Best Defender Bytes: Crime after Crime

September 29, 2017

Law School Dropout Arrested for Impersonating New York Attorney and Defrauding Clients Who Paid for Immigration Services

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

LOS ANGELES – A Lynwood woman who dropped out of law school – but who later allegedly stole the identity and bar license number of a New York attorney – surrendered herself last night on federal charges that accuse her of filing immigration petitions on behalf of foreign nationals who believed she was a legitimate lawyer.

Jessica Godoy Ramos, 36, was taken into custody pursuant to a criminal complaint that charges her with mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. Ramos is expected to make her initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court.

According to the criminal complaint, Ramos accepted thousands of dollars from several dozen aliens who sought her services in an attempt to obtain legal status in the United States. The complaint affidavit alleges that Ramos filed immigration petitions on the behalf of some aliens, but in other cases she never performed any services for her clients. In at least one instance, Ramos created counterfeit immigration parole documents which a client was able to use to enter the United States.

According to the complaint, Ramos’ clients initially believed she was a legitimate immigration attorney, but several became suspicious when Ramos directed them to appear at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices for interviews – but they did not have any scheduled appointments.

“The crimes alleged in this case victimized dozens of immigrants who were attempting to realize the American dream by paying someone they thought was a lawyer,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “This type of scam, which unfortunately targets new immigrants too often, undermines our immigration system and can shatter dreams of obtaining legal status to remain in the United States.” (more…)


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was convicted today of kidnapping, forcibly raping, and sodomizing a 14-year-old girl and attempting to kidnap three other victims ages 11 to 16 with the intent to commit a sex offense.

Defendant Charges Maximum Sentence Court Date
Elias Omar Xicotencatl, 26, Anaheim Found guilty by a jury today of the following felony counts:

  • Forcible rape
  • Sodomy by force
  • (3) Attempted kidnapping to commit a sex offense
  • Assault of a minor with intent to commit sexual offense

Sentencing Enhancements Allegations Found True

  • (2) Personal use of a deadly weapon
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Kidnapping
  • Tying and binding victim
Life in state prison without the possibility of parole Sentencing

Dec. 8, 2017, 9:00 a.m.

Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana

Circumstances of the Case

  • On March 31, 2011, Xicotencatl kidnapped 14-year-old Jane Doe 1, who was walking to Loara High School (LHS) in the city of Anaheim.
  • The defendant drove Jane Doe 1 to an unknown location, blindfolded and tied the victim’s hands and feet, then forcibly raped and sodomized her. (more…)


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:03 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was charged with special circumstances murder during attempted rape after the 68-year-old victim died due to injuries sustained in the assault.

Defendant Charges Minimum Sentence Court Date
Michael Aon Varela, 30, Garden Grove Charged on Sept. 22, 2017, in an amended complaint with the following felony count:

  • Murder

Sentencing Enhancement

  • Special Circumstances: Murder during the commission of attempted rape
Life in state prison without the possibility of parole Continued arraignment

Oct. 13, 2017, 10:00 a.m.

Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana

Circumstances of the Case

  • On Sept. 10, 2017, at approximately 5:00 a.m., Varela is accused of attacking 68-year-old Jane Doe, whom he did not know, outside of a home in Garden Grove while she was on a walk.
  • The defendant is accused of assaulting the victim and attempting to rape her. (more…)

September 28, 2017

Former Head of SoCal Software Firm and IT Executive at Australian Bank Charged in Bribery Scheme to Inflate Revenues and Trigger $98 Million Bonus Payment Related to Purchase of Software Company

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury today returned an indictment that alleges the former head of Santa Monica-based ServiceMesh, Inc. paid bribes to former IT executives at Commonwealth Bank of Australia to approve millions of dollars in contracts that inflated ServiceMesh revenues and fraudulently caused Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) to pay a nearly $100 million incentive bonus as part of CSC’s purchase of the cloud software company.

The 15-count indictment details a bribery and kickback scheme that developed over several years and involved two shell corporations.

The indictment charges Eric Pulier – the founder, CEO and largest shareholder of ServiceMesh – with orchestrating the international fraud scheme involving his payment of approximately $2.5 million in bribes to two senior technology executives at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA). In exchange for the bribes, the indictment alleges, the IT executives facilitated $10.4 million in contracts for the sale of software from ServiceMesh to CBA in late 2013 and January 2014. The CBA contracts triggered an “Earnout” payment as part of a sale agreement with CSC that caused CSC to pay an additional $98 million to ServiceMesh shareholders, about $30 million of which went directly to Pulier.

The indictment also charges Jon Waldron, a former IT manager at CBA, with participating in the scheme by facilitating the approval of contracts with ServiceMesh in exchange for approximately $1.9 million in bribes, most of which was paid to him through a shell company in New Zealand.

Warrants for the arrest of Pulier, 50, of Los Angeles, and Waldron, 47, of Sydney, Australia, have been issued. Pulier is expected to surrender to authorities in the coming days. Waldron remains in Australia facing related charges brought by Australian authorities. (more…)

Justice Department Obtains $700,000 for Servicemembers to Resolve Allegations that Westlake Services and Wilshire Consumer Capital Conducted Illegal Auto Repossessions

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

The Justice Department announced today that Westlake Services LLC and its subsidiary, Wilshire Consumer Capital LLC, have agreed to pay $760,788 to resolve allegations that the companies violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”) by repossessing 70 vehicles owned by SCRA-protected servicemembers without first obtaining the required court orders.

Westlake, which does business as Westlake Financial Services, is a Los Angeles-based auto financing company that specializes in purchasing and servicing subprime and near-subprime retail installment sales contracts.  Wilshire, which does business as Wilshire Consumer Credit, originates and services vehicle title loans.  Both companies target junior enlisted servicemembers for their loans and products.  During its investigation, the department found that Westlake and Wilshire had failed to adopt policies and procedures necessary to ensure that their motor vehicle repossessions complied with the SCRA.

“The members of our armed forces should be able to devote their full attention to their duties without having to worry about whether their legal rights will be violated by creditors,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore.  “We honor all servicemembers for their sacrifice and service to our nation, and this settlement signals our ongoing commitment to protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform.”

“The women and men who serve in the armed forces protect our country from danger every day,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown of the Central District of California.  “Given the enormous sacrifice they make for all of us, we have a responsibility to ensure that their rights are protected.  Westlake and Wilshire did not live up to this responsibility.  But the settlement we have reached will fix the lending practices that led to violations, and vindicate the rights of the servicemembers affected.” (more…)

Walnut Man Faces Federal Charges of Falsely Reporting Passenger Planned to Blow Up Commercial Airplane

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:03 am

LOS ANGELES – A Walnut resident has been arrested on federal charges of making a hoax threat by falsely reporting to airline and law enforcement officials that an acquaintance of his planned to blow up an airplane and posed a threat to the United States.

Dino Ninku, 36, of Walnut, was arrested Friday at his residence without incident by FBI Agents. Appearing before a United States Magistrate Judge Friday afternoon, Ninku was ordered held without bond pending trial.

Ninku was charged in a criminal complaint filed last week in United States District Court in Los Angeles with providing false information, a felony offense that carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, a person later identified as Ninku called the Asiana Airlines reservations center in Los Angeles on August 5 and reported a passenger scheduled to travel from Asia to the United States on August 18 posed a terrorist threat and was threatening to blow up the plane. Ninku, who also told the Asiana representative that the passenger had been recruiting other people in the U.S., provided details about the passenger’s flight itinerary and said that the attack would happen either on a flight from China to South Korea or a flight from South Korea to Los Angeles.


September 27, 2017

Grand Jury Issues Indictments Alleging Three Schemes to Smuggle Protected Coral Species In and Out of the United States

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury has returned three indictments charging a total of three individuals and two companies with engaging in the unlawful trading of live corals that are protected by an international treaty known as the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The indictments allege the defendants violated various federal statutes, including smuggling laws, The Endangered Species Act and a conservation statute known as The Lacey Act.

“The mountains, plains and oceans of this planet are under constant assault from those who would harvest these resources without end,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “The corals in these cases were being trafficked for the sole purpose of decorating fish tanks. We will enforce federal laws that control the trafficking of wildlife to ensure the ongoing survival of plants and animals that all serve an important role in the environment.”

“Special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigated a complex scheme where live coral were illegally ripped from coral reefs, hidden in air cargo shipments and imported at odd hours in an attempt to smuggle them into the United States,” said USFWS Special Agent in Charge Jill Birchell. “This case highlights that wildlife smuggling is a transnational crime that often decimates not only wild populations of animals and fish, but, as in the case of smuggled live coral, the very habitat that imperiled wildlife depend on for survival. We will continue to work closely with our federal, international, and state partners to investigate and prosecute individuals who exploit protected wildlife for financial gain.”

The three indictments outlined below were returned by a grand jury on September 20. (more…)

Off-Duty LAPD Officer Charged With Assault in El Segundo

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

An off-duty Los Angeles police officer has been charged with assaulting three men in El Segundo last year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Joseph William Rooney (dob 10/22/83) was charged in case BA461162 with four counts of assault with a firearm. The case was filed for warrant on Sept. 22.

He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

Deputy District Attorney Oscar Plascencia of the Justice System Integrity Division is prosecuting the case.

On May 22, 2016, three men had just left a bar in the 100 block of Main Street in El Segundo and were standing outside a nearby restaurant when Rooney allegedly approached them. (more…)

Woman Sentenced to 13-Year Prison Term for Kidnapping Half-Sister’s 3 Children

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:03 am

A woman was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years in prison for kidnapping the three young children of her murdered half-sister, whose body was found last year in northern Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar imposed the term on Brittney Sue Humphrey, 23, who pleaded no contest July 18 to three kidnapping counts for abducting the children, then aged 2, 3 and 5.

The youngsters were found safe in August 2016 in a motel outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the care of a good Samaritan who notified law enforcement. Humphrey and her then-boyfriend, Joshua Aaron Robertson, were arrested the following day in Pueblo, Colorado.

Humphrey and Robertson were initially charged with murdering her 26-year- old half-sister, Kimberly Harvill, whose body was found in August 2016 in some brush by a motorist traveling along Gorman Post Road, north of State Route 138.

But prosecutors subsequently filed an amended complaint charging Robertson and a second man, Alex Richard Valdez, with Harvill’s killing. Los Angeles County prosecutors said they did not believe they had enough evidence to proceed with a murder case against Humphrey. (more…)

September 26, 2017


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A second striker was convicted and sentenced to 44 years and four months in state prison for forcibly raping a woman who offered to give him a ride home from the grocery store.

Defendant Charges Sentence
Michael Curtis Hernandez, 41, Tustin Pleaded guilty on Sept. 22, 2017, to the following felony counts:

  • (4) Forcible oral copulation
  • (2) Forcible rape
  • Sodomy by force
  • Sexual penetration by foreign object and force
  • False imprisonment by violence or deceit

Sentencing Enhancements

  • Prior strike conviction for kidnapping in Riverside County in 2003
44 years and four months in state prison

Mandatory lifetime sex offender registration

Circumstances of the Case

  • At approximately 6:20 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2013, Hernandez approached 21-year-old Jane Doe, who was walking out of a grocery store in Orange, and asked her for a ride home.
  • Jane Doe agreed to drive Hernandez to his home in Tustin. (more…)
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