriff Lee Baca.

Among the findings were that the Sheriff Baca failed to address long-standing problems of excessive and unnecessary force by jail deputies against inmates.  Also, Sheriff Baca's senior leaders at the jail failed to monitor these problems, the report stated.

Taxpayers in Los Angeles County will probably get saddled with the financial burden to pay for lawyers to defend the lawsuits and for the damages suffered by inmates.

Here, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean answers questions for the Court Reporter Blog about the county jail, overcrowding and comments on the Los Angeles County jail report.

Q: How many inmates are currently housed at the county jail? How many are felons?

A: The inmate population at the county jail(s) fluctuates daily by as much as 50 inmates or more; this is based on a number of variables, e.g., remands, fresh arrests, releases, etc.  As of October 10, 2012, the custody population was at 1,608 inmates.  Of those, approximately 1,186 were in custody on felony related charges.  The number of sentenced inmates with felony convictions was 347.  The remaining 839 were in custody on a variety of felony charges.

 Q: What is the capacity of the county jail?

 A: The "board rated capacity" of the Ventura County Jail facilities (i.e., Pre-Trial, Todd Road, and East County) is 1,609.  We begin applying early release when the number reaches 1,600 and believe that our maximum capacity of bed space with all Quads in overflow would be around 1,850.

 

Q: Is there a problem with overcrowding at the jail? If so, why?

 A:Yes, there is a problem with overcrowding at our jail facilities.  Much of the overcrowding is a direct result of AB 109 the "Public Safety Realignment Act" that Governor Brown signed into law in 2011 and became effective on October 1, 2011.  Realignment has added around 250 inmates to our custody population, which has resulted in less bed space.  This has caused us to add bunk beds to the common areas in our housing sections, which has reduced the total dayroom space available in each section.  More bodies in the sections coupled with reduced space causes tension within the sections.  As a result, we have seen an increase in inmate-on-inmate assaults within our facility.

 

Q: What is being done to alleviate some of the overcrowding conditions?  

 A: The Sheriff's Electronic Monitoring Unit (EMU) was established in November of 2011 as a result of the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011.  This is a Detention Services based program, which assists with the management of the inmate population within our jail facilities.  Presently, the EMU consists of a senior deputy and a deputy.  They currently supervise 15-18 inmates throughout the County, but the total number of inmates being monitored can fluctuate with the overall inmate population.

In addition to the EMU, the sheriff applied to the presiding judge of the superior court to receive general authorization for a period of 30 days in order to release sentenced inmates.  This is commonly referred to asaccelerated release (Penal Code ยง4024.1). 

 

Q: Have you reviewed the Report of the Citizen's Commission on Jail Violence that was released last month?

 A: Not in it's entirety.


Q: How are you making sure that the problems that were reported by the commission about Los Angeles County jail don't occur at the jail in Ventura County?

 A: The Commission's report was very comprehensive and touched on a number of issues that had plagued the LASD jails for years, e.g., span of control, leadership, lack of training, and a culture that contributed to the excessive use of force.

 

Regarding use of force incidents within the Ventura County Sheriff's Office Detention facilities; all use of force incidents are reviewed immediately or in close proximity to when the incident occurs.

Our process has checks and balances whereby front-line supervisors review any videos of the incident and approve all reports.  The Facility Captain then reviews the reports and/or video's and determines whether or not the use of force is objectively reasonable and within Department policy.

Next, the Facility Commander reviews the reports and/or video of the incident.  Anything that is deemed unreasonable and/or outside of Sheriff's Department policy is sent to the Sheriff's Internal Affairs Unit.

Furthermore, most of the uses of force incidents are supervised by front-line supervisors, i.e., either a Sr Deputy or a Sergeant unless it involves an inmate assault on an officer, or inmate-on-inmate where immediate intervention is necessary in order to care for the safety of the inmate(s) or officer(s). 

Weekly, the Detention Services Supervisors provide training dealing with a wide range of topics including use of force policy's and ethical decision making.  They also reinforce our Department Core Values which are often recorded in commendations and evaluations.

Additionally, most use of force incidents are video recorded, which allows for immediate training by supervisors on dealing with inmate behavior and de-escalation techniques.

 

Q: How are complaints made by inmates alleging the use of excessive force or other grievances handled by the Sheriff's jail management?

 A: Complaints by inmates alleging the excessive use of force or other types of grievances are handled by way of a grievance process.

If an inmate wants to allege any type of complaint, they request a grievance, which is a written complaint about an issue regarding their treatment while in our custody.  Most grievances are handled at the lowest level possible, i.e., the deputy level, however, those pertaining to "citizen complaints" or force or discipline issues are directed to the Facility Captain.

If the grievance relates to a use of force allegation, the Facility Captain will objectively look into the allegation and meet with the Facility Commander in order to discuss the incident.  If videos are available they will be reviewed and a determination will be made as to whether or not the allegation needs to be investigated by the Sheriff's Internal Affairs Unit or handled in-house, i.e., within the jail(s).


Q: How many complaints were made by jail inmates alleging the use of excessive force in 2009, 2010 and 2011?

A: In 2009 there were (3) excessive use of force complaints that were sent to Internal Affairs.  For 2010 there were (5) allegations of excessive use of force, and in 2012 there were (4) allegations.  These investigations were conducted outside the Detention Services Bureau by the Internal Affairs Unit. 

 

Q: Does your agency keep track of the names of Sheriff's deputies who get repeated complaints by inmates alleging the use of excessive force?

A: There are a few different ways to respond to this question:  First, some use of force complaints require further investigation outside Detention Services and are therefore investigated by our Internal Affairs Unit.  In those cases, regardless of who is making the allegation, the investigations are retrievable by the deputy(s) name. 

The complaints that remain within the Detention Service Bureau that are investigated in-house and "sustained," e.g., inappropriate use of force, are kept in the deputy's file, but can also be retrieved via our computer reporting system.  The allegations that are "exonerated or unfounded" can be tracked by the same reporting system using the inmate's name.

Also, something to consider is that sometimes a deputy's name may appear in repeated complaints/grievances within the Detention Service Bureau; however, this is not an accurate representation of any wrong doing on the deputy's part.  For example, a deputy may work in an assignment where he or she has more contact with inmates, e.g., on the booking floor, and is obviously more prone to being assaulted by inmates.

Therefore, his or her name may appear in more use of force incidents, but there is no wrong doing on their part and this should be considered.

Q: Any final thoughts about this issue?  

 A: Realignment, along with over-crowding in our jails is not going to go away.  Over the last year we have seen an increase in our jail population, which we believe has had a direct causation with increased violence within our facilities.  Inmate-on-inmate violence has increased significantly over the last year. 

The reduction in day room space within the inmate sections causes more stress and tension, which then causes the inmate(s) to act out and either assault another inmate, or assault our staff.  In addition, the inmate's classification precludes us from making the best use of our bed space.  For example, we cannot house rival gang members in the same sections, and although we have double bunks in our cells, certain inmates require that they be housed by themselves, thus reducing our bed space.

Safety and security are our primary concerns and we will continue to be committed to provide for the safe, secure, and humane detention of those persons who are lawfully conveyed to our care.

 

To review the entire Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence report go to:

http://ccjv.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/CCJV-Report.pdf

 

Feds Crackdown on Pot Stores in LA and Huntington Park

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LOS ANGELES -- The federal government has taken legal action against 71 marijuana stores and Los Angeles and Huntington Park as part of an effort to crackdown on the commercial marijuana industry, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors filed three asset forfeiture lawsuits against properties where marijuana stores are located and executed federal search warrants at three other stores, federal officials stated today.
Additionally, prosecutors sent warning letters to people associated with 68 marijuana stores, federal authorities stated.
"Over the past several years, we have seen an explosion of commercial marijuana stores - an explosion that is being driven by the massive profits associated with marijuana distribution," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. in a press release. "As today's operations make it clear, sale and distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and we intend to enforce the law. Even those stores not targeted today should understand that they cannot continue to profit in violation of the law."
The federal actions in Los Angeles were done with the help of the Los Angeles police, the city's District Attorney's Office and the City Attorney's Office.

LA Physician Assistant Sentenced to Prison for Medicare Fraud

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LOS ANGELES - a Los Angeles physician assistant who stole the identifies of doctors to write medically unnecessary prescriptions for expensive medical equipment and diagnostic tests was sentenced Tuesday to six years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

David James Garrison, 50, was sentenced in federal court in connection with a $18.9 million Medicare fraud scheme, federal prosecutors stated.

South El Monte Man Agrees to Plead Guilty to a $2.5 Million Mortgage Scam

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LOS ANGELES -- A South El Monte man, who duped 200 distressed homeowners into giving him $15,000 each to eliminate mortgage debts via a "secret process," agreed on Tuesday to plea  guilty to a federal mail fraud charge, according to prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

The scam fleeced homeowners who were left with worthless paperwork of $2.5 million, federal prosecutors allege.

Ernesto Diaz, 57, who worked as a realtor, has agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation against his company, Crown Point Education, Inc, which had offices in Montebello and El Monte, federal authorities stated.

Federal prosecutors stated that Diaz joined the Crown Point scheme in March 2010 after the company had been in business for a year, the U.S. Attorney's office stated.

Diaz and others held seminars and promised distressed homeowners that in exchange for $15,000 per property, Crown Point would eliminate the homeowners mortgages within six to eight months through a secret process that involved sending packets of documents to lenders, according to prosecutors.

Diaz, however, failed to tell distressed homeowners that earlier Crown Point clients - including Diaz's own brother - had lost their houses to foreclosure and been evicted from their houses.

The claims made to distressed homeowners were based on discredited "Sovereign Citizen" claims that the mortgages are invalid because the banks did not actually lend the money used to fund mortgages, according to federal prosecutors.

Diaz is facing up to 20 years in federal prison and is schedule to be in court on Sept. 13.

 

 

Police Roundup 15 LA County Gang Suspects for Drug Dealing

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LOS ANGELES - Fifteen suspects were arrested this morning for alleged narcotics trafficking charges, according to federal officials.

The arrest of members of a criminal street gang, the Pasadena Denver Lane Bloods, came after an 18-month investigation where authoriities seized eight firearms, about $40,000 in cash, 11 pounds of cocaine and more than five pounds of crack cocaine.

 The investigation by DEA, FBI, Pasadena Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation targeted the gang's drug trafficking in the Antelope Valley, according to federal authorities.

The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.