Best Defender Bytes: Crime after Crime

July 20, 2018

San Francisco Area Certified Public Accountant Convicted Of Tax Fraud

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:32 am

A jury in the Northern District of California convicted a San Francisco area Certified Public Accountant late yesterday of three counts of aiding and abetting the filing of a false tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Alex G. Tse for the Northern District of California.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Marc Howard Berger, 67, of Walnut Creek, California, willfully assisted in the preparation of three false Form 1040s for G. Steven Burrill for the years 2011, 2012, and 2013.  The guilty verdict followed a three-week jury trial before the Honorable Richard Seeborg, U.S. District Court Judge.

Berger was a CPA and partner with a regional tax preparation firm, Burr Pilger Mayer.  Berger’s client, Burrill, was the owner and CEO of Burrill & Company, Burrill Capital, and several related entities.  Through the entities, Burrill managed venture capital funds, including Burrill Life Sciences Capital Fund III, L.P. (the Fund), a $283 million investment fund focused on the life sciences industry.  Between December 2007 and September 2013, Burrill transferred more than $18 million from the Fund to his management companies in excess of the management fees that were allowable under the agreements that governed the Fund.  Berger intentionally prepared and filed false income tax returns for Burrill that did not report more than $18 million in income, resulting in unpaid taxes of more than $4.7 million.  With Berger’s assistance, Burrill paid no individual income taxes for the years 2009 through 2013.

“The jury’s verdict should serve as a message to all professionals who assist their clients in evading their tax obligations that such assistance will be prosecuted,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman.     (more…)

Murder Charges Filed for Double Fatal Crash on 605 Freeway

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:27 am

A Norwalk man was charged today with killing two people and injuring others in a DUI crash on the 605 Freeway, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Alex Barragan (dob 8/27/86) faces two counts of murder and one count each of driving under the influence of alcohol within 10 years of another DUI offense and driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol content causing injury within 10 years of another DUI offense.

Case VA148224 includes allegations of causing great bodily injury and having a blood alcohol content of .20 or more.

Arraignment is scheduled today in Department 4 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Bellflower Branch.

On July 16, Barragan was allegedly driving his car on the freeway near Alondra Boulevard when he rear ended a disabled van, prosecutors. The van erupted in flames and two people died and three others were injured, the prosecutor added.

If convicted as charged, Barragan faces a possible maximum sentence of 44 years to life in state prison.

Bail is scheduled at more than $2.19 million.

The case remains under investigation by the California Highway Patrol, Santa Fe Springs Area.

Los Angeles District Attorney / Case VA148224 / July 19, 2018

Two Men Charged in Gas Station Clerk’s Killing

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:19 am

Two men have been charged in the fatal shooting of a gas station clerk during a robbery in Mid-City, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today.

Young Yooun (dob 4/30/89) and Courtney Campbell (dob 11/28/89) were each charged with one count of murder in case BA469488. The defendants face a special circumstance allegation that the crime was committed during a robbery, making them eligible for the death penalty.

The charge against Yooun also includes an allegation of personally using a handgun, resulting in death. Yooun was charged on July 11 and Campbell was charged today.

Their arraignments were postponed until Aug. 23 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Bail was denied for both men.

On the morning of July 3, the defendants allegedly entered a gas station at Venice and Houser boulevards and forced the clerk to lay on the ground while they stole lottery tickets, prosecutors said. Before leaving, Yooun is accused of shooting the clerk, 52-year-old Akram Hanna, who died at the scene. (more…)

July 19, 2018

Orange County Real Estate Investor Sentenced to More Than Six Years in Federal Prison

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:31 am

SANTA ANA, California – A former Orange County real estate investor was sentenced yesterday by United States District Judge David O. Carter to 78 months in prison for defrauding 70 investors out of more than $12 million.

Francisco Plascencia Esparza, 46, formerly of Coto De Caza now residing in Cumming, Georgia, solicited millions of dollars from investors in Southern California, promising to use the money to acquire real estate and pay a fixed rate of return on their investments.

Esparza pleaded guilty in September to wire fraud, admitting that he had lured investors over a seven-year period by falsely claiming that he had run successful businesses and investment ventures when, in fact, his prior business ventures failed. Esparza engaged in a Ponzi scheme, using funds from new victims to pay off prior investors. Esparza also admitted using investor money for personal purposes, including purchasing a home, luxury cars, a wedding, and vacations.

Judge Carter found that dozens of victims suffered substantial financial harm from the fraud, including for some, the loss of their 401k retirement accounts and the inability to retire as planned, if at all.

Judge Carter ordered Esparza to pay $12.6 million in restitution. (more…)

Orange County Man Sentenced to 108 Months in Federal Prison in $21 Million ‘Builder Bailout’ Fraud Scheme

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:27 am

SANTA ANA, California – An Orange County man was sentenced to federal prison for his leadership role in a “builder bailout” mortgage fraud scheme.

Momoud Aref Abaji, 37, of Huntington Beach, was sentenced to 108 months in prison by United States District Judge Andrew Guilford and ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution to the financial institutions that were victims of the fraud. The scheme Abaji operated resulted in the fraudulent purchase of more than 100 condominium units around the country, causing more than $10 million in losses when the properties went into foreclosure.

Abaji, along with several co-conspirators, operated the scheme through Excel Investments and related companies based in Santa Ana and Irvine. The scheme involved kickbacks from condominium builders during the 2008 financial crisis, that Abaji and his co-conspirators hid from lenders to convince them to fund loans in excess of the actual purchase price.

During the course of the scheme, co-conspirators identified condominium developments around the country where the builders were struggling to sell units and arranged to purchase multiple units at a discount. The builders benefitted by making it appear that their condos were selling and maintaining their value, while members of the conspiracy obtained the kickbacks.

The co-conspirators negotiated with condominium builders in California, Florida and Arizona for discount units. The defendants bought units for themselves, their relatives, and on behalf of “straw buyers” whom they brought into the scheme. They identified straw buyers by looking for individuals with good credit scores and then recruited them into the scheme by giving them an upfront payment for their participation and by presenting the scheme as an investment opportunity that required no down payment and would generate income through rental payments. (more…)


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:19 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A Laguna Hills criminal defense attorney was convicted today of sexually assaulting a woman and violating his position of trust.

Defendant Charges Maximum Sentence Court Date
Adam Rudnick Stull, 56, Ladera Ranch Found guilty by a jury today of two misdemeanor counts of:

  • (2) Sexual battery
One year in county jail


Register as a sex offender pursuant to PC 290


Aug. 22, 2018, 1:30 p.m.

Department N-14, North Justice Center, Fullerton

Circumstances of the Case

  • At the time of the crimes, Stull was an active member of the State Bar of California and working as a criminal defense attorney in Orange County.
  • The defendant had previously worked as a deputy district attorney in Kern County in the 1990s but was terminated after being convicted of having unlawful sex with students he met while coaching mock trials. Stull later had the conviction expunged in Orange County. The defendant’s license to practice law was temporarily suspended following his conviction, for more information please visit:
  • Prior to November 2017, the defendant gained Jane Doe’s trust through his position as an attorney.
  • On Nov. 7, 2017, Stull touched the victim’s buttocks with sexual intent against her will.
  • On Nov. 20, 2017, the victim reported the incident to Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who investigated this case.
  • At trial, the jury believed the victim and found Stull guilty of two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.

Prosecutor: Deputy District Attorney Mike Carroll, Sexual Assault Unit

Los Angeles District Attorney /  Case # 18HF0174 / July 19, 2018


July 18, 2018

O.C. Pro Poker Player Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges for Theft of over $6 Million Dollars in Sales Scheme Related to Super Bowl and World Cup Ticket Sales

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:46 am

SANTA ANA, California – An Orange County man has pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud offense and admitted operating a $6 million scheme that bilked investors who were promised large profits from the resale of tickets to high-profile sporting events, including the Super Bowl and the World Cup.

Seyed Reza Ali Fazeli, 49, of Aliso Viejo, a professional poker player, ran a Las Vegas-based ticket business called Summit Entertainment, which also operated under the names and

According to court records, from May 2016 through May 2017, Fazeli solicited investors in Orange County, Houston and Las Vegas to send approximately $6 million to Summit Entertainment to purchase tickets to the 2017 Super Bowl and the 2018 World Cup games. Fazeli told the victims that Summit Entertainment would resell the tickets at a substantial profit and share the proceeds with them.

After numerous investors wired approximately $6 million to Summit for sports tickets, Fazeli failed to provide any profit distribution. Fazeli falsely told the victims that the ticket sales went poorly because the NFL prohibited their resale and that he was negotiating a settlement with the NFL.

According to court documents, Fazeli never purchased large numbers of Super Bowl or World Cup tickets as promised. Instead, he used the money for gambling expenses at Las Vegas Casinos and for personal expenses. (more…)

Former Congressional Staffer Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison on Federal Bribery and Extortion Charges

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:40 am

LOS ANGELES – A former staffer for a member of the United States Congress was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for bribery and attempted extortion after demanding and accepting $5,000 to prevent the closure of a marijuana shop in the City of Compton.

Michael Kimbrew, 45, of Santa Clarita, was sentenced by United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner for attempting to extort a marijuana dispensary in Compton and threatening to shut down the shop if the owners did not pay him a $5,000 bribe.

According to court testimony, in exchange for the payoff, Kimbrew promised to wield his power as a federal employee and public official to help the shop obtain a lucrative permit to continue operating.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Kimbrew claimed to “oversee all activities in Compton” and threatened the shop’s owners, an employee of the shop, and later an undercover FBI agent in recorded meetings that he was going to shut down the shop unless he received the bribe. He claimed that, by virtue of his federal employment for the Congress member, he had “authority” and “jurisdiction” over what Compton public officials and departments did. In exchange for the $5,000, he promised to exercise that authority and jurisdiction to keep the shop in business.

Ultimately, during a lunch meeting in Compton, Kimbrew accepted $5,000 in cash hidden inside of a restaurant menu from the undercover agent. When he pocketed the cash, Kimbrew pledged his “undying support” to protect the shop. (more…)

Man Charged with Shooting Wife and Son in San Gabriel

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:35 am

An 80-year-old man pleaded not guilty today to shooting two family members on Sunday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Adrian Louis Ness (dob 8/25/37) has been charged with three felony counts in case GA103913: two counts of attempted murder and one count of injuring a spouse.

The felony complaint includes a special allegation that the defendant personally and intentionally discharged a firearm, which caused great bodily injury. Moreover, the charging document alleges that Ness personally inflicted great bodily injury upon the victims under circumstances involving domestic violence.

At today’s arraignment, the defendant’s bail was set at $4.06 million.

Deputy District Attorney Melanie Buccat of the Victim Impact Program is assigned to the case. (more…)

July 17, 2018

Three California Residents Sentenced in $20 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 5:58 am

Three owners and/or managers of Los Angeles, California-area foreclosure rescue companies, Dorothy Matsuba, Jamie Matsuba, and Thomas Matsuba, were sentenced to 240, 135, and 168 months in prison today for their roles in a foreclosure rescue scheme, respectively.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna for the Central District of California, Assistant Director in Charge Paul D. Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division, Acting Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Paul Conlon of the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Los Angeles Field Office, and Sheriff Jim McDonnell of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department made the announcement.

Dorothy Matsuba, 67, her daughter Jamie Matsuba, 33, and her husband, Thomas Matsuba, 67, all of Chatsworth, California, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner of the Central District of California.  Judge Klausner also ordered the defendants to serve three years of supervised release. Restitution and forfeiture will be decided at a hearing on Aug. 13.  All three defendants were remanded into custody. Dorothy Matsuba pleaded guilty on Dec. 4, 2017, to one count conspiracy to commit wire fraud, false statements to a federally insured bank or mortgage lending business, and identity theft, five counts of wire fraud, six counts of false statements to federally insured banks, and six counts of aggravated identity theft.  On Dec. 13, 2017, after a one-week trial, Jamie Matsuba and Thomas Matsuba were both convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements to federally insured banks, and committing identity theft and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks.

According to evidence presented at trial, from January 2005 to August 2014, Dorothy Matsuba, Jamie Matsuba, Thomas Matsuba and others engaged in a scheme to defraud financially distressed homeowners by offering to prevent foreclosure on their properties through short sales.  Instead, the conspirators rented out the properties to third parties, did not pay the mortgages on the properties, and submitted false and fraudulent documents to mortgage lenders and servicers to delay foreclosure.  The evidence further established that the conspirators obtained mortgages in the names of stolen identities.  The defendants also used additional tactics, including filing bankruptcy in the names of distressed homeowners without their knowledge and fabricating liens on the distressed properties, the evidence showed. (more…)

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