Best Defender Bytes: Crime after Crime

March 30, 2018

Inland Empire Man Arrested and Charged in Federal Court for Setting a Fire in Joshua Tree National Park

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 10:27 am

RIVERSIDE – A Twentynine Palms man appeared in federal court yesterday afternoon on a federal charge alleging that he illegally started the Oasis of Mara/Joshua Tree Fire, which damaged historic trees and other National Park resources in a 2.5-acre area behind the Oasis Visitor Center in Joshua Tree National Park on Monday night, March 26, 2018.

According to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday afternoon, National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers arrested George William Graham, 26, of Twentynine Palms, at the scene of the fire. Graham was observed watching the blaze and admitted to law enforcement officers that he started the fire, which consumed a number of historic trees and other National Park Service lands and natural resources.

According to court records, Graham was known both to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department and the National Park Service as a California arson parolee, with prior law-enforcement contacts with both California and federal authorities.

Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Graham, which charges him with unlawfully setting timber afire, a felony offense punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. Graham is detained in federal custody pending his next court appearance on April 11, 2018. (more…)


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 10:24 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A disbarred attorney was charged with grand theft and unauthorized practice of law after stealing over $200,000 in client funds for personal use. The defendant was extradited to Orange County yesterday after moving to Idaho.



Maximum Sentence

Court Date

David Allen Hiersekorn, 49, Placentia

Charged on March 12, 2018, with the following felony counts:

  • Grand theft in excess of $200,000
  • Unauthorized practice of law causing $2,950 in loss

Sentencing Enhancements

  • Over 100,000 in loss
  • Aggravated white collar crime over $100,000
  • Property loss over $200,000

Seven years and eight months in state prison

Pre-trial hearing

April 9, 2018, 8:30 a.m.

Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana

Circumstances of the Case

  • In February 2012, Jane Doe 1, an elderly woman, retained Hiersekorn to create her estate plan.
  • In March 2012, the defendant is accused of amending Jane Doe 1’s living trust to designate himself as the sole trustee of Jane Doe 1’s accounts. (more…)

Gang Member Sentenced to 300 to Life in Prison for Canoga Park Stray-Bullet Murder

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 10:20 am

A Bryant Street gang member was sentenced today to 300 years to life in state prison for the murder of a man hit by a stray bullet during a 2015 shooting in Canoga Park, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Ariel Baker Paniagua Jr., 25, of Canoga Park was convicted on Sept. 26, 2017, of second-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder, two counts of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle, and possession of a firearm by a felon.

The jury found true the gang allegation and the special allegation that the defendant used a firearm which resulted in the death of the victim.

Co-defendant Hubaldo Martínez, 26, of Northridge, pleaded no contest on Aug. 31, 2017, to one count of voluntary manslaughter and was later sentenced to 27 years in state prison. (more…)

March 29, 2018

Justice Department Sues Subprime Auto Lender in Orange County, California, for Illegally Repossessing Servicemembers’ Cars

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 3:01 am

The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit in the Central District of California against California Auto Finance, alleging that it violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by repossessing protected servicemembers’ motor vehicles without obtaining the necessary court orders.

The Justice Department initiated an investigation into the practices of California Auto Finance, which is based in the City of Orange, California, after United States Army Private Andrea Starks submitted a complaint to the Justice Department in November 2016.

In April 2016, Private Starks notified California Auto Finance that she would be entering the military the following month.  Despite this advance notice, California Auto Finance repossessed Private Stark’s vehicle without a court order on May 9, 2016, her first day of active military training.  At the time of repossession, the vehicle was parked at the home of Private Starks’ grandmother in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  The complaint states that California Auto Finance had no process to determine customers’ military status – such as checking the Department of Defense’s publicly available database – prior to repossessing their cars.

“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 lenders,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “Repossessing vehicles without required court orders is both wrong and illegal.  The Justice Department continues to ensure that we are doing all we can to protect and assist servicemembers, veterans, and their families from unlawful conduct by lenders.” (more…)

Palm Springs Art Museum Agrees to Comply With ADA by Improving Access for People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:50 am

LOS ANGELES – The Palm Springs Art Museum has entered into a voluntary agreement with the United States to resolve allegations that the museum violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide scripts for audio programs or properly functioning assistive-listening devices, as well as other auxiliary aids and services, to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Under the settlement agreement, the museum, which operates facilities in Palm Springs and Palm Desert, will provide equipment and services free of charge to ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have full and equal enjoyment of all of the Museum’s exhibits, programs and activities in each of its locations.

The agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office resolves allegations that the museum was violating Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination by places of public accommodation against individuals with disabilities.

The museum fully cooperated with the government’s investigation. Under the settlement agreement, the museum will provide, in general: (more…)

Man Sentenced to 31-to-Life for Sexual Abuse of Two Sisters

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 2:04 am

A 28-year-old man was sentenced today to 31 years to life in state prison for sexually abusing two Palmdale sisters ages 9 and 11, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Deputy District Attorney Lyle Riggs said Jerardo Garcia Sierra (dob 4/23/89) pleaded no contest on Feb. 26, to one count each of lewd act upon a child and sexual intercourse or sodomy with child 10 years or younger.

As a result of the plea, Garcia also will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

The defendant, who had access to the girls through a family member, began the abuse in May 2013, the prosecutor said. The abuse of the youngest victim continued through August 2016

As a result of the sexual abuse, that victim became pregnant, but the baby died shortly after birth, according to evidence presented at the preliminary hearing.

The case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Los Angeles District Attorney / March 28, 2018

March 28, 2018


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 9:46 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was sentenced to 23 years in state prison today for attempting to murder a woman by paying undercover Huntington Beach Police Department (HBPD) officers posing as hitmen.

Defendant Charges Sentence
Joseph Jordan Taylor, 32, Huntington Beach Pleaded guilty on March 20, 2018, to the following felony counts:

  • Solicitation to commit murder
  • Attempted murder

Prior Strike Convictions

  • Criminal threats in 2007
23 years in state prison

Circumstances of the Case

  • In May 2015, the HBPD became aware of a plan made by Taylor to murder Jane Doe. (more…)

Restaurateur Convicted of Sexual Battery of Female Employee

Filed under: Uncategorized — fayarfa @ 9:43 am

The co-owner of a Newhall barbecue restaurant was sentenced today to 90 days in jail for sexually assaulting a former employee, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Deputy District Attorney Taylor Carr said Sam Albert Gardian (dob 8/12/67) also was sentenced to three years of summary probation and was ordered to register for the rest of his life as a sex offender and complete 26 anger management classes.

On Friday, a jury found Gardian guilty of two misdemeanor counts each of battery and sexual battery in case 6SC01747.

The victim, who was 20 at the time, was an employee at the restaurant when the conduct occurred between February and April 2016, the prosecutor said. According to evidence presented in the six-daylong trial, Gardian slapped the woman’s head, pinched her tongue and slipped his hands down her pants on two occasions.

The case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Santa Clarita Station.

Los Angeles District Attorney / case 6SC01747 / March 27, 2018

Utah Man Sentenced to Prison for Sexually Assaulting Child

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 8:52 am

A Utah man pleaded guilty today to repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl over the span of seven years, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

At today’s court appearance, Timothy John Bennett (dob 4/29/72) pleaded guilty to a felony count of continuous sexual abuse in case VA145820.

Following the plea, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Roger Ito immediately sentenced the defendant to 12 years in state prison. Additionally, he ordered Bennett to register as a lifetime sex offender.

Deputy District Attorney Safaan Ahmed of the Victim Impact Program, who prosecuted the case, said at the time of the crime Bennett lived in Norwalk. The defendant sexually molested an underage girl he had access to from 1999 to 2006, according to the prosecutor.

In 2006, Bennett moved to Utah and the sexual abuse stopped, the prosecutor added. (more…)

March 27, 2018

Two Officers with Gardena Police Department Named in Federal Indictment that Alleges They Operated Illegal Firearms Businesses

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 10:08 am

LOS ANGELES – Two members of the Gardena Police Department were charged by a federal grand jury with participating in a scheme in which they purchased “off-roster” firearms not available to the general public and illegally operated businesses that resold the weapons.

The two police officers were charged in a five-count indictment that was unsealed Friday afternoon. The indictment alleges that the officers conspired with each other and that each engaged in the business of dealing in firearms without a license.

The two officers are collectively charged with illegally selling approximately 100 firearms, mostly .38-caliber pistols. The two defendants are:

· Carlos Miguel Fernandez, 42, of Norwalk, whose Instagram handle was “the38superman,” and

· Edward Yasushiro Arao, 47, of Eastvale.

Both defendants have been summoned to appear on April 3 for arraignments in United States District Court. (more…)

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