September 2012 Archives

Today's Question

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What changes, if any, would you recommend to run the Ventura County courthouse more effectively and efficiently?


Defense Attorney Paul Tyler, of Oxnard:

"One of the biggest problems I have as a practitioner in dealing with certain types of cases in court, specifically infractions, is the Collection Department.  The Collection Department is managed separately from the Clerk's Office or it's a separate part of it."

"The problem people have problems with is when they have a traffic ticket that they have to appear on and it goes to civil assessment, which is when they don't appear, they add an extra $800 in fines. "

"Trying to get that case on calendar is a nightmare.  You can't do it through the clerk's office. For whatever reason,  the clerk  - that calendar's cases -  can't access the computer and put them on calendar. "

"So then I call in to the collection office. And, they say 'well, we can't deal with you. You're an attorney. We have to deal with the person directly.' I have to talk to the supervisor. The supervisor says, 'yes, we can put it on. But we can't put it on for 10 days or some long period of time.'"

"It seems like a minor thing but it's actually a real hassle just getting infractions dealt with because the Collections Department seems to operate under separate rules from the normal clerk's office, and it's a problem."  


Defense Attorney David L. McDuffie, of Ventura, said:

"I just think that a lot of the (criminal) things they file are BS cases.  They really don't need to be filling the courthouses with some of the cases they file. It takes up space. It takes up time. It takes up effort.  And if they would stop doing that we could free up a lot of the court time."

"I think the DA needs to look a little more carefully at what they're filing. I am sure they'll tell me that 'they are looking carefully at them.'  Some of the things they are asking for in their offers to settle are too extreme. People aren't going to settle at the very first opportunity they have if the offer is too high."

Defense Attorney David Martinez , of Ventura,  said:

 "As far as the criminal side of things, most of the cases are DUI. They're the ones that are going to tie up the court.  One of the problems is that in the arraignment court, the prosecutors don't negotiate.  But you can get a better deal if you draw the case out and keep coming back.  So that just ties of the system. It's a waste of time when you could have disposed the case earlier in the case. That's an area that could really make a big difference."

"Allow prosecutors to negotiate on arraignment on a DUI. I think that would save the court a lot of time.  Oftentimes, there are needless continuances and what not with the hope that a better deal will come out of it. Empower (prosecutors) to negotiate because they don't."


What are your thoughts and comments?

DNA and Other Evidence Frees Man from Louisiana's Death Row

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NEW ORLEANS -  A man who has been on death row in Louisiana since 1997 was exonerated today of the murder and rape of a young relative after DNA and other evidence proved he didn't commit the crime, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Damon A. Thibodeaux walked out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary today after the court dismissed the indictment against him, ACLU officials stated.

The ACLU  joined the Innocence Project  along with private lawyers worked on overturning the conviction against Thibodeaux.

Thibodeaux was tried in the killing of his 14-year-old step-cousin Crystal Champagne whose body was found on July 20, 1996, a day after she had left her apartment to go to a nearby supermarket, ACLU officials stated.

After being interviewed for nine hours, Thibodeaux confessed to raping and murdering Champagne.

The confession was the sole basis for Thibodeaux's conviction and death sentence, according to the ACLU.

 "This is a tragic illustration of why law enforcement must record the entire interrogation of any witness or potential suspect in any investigation involving a serious crime," said Attorney Steve Kaplan from Minneapolis who was on Thibodeaux's legal team.  "When juries learn that the accused has apparently confessed, they invariably have a difficult time questioning the reliability and truthfulness of the confession."


Today's Quote

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''Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jewelry Not Indian, Man Indicted in Federal Court

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ALBUQUERQUE -- A California man was indicted for falsely claiming that the jewelry he was selling was produced by an Indian, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Andrew Gene Alvarez, 59, made his first court appearance in federal court on Thursday.
On May 28, 2011, Alvarez, of Wofford Heights, California, was selling jewelry at the Native Treasures Show at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and told people that the jewelry was produced by an Indian, according to federal authorities.
Alvarez is facing up to five years in prison if he is convicted and a $250,000 fine.
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act prohibits the offer or display for sale of any goods that falsely suggest that it is Indian produced.
The case was investigated by the FBI.

Man Pleads Guilty to Trying to Extort NFL Quarterback Griffin III

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WACO, TEXAS  - A 25-year-old man pleaded guilty Thursday to trying to extort money from Robert Griffin III, the current quarterback of the NFL's Washington Redskins,  the U.S. Attorney's Office announced.

Richard Khamir Hurd pleaded guilty to interstate communication of a threat to injure the property or reputation of another person and receiving the proceeds of extortion, federal officials stated.

Between June 14 and June 22, Hurd contacted Griffin's agents initially demanding $1 million or else he would release information to the media which he claimed would severely damage Griffin's reputation.

Griffin's agent negotiated with Hurd during an investigation by the FBI. Hurd agreed to accept a lesser sum of $120,000 in exchange for the information and to sign a "non-disclosure" agreement, according to federal authorities.

On June 22, Hurd showed up at a Waco law office where he signed the non-disclosure agreement and collected a check for $120,000, federal officials stated.

Right after he did this, FBI agents arrested Hurd.

Hurd is facing up to two years and three years in federal prison for both the felony crimes, the U.S. Attorney stated.


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.

Doctor Prison-Bound for Illegally Prescribing Powerful Drugs to Patients

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PITTSBURGH -- A doctor from McMurray, Pennsylvania was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for prescribing Oxycodone and Opana, powerful painkillers to patients outside the legitimate course of medicine, according to U.S. Attorney's Office.
Oliver W. Herndon, 40, was sentenced Monday in federal court after pleading guilty to health care fraud.
Fraud occurred when the cost of the office visits and the narcotics were billed to insurance companies.
"We continue to make addressing the problem of prescription drug abuse one of our highest priorities  by targeting the illegal supply chain at every level," stated U.S.Attorney David Hickton.
The DEA, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies investigated this case.

Today's Quote

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"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." -- Jesus

Former Cop Facing 10 Years in Prison for Striking a Handcuffed Suspect

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CONNECTICUT -- A former East Haven police sergeant pleaded guilty last week to striking a handcuffed suspect while he was in the custody of two other police officers, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
John Miller, 43, pleaded guilty to violating an individual's civil rights by using unreasonable force during the course of an arrest on Jan. 3, 2010, federal authorities stated.
Miller is facing up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced in February.
"The conduct of this officer, in striking a defenseless individual, is abhorrent," stated U.S. Attorney David Fein. "Police officers serve the people of Connecticut with dedication and distinction, putting their safety on the line to protect others. This case reminds us that no one is above the law. The police officer abused his authority and violated the civil rightsof a person he is sworn to protect. Such conduct will never be tolerated."
As part of his plea agreement, Miller has agreed to cooperate fully with the government in the investigation and prosecution of this matter, according to Fein.
Other police officers are awaiting trial.
The matter is being investigated by the Civil Rights Squad of the FBI's New York Field Office, according to federal authorities.

Today's Quote

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"Another thing that freaks me out is time. Time is like a book. You have a beginning, a middle and an end. It's just a cycle."   -- Mike Tyson, former heavyweight champion. 

Atlanta Man Gets Life In Prison for Operating Sex Trafficking Ring

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ATLANTA - The operator of an Atlanta sex trafficking ring who committed violent sexual acts against his victims, bound them with duct tape, took their identification, and committed "atrocities" to hold them captives, was sentenced today in federal court to life in prison, according to U.S. Attorney's Office.

After an eight day trial in July, a jury convicted  38-year-old Soloman Manasseh Mustafa, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, of sex trafficking, kidnapping, transporting women across state lines for prostitution, document servitude, and enticement of a minor for sexual activity.

A co-defendant, Kalandra Annette Wallace, 25, was sentenced to five years in prison. She pleaded guilty in October.

Evidence against Mustafa included that two victims were bound with duct tape and put in a closet, according to federal authorities. These victims, still bound with duct tape, were taken against their will to Homewood, Alabama, for the purpose of having sex with men, state federal prosecutors.

Other victims were forced to have sex with men and all the money they earned was turned over to Mustafa and Wallace.

One victim had a gun pointed at her head and was ordered to remove her clothes and stand naked in a corner of the room. Other women were forced to inhale white powdery substance that appeared to be cocaine, according to federal prosecutors.

Two victims were handcuffed to the bed to keep them from leaving, state federal officials.

Mustafa texted a young girl believed to be 14 years old and instructed the juvenile to send him photos of herself.  Mustafa told the juvenile that she could be his sex slave, and he went to the juvenile's home to pick her up,  federal authorities stated.

The juvenile left her home by tying bed sheets together and climbing out the window.

Fortunately, say federal  authorities including the FBI say,  Mustafa let the young girl go in a subdivision close to her home.


Today's Quote

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"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." -- Abraham Lincoln

Attorney Arrested for Tax Evasion and Setting Up Illegal Wire Taps

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SAN FRANCISCO - A San Ramon attorney was indicted Tuesday for tax evasion and illegally eavesdropping n  conversations via listening devices of her clients' spouses or significant others' cars.

The federal indictment states that Mary Nolan, 50, the owner of the Law Offices of Mary Nolan in San Ramon, filed false tax returns from 2005 through 2008, according to federal prosecutors.

The unreported taxable income totaled $1.8 million resulting in additional tax due of about $593,916, say federal authorities.

The federal indictment alleges that Nolan referred clients to private investigator Christopher Butler for Butler to install concealed listening devices.

Nolan was arrested on Tuesday. She is charged with tax evasion, conspiracy to unlawfully intercept communications and  unlawful interception of communications.

Each crime carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.


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.

Trial of Two Men Accused of a Gang-Related Murder Underway

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By Raul Hernandez
Ventura County Star
Five years ago, the murder victim and his friends had just finished
tiling a bathroom at his house and were outside having pizza and beer
when his killer Paul Carrillo drove up in a black pickup with two
other men inside and stopped, a prosecutor told jurors today.
The victim Edgar Flores walked down his driveway after gang member and
murder defendant Paul Carrillo confronted one of the men with Flores,
said prosecutor Stacy Ratner during opening statements in Carrrillo's
murder trial.
"Hey, where are you from?" Ratner said Carrillo asked Flores' friend.
"It's a gang challenge."
Flores, a former Santa Paula gang member, was upset because gang
members drove up to his house, and it's considered disrespectful in
gang culture to involve family in any street dispute, according to
"What are you doing? Don't disrespect my house like this," Stacy said
Flores told Carrillo, co-defendant Manuel Rodriguez, and Miguel
Carrillo, of Ventura,  fired six times at Flores from the backseat as
his wife looked through the window, said Ratner, adding that Carrillo
yelled his gang moniker, "Snapper," and the pickup truck sped off.
"By the time the ambulance got there, he was already dead," Ratner told jurors.
Carrillo and his cousin Rodriguez, of Santa Paula, both 24, are
charged with the gang-related, drive-by murder of Flores, 27, on Aug.
24, 2007.
Gonzalez, who was the driver, pleaded guilty in 2011 for his role in
the murder in exchange for a 22-year-sentence. Gonzalez, 25, will
testify against Carrillo and Rodriguez.
Defense lawyers say he was offered 15 years to life in 2008 and
rejected the prosecution's first offer.
Ratner said the three men were out "hunting" for rival gang members.
She said Carrillo had a gun and so did Rodriguez and had planned to go
target shooting and smoke marijuana with Gonzalez, noting that the
victim was killed with Carrillo's .380 caliber gun.
"Make no mistake he (Rodriguez) never leaves his house without a gun,"
Ratner told jurors.
Defense lawyers Ron Bamieh, who represents Rodriguez, and Joseph
O'Neill, who represents, Carrillo, argued that Flores was armed when
he approached the pickup truck. Flores is affiliated with a rival
Santa Paula gang. Bamieh said Flores had a beer in one hand, and his
right hand was in his pocket. He said Gonzalez in a secretly taped
conversation at the jail shortly after his arrest told an inmate
working with detectives that nobody knew that Carrillo was going to
fire the weapon.
"We had to shoot because they thought Flores was going to shoot them,"
Bamieh said.
Defense attorneys told jurors that their clients had stopped to talk
to one of the men who was at Flores' house, Mario Godinez, when an
upset Flores came out of the house.
A weapon linked to Flores wasn't found at the crime scene, according
to police. Bamieh maintains that evidence will show that Flores had a
"The evidence will show that this was a self-defense issue," O'Neill
told jurors.

Juror Whose Wife "Fell to Pieces" After Learning He Was Serving in a Gang-Related Murder Trial Is Dismissed

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The jury trial for Manuel Rodriguez and co-defendant Paul Carrillo who are charged with a gang-related murder began Monday morning.

Twelve jurors had been selected in addition to alternate jurors, and lawyers were set to give opening statements.

But before things got underway, the court bailiff told Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger that a male juror needed to talk to the judge because he now felt that he couldn't serve on the jury.

While other jurors waited in the hallway, the juror walked into court and said that his wife "literally fell apart. Fell to pieces" when he told her he was going to serve as a juror on a gang-related murder trial.

The juror said his wife told him something about her experience.

"It shook us. It shook me," said the juror after learning what his wife told him."I haven't slept. I am not suitable for this."

The juror who was visibly nervous said that based upon what his wife who taught at a school at South Central Los Angeles told him he wanted to be dismissed from jury service.

The jury said his wife had experience "direct dealings" with gangs when she worked at the public school in South Central.

"She's a mess, and obviously, I am not doing well," said the juror after his wife spoke to him about her public school experience in South Central.

The juror said he is now biased and felt that he can't sit in the jury box for the murder trial.

The judge asked what exactly his wife told him.

"Do you really want to know," said the juror, and then, he said that gang members are "criminal killers and they hurt children. She has seen this."

Adding that his wife is a Sunday school teacher.

The judge asked the juror to step outside while he talked to the lawyers.

The lawyers, including prosecutor Stacy Ratner, said they had no objections in dismissing the juror.

The judge agreed.

The juror stepped back into court and was told that he was being dismissed from serving a juror in the murder trial.

"Thank you. I apologize to everyone," the juror told the judge and lawyers.

"Thank you, sir, and have a great day," the judge told him.



Today's Quote

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"Nothing is more costly than something given free of charge" -- a popular Japanese saying

Equity Skimming Suspects Arrested Today for Duping Distressed Homeowners

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LOS ANGELES - Two top managers at Westwood-based mortgage brokerage company were arrested today for scamming distressed homeowners in connection with a foreclosure avoidance and equity skimming fraud, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Federal authorities arrested David Singui, 49, of Inglewood and Aziz Meghi, 35, of Los Angeles. A third defendant, Kiet Truong, 27, of Hawthorne, surrendered to authorities Thursday. A fourth defendant, Starr Smith, 31, of Long Beach, is a fugitive.

According to federal prosecutors, this is how the scam worked:

The company, Direct Money Source, held itself out as a company with a "Fresh Start Program" that told distressed homeowners who were trying to avoid foreclosure that they would have their properties purchased by so-called "credit investors." These investors would hod properties for 12 months and then sell them back to the original home owners after they restored their credit ratings.

Instead, Money Source, was an equity-skimming operation that took possession of distressed homeowners' equity under fraudulent pretenses.

The scheme allegedly defrauded mortgage lenders of more than $15 million in loan proceeds involving about 50 properties,  say federal authorities.


Here Comes The Judge, er, Juror Bennett

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I answered his questions and those of the court honestly. I am fair; I am impartial; I will follow the law; I do not know the defendant here and I am ready to serve as needed. Of course I am fair, that is what the voters elected me to do every day in this courthouse"   Judge Jeffrey Bennett writes in "Citations," the official publication of the Ventura County Bar Association.

Judge Bennett was selected to serve as a juror in a murder trial. In the Citations article, he writes about his experience.

To read the entire article go to:

New Presiding and Assistant Presiding Judges Elected

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Ventura County Superior Court judges unanimously elected Brian J. Back as presiding judge and Donald D. Coleman as assistant presiding judge for 2013 and 2014, caourt officials stated.

The new term begins Jan. 1.

Judge Back was appointed to the Ventura Municipal Court by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1997 and elevated to the Superior Court in 1998.

He has been  a judge for 14 years and has served as the Superior Court assistant presiding judge since January 2011, according to court administrators.

Judge Back, who is currently assigned to the criminal division, has previously been assigned to juvenile delinquency, family law, guardianship, domestic violence, and adult mental health courts, according to court officials.

In 2003, he was named Judge of the Year by the Ventura County Trial Lawyers Association, court officials stated.

Before his appointment to the bench, Judge Back was an attorney with Arnold, Back, Matthews, Wojkowski  and Zirbel from 1990 to 1997.

Judge Back has a bachelor's degree from Claremont Men's College and is a graduate of the University of Santa Clara Law School. He also holds a master's degree in government from Claremont Graduate School.

Judge Coleman was elected to the Superior Court in March 1996.

Before being elected to the bench, Coleman was a member of the Ventura County District Attorney's Office for 18 years where he achieved the position of chief deputy district attorney, according to court administrators.

Judge Coleman earned a bachelor's degree at UCLA and his law degree from Southwestern Law School. 

He is a Vietnam veteran and served there with the U.S. Army.


Today's Quote

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"He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not is a bigot. He that dare not is a slave." - Andrew Carnegie

Man Gets 20 Years For Using Unsuspecting People to Smuggle Thousands of Pounds of Marijuana

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EL PASO, TEXAS -- A 38-year-old man was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for his role in taking advantage of unsuspecting drivers to smuggle more than 6,600 pounds of marijuana from Juarez, Mexico, the U.S. Attorney's Office stated.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez ordered Jesus Chavez to pay $141,629 as restitution to his victims.

From March 2010 through June 2011, Chavez would target unsuspecting people and their vehicles in Juarez, get copies of keys to those vehicles and then placed duffle bags loaded with marijuana inside the trunks of the vehicles.

After the unsuspecting persons drove the vehicle into the U.S. and parked, members of this organization would retrieve the marijuana using the vehicle keys  in their possession, say federal authorities.
"The sentencing of Jesus Chavez represents the FBI's commitment to working alongside our law enforcement partners here in El Paso to aggressively investigate drug-related crimes. We will continue our pursuit of offenders such as Chavez in an effort to bring justice for the victims, as well as providing peace of mind to our community," stated FBI El Paso Division Special Agent in "Charge Mark Morgan.

Chavez's co-defendant, 30-year-old Carlos Gomez whom authorities believe is in Mexico, remains a fugitive in this case.

Ten Southern California Residents Arrested for Foreclosure Scam

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LOS ANGELES -- Federal agents arrested 10 people who worked at a Rancho Cucamonga-based business that allegedly offered bogus loan modification programs to financially distressed homeowners, according to federal prosecutors.

During an 18 month period that began in June 2008, the phony business, 21 Century Real Estate scammed more than 4,000 financially distressed homeowners of at least $7 million in fees they paid to the company, and many homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure, the U.S. Attorney's Office stated.

A Rancho Cucamonga woman, Andrea Ramirez, operated 21 Century and several other companies.

Ramirez and other 21 Century employees made false promises and guarantees regarding the real estate company's ability to negotiate loan modifications from mortgage lenders, falsely representing that 21 Century was operating a loan modification program sponsored by the federal government.

Ramirez and others instructed homeowners to stop communication with their mortgage lenders and stop making mortgage payments.

Doctor Found Guilty of Submitting $1 Million in Fraudulent Bills to Medicare

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LOS ANGELES  -- A doctor was convicted of health care fraud for submitting to Medicare about $1 million in bills in just seven for tests never performed, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Dr. Owusu Ananeh Firempong who is already serving a lengthy prison in a narcotics case was found guilty by a federal jury today of five counts of health care fraud, stated federal prosecutors.

Firempong, 61,  of Crenshaw, had been practicing in the Los Angeles region for more than three decades.

The bills were submitted for nerve conduction tests and sleep studies that were never performed, according to federal authorities.

Firempong faces up to 50 years in federal prison.

He is currently in custody after being sentenced in Michigan last year to 27 years in an unrelated cocaine trafficking and money laundering case, which is currently under appeal, according to federal prosecutors.

Today's Quote

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"I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said."  -- William F. Buckley Jr.

Texas Man Admits That He Tried Hire Hit Man to Kill Mayor and Dallas Lawyer

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FORT WORTH, TX - A businessman man who is the owner of a sexually oriented business in Arlington, Texas, pleaded guilty last week to trying to hire hit men from Mexico through an intermediary to kill the Arlington mayor and a Dallas lawyer who represented the city of Arlington, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Ryan Walker Grant, 34, of Kennedale, Texas had been named in a nuisance lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General's Office and the City of Arlington, which resulted in the club closing, federal authorities stated.

Grant is a co-owner of Flashdancer, a sexually oriented business offered $10,000 per murder victim, federal officials stated.

According to federal prosecutors,  on April 3, Grant handed the intermediary, who was actually a confidential informant, photographs and contact information of the mayor and the Dallas lawyer who represented the city who Grant  wanted killed.

Grant and the intermediary spoke via cell phones and during those conversations, Grant instructed the intermediary to go ahead with the murders.

On April 9, the intermediary and Grant met at Grant's residence, and Grant was arrested a short time later, federal officials stated.

Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Grant's residence at that time and seized 22 firearms and nearly $150,000 in cash.

Grant who will be sentenced on Dec. 28,  is facing a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, federal prosecutors stated.


Two Robbers Are Each Sentenced to More Than a Century in Prison

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NEWARK - Two men who shot a police officer during the course of robbing seven stores in 2010 were each sentenced to more than 170 years in prison today, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

From March 2010 through May 2010, Nelson Otero, 28, of Fort Lee, New Jersey and Maxcime Cagan, 48, of Floral Park, New Jersey, robbed at gunpoint businesses that included convenience stores, gas stations and liquor stores in different counties in New Jersey, say federal officials.

"These two defendants went on a violent rampage through New Jersey," stated U.S. Attorney Paul Fisherman in a press release. "They beat and pistol-whipped victims, held guns to their heads, and shot a police officer in the head.  The sentences handed down today will ensure these two predators will be permanently removed from society."

On May 10, 2010, Otero and Cagan robbed at gunpoint the Exxon Gas Station/Tiger Mart, ordering victims to the back of the store  and stole their personal belongings.  Upon leaving the store, the two encountered Officer Brian Worell, and they both discharged their firearms at him, striking the officer in the head, according to federal authorities. 

Today's Quote

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"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
 -  James Madison

"EWOK" Convicted of Drug Trafficking by Texas Federal Jury

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MCALLEN, TEXAS -- A Brownsville, Texas man who was a former bodyguard for Hector Manuel Saucedo-Gamboa a now-deceased Gulf Cartel boss, was convicted of cocaine trafficking conspiracy, federal authorities announced today.
Edgar Hinojosa, 35, is a fugitive from justice after he failed to appear in court for the third day of trial on Friday, federal officials stated.
Evidence indicated that Hinojosa headed an narcotics organization responsible for transporting multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Brownsville to Houston, according to federal authorities.
Hinojosa, also known as EWOK, is facing a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to life behind bars, say federal officials.

Santa Fe Springs Company Admits to Illegally Distributing Human Growth Hormone

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LOS ANGELES - A Santa Fe Springs company and its president pleaded guilty today to federal charges related to the illegal distribution of human growth hormone, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

DNP International Company Inc. President David Ji, 50, admitted that his company distributed an unapproved drug containing somatropin - a human growth hormone product - which hasn't been approved for distribution by the FDA because the version of the drug being distributed by DNP was manufactured in China, according federal authorities.

DNP and Ji will be sentenced on Dec. 10 and Ji is facing up to 10 years in federal prison, according to federal prosecutors.

Today's Quote

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"If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed." --Albert Einstein

Chinese Nationals Arrested for Trying to Steal Trade Secrets

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KANSAS CITY - Two Chinese nationals who were willing to pay $100,000 for stolen trade secrets from Pittsburgh Corning for the purpose of operating a plant in China to compete with Pittsburgh Corning were charged  this week with stealing trade secrets, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Ji Li Huang, 45, and Xiao Guang Qi, 31, were arrested Sunday.

Pittsburgh Corning, which is headquartered in Pittsburgh, manufactures various grades or densities of cellular glass insulation sold under the trade name FOAMGLAS, federal officials stated.

The material is used to insulate industrial piping systems and liquefied natural gas storage tank bases, federal authorities stated.

The facility operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and employs 250-300 workers.


Judge Rules Against Gagging Defense Attorneys in Murder Trial

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A judge today thwarted efforts by a prosecutor to muzzle two defense attorneys after she accused one of the lawyers of disclosing in Ventura County Star newspaper articles some  facts about the case that have not been revealed in court or in the case file.

Citing Rules of Professional Conduct involving trial publicity, prosecutor Stacy Ratner accused Attorney Ron Bamieh of violating the rules of  conduct  solely to try and influence the jury pool with his remarks to the Star including a deal that a third co-defendant made with the district attorney in exchange for his testimony.

Ratner said the comments appeared in the newspaper on Aug. 27 and today.

She said Bamieh "introduced" facts about the case that weren't in the record.

 Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger said he didn't find there had been any violations, noting that all the statements made to the newspaper by Bamieh appeared to be correct.

The case involves the murder trial of Paul Carrillo and Manuel Rodriguez who are charged with killing Edgar Flores, 27, in 2007 just outside Santa Paula.

Defense lawyers, however, fired back and said that Ratner simply doesn't want the defense version of what occurred to be published.

"Ms. Ratner is angry because the other side of the case has gotten out," said Carrillo's lawyer Joseph O'Neill.

Bamieh said the Sheriff's Department and the District Attorney's Office have issued a press releases in 2007 about this case also there was a preliminary hearing where, Bamieh said, Ratner made comments to the press.

Bamieh said that everything he told the Star was part of the record and that he was asked in an interview by The Star about his proposed explanation about the 2007 murder.

O'Neill said he objected to any efforts to gag attorneys in this trial, citing First Amendment issues. He added that he would like to see cameras in the courtroom 24 hours a day, adding that the press is a watchdog in the criminal justice system.

Bamieh who represents the Star on First Amendment issues said he strongly objected to Ratner implying that he had something to do with the Star being in the courtroom during the start of jury selection.

He told the judge that he has absolutely no influence in the Star's newsroom or its news coverage.


Today's Quote

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"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." Thomas Jefferson

Sinaola Cartel Members Arrested in Spain Trying to Set Up Drug Market

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CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Three members of the Sinaola Cartel were arrested on drug conspiracy charges last month in Spain where they were trying to set up a market for cocaine in Europe and the United States, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced today.

Manuel Jesus Gutierrez Guzman, Rafael Humbero Celaya Valenzuela and Samuel Zazueta Valenzuela were arrested in the port city of Algeciras, Spain on Aug. 7, federal officials stated.

The arrests came after a three-year-long investigation.

Law Enforcment authorities seized 346 kilograms of cocaine that were shipped by the cartel, according to federal authorities.

Authorities also seized a quantity of heroin and methamphetamine in May 2012 in Detroit, Michigan as part of the investigation.

Also arrested was Jesus Soto who was sent to Spain by the cartel to monitor the safety of the shipment of cocaine, federal officials stated.

U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite those suspects arrested in Spain.

Manuel Guzman is the first cousin of Joaquin Guzman Loera, also known as "Chapo," the reputed leader of the Sinaola Cartel.

The FBI and Boston Police Department with the help of the Spanish National Police were involved in this investigation.



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