Gang bangers arrested in stolen car here

Four members of a Costa Mesa street gang were arrested in a stolen car on Cliff Drive late Wednesday night.

A Laguna officer was about to make a routine car stop on a Toyota Paseo when the police computer indicated that the license plate on the car had been reported stolen and the tags were for different model. The officer called for backup and once the Toyota was pulled over, the vehicle identification number revealed the Toyota had been reported stolen in Costa Mesa.

Officers notified the Costa Mesa PD and members of that agency’s gang squad headed to Laguna when the names of the occupants were given to them. All four occupants were active street gang members in that city.

As the cops searched the Toyota, they discovered a Ruger handgun. The serial number was checked and police learned that the .22 had been stolen three years ago.

One occupant of the car was under 18 and the Costa Mesa gang unit transported him to juvenile hall based on his past record.

The other three men, identified as Fernando Linares Isidoro, 23, and Brian Daniel Olivera, 20, both of Costa Mesa and Santa Ana resident Luis Gibran Astudillo, 22, were held without bail. They were charged with vehicle theft, possession of stolen property, probation violation, carrying a concealed firearm, felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of ammunition for that firearm and criminal street gang activity. All are well known to the Costa Mesa PD gang unit.


High speed rush hour chase through town – driver eludes cops in San Juan Capistrano

The driver of a white 1995 Chevy Suburban hit speeds over 100 mph driving southbound in the northbound lanes of the 73 toll road after being chased by police from Coast Hwy and Montage Resort Drive through rush hour traffic Wednesday evening. The driver and two passengers managed to get away when they all bailed out on a residential street in San Juan Capistrano.

Sgt. Louise Callus of the LB Police Department said Thursday that during the chase that lasted about 25 minutes, the registered owner of the Suburban called the OC Sheriff’s Dept reporting that it had been stolen. He lives in San Juan Capistrano.

Things started just before 5:30 when multiple cell callers reported that the Suburban was being driven erratically northbound on Coast Highway. A police officer tried to make a traffic stop but the suspect driver immediately tried to speed away.

The officer behind the Suburban advised other units that the Suburban was driving in the wrong lanes of Laguna Canyon Road (LCR) and had almost had a crash with another vehicle in the 700 block of LCR and drove on the median through Big Bend at 70 mph in heavy outbound rush hour traffic. At least one beer can was thrown for the SUV. Two other Laguna police units joined in the chase that continued toward the toll road where the Suburban drove southbound in the northbound lanes.

The incident was broadcast on the countywide “red” channel that is monitored by all of the OC police agencies as well as news sources including StuNewsLaguna.

By the time the chase reached Aliso Creek, the speed was called as 100 as the SUV moved over to the median in light traffic. It exited at Greenfield in Laguna Niguel, ran a red light, then got back on the toll road in the proper southbound lane.

CHP units joined the chase where the 73 merges with the I-5. Meanwhile, the SUV reached 110 mph and drove on the right shoulder to get onto I-5 southbound at 5:45.

At the Junipero Serra exit, the SUV ran into luck as another older model white Suburban was heading southbound. The suspect vehicle exited and one of the police units called it. The other units remained fixed on the SUV continuing south on the freeway. An OC Sheriff’s unit on surface streets in San Juan Capistrano reported seeing the fleeing Suburban.

By the time police cars involved in the chase were able to double back on Camino Capistrano, the driver and passengers had bailed out of the SUV and fled on foot, a few blocks away from where the Suburban’s owner resides.

Sheriff’s deputies established a perimeter by six o’clock with the assistance of a helicopter as reports came in from residents who had seen people running through their backyards.

Several witnesses gave descriptions of the suspects that had bailed out including a juvenile male who was apprehended nearby. Three other males are still being sought.

Sgt. Callus said the case will be actively investigated. “It is amazing that no one was injured by this,” she commented.


Laguna man, 46, arrested last Friday for knocking out a 74-yr-old man in road rage

 

A Laguna Beach man, John Onsby Bennett, 46, was arrested for felony battery causing serious bodily injury last Friday morning.

Police said Bennett got out of his vehicle and beat a 74-year-old man who apparently wasn’t walking fast enough across a driveway that Bennett wanted to turn into on Laguna Canyon Rd at about 11:50 Thursday night.

LBPD Sergeant Louise Callus said, “The suspect [Bennett] was driving eastbound on Laguna Canyon Road near Big Bend and the victim was walking in the same direction. Bennett wanted to turn right into a driveway for a parking lot, which the victim was walking across.

“According to the older man, he heard the driver yelling at him and then stop and get out. Bennett allegedly hit the victim knocking him down and unconscious for a brief spell. Bennett, the victim said, was standing over him when he cleared his head,” Callus said.

The victim continued walking home and his son brought him to the day labor site Friday morning and called police. After taking the report and having the victim examined, police charged Bennett with felony battery. He was booked at the city jail then managed to post bail and was released.

Bennett, police said, is 5-10 and the victim is 5-6.

If convicted, Bennett could be jailed in state prison for up to four years.


Cops seize six pounds of pot because of missing mud flaps and expired registration on pickup

Six pounds of marijuana inside two thick plastic bags inside a duffel bag still smells like six pounds of marijuana.

Laguna Beach resident Kelly Shane Shapley, 23, took a chance transporting the marijuana and nearly a quarter ounce of cocaine in the duffle bag Thursday evening but he didn’t check the registration on his friend’s pickup and is paying the price.

A police officer saw that the pickup was showing an expired registration and also didn’t have the required mud flaps and made a stop in the 200 block of Beverly St in North Laguna at 6:42 p.m. Police said the officer encountered the telltale odor of pot as soon as he left his patrol unit.

Shapley was arrested and charged with four felonies – cultivation of marijuana; possession of marijuana for sales, possession of cocaine for sales and transportation of controlled substance for sales. He was taken to county jail after booking.

Two other occupants of the pickup were released without charges.


Painter’s helper arrested for grand theft after his boss brings him back to the scene of the crime

A woman told police that she had been in a room that was being painted, left for no more than a minute, and realized that a $20,000 ring was missing, which had been there a minute before.

When the painting contractor was told of the event that evening, he promised to bring the suspect and the ring back to the home in the 800 block of Rembrandt Drive on Thursday. Police were there and arrested 20-year-old Tyler Bryce Fernandez of Lakewood for felony grand theft.

He was booked downtown then transported to Orange County Jail.


Pair of felony arrests last week developed from unforeseen evidence

Laguna Beach police made two separate felony arrests last Thursday when unforeseen evidence was discovered.

 

2:59 p.m. Narcotics officers have been working to solve a case involving the illegal sales of steroids since late last year.

Sergeant Louise Callus said narcotics detectives arrested Ross Earl Embry, 61, at his residence on Third St Thursday afternoon and charged him with felony possession of illegal drugs for sales with bail of $25,000.

“In the course of executing a search warrant that was obtained for the suspect’s residence after an undercover buy had been made there, investigators discovered where and how Mr. Embry was obtaining steroids,” Sgt. Callus said.

Embry has also been charged with filing a false claim for health care benefits that he did not use, a felony. He purchased the steroids using a prescription then submitted claims for reimbursement from his health care provider, Callus explained.

 

12:42 p.m. A guest at a hotel in town found someone else’s cell phone in his car, which had been parked using the hotel’s valet service. Police said the guest discovered photos of an adult male performing an act of self-gratification and of nude children.

Hotel security identified the man in the photo as a valet employee. Police made an arrest of Joshua Lucas Kube, 32, at his home on Glenneyre just before seven o’clock on Thursday evening.

Kube was charged with felony possession of obscene matter of minors. His bail was set at $20,000.


Crime in the OC is no different than what we see on TV

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases containing details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office.

What always stands out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s office will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Recently from the OC DA’s office…


AWOL Army soldier charged with murder of friend and attempted murder of father and another man in hotel shooting

Feb 28 – An AWOL (absent without official leave) Army Specialist was charged today with murdering a friend and attempting to murder his father and another man in an unprovoked shooting at a Cypress hotel.

Steven Matthew LeClaire Jr., 23, is charged with one felony count of murder, two felony counts of attempted murder, and sentencing enhancements for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death and the personal discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of 90 years to life in state prison. LeClaire Jr. is being held on $1 million bail.

In February 2011, LeClaire Jr. is accused of going AWOL from the US Army. He was last stationed in Texas.

At approximately 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2011, LeClaire Jr. is accused of being in a hotel room drinking and socializing with three other men at the Cypress Lodge on Lincoln Ave. The other men included the victim’s father, Steven LeClaire Sr., 42, and friends Marques Murray, 24, and Raymond Eligan, 51.

Without provocation, the defendant is accused of pulling out a firearm, pointing it at the three men, and firing the weapon multiple times. LeClaire Jr. is accused of murdering Murray by shooting him in the head and chest. He is accused of attempting to murder his father by shooting him several times in the stomach and back. He is accused of attempting to murder Eligan by shooting him in the legs as the victim attempted to escape into the bathroom. LeClaire Sr. and Eligan survived the attack.

After the shootings, LeClaire Jr. is accused of walking out of the hotel room, putting his arms in the air, and surrendering to a hotel manager who had walked outside upon hearing the shots. The defendant was arrested at the scene by the Cypress Police Department.

Senior Deputy DA Sonia Balleste of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Attorney and co-defendant accused stealing $898,000 from 11 victims in investment scheme – more victims possible

An attorney has been arraigned on charges of stealing $898,000 from 11 victims in an investment scheme with two other men.

Attorney Jan Morton Heger, Irvine, and co-defendant Ramon Andres Najera, Laguna Woods, both 66, are charged with 16 felony counts of using untrue statements in the sale or purchase of securities and 11 felony counts of grand theft, with sentencing enhancement allegations for aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, theft exceeding $150,000, and property loss over $200,000. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 29 years and eight months in state prison. Heger and Najera are being held on $2 million bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond.

Heger Photo Najera Photo

Photos courtesy of the OC District Attorney’s office

A third accomplice in these schemes, Sonny Beckham, passed away July 2008.

Between December 2005 and July 2008, Heger and Najera are accused of working with Beckham to defraud 11 victims using investment schemes. Najera is accused of contacting Leo D. after finding the victim’s website promoting a project to build a luxury resort on the land he owned in Baja California. On Dec. 6, 2006, Heger and Najera are accused of convincing Leo D. to pay Beckham a $25,000 fee to secure $5 million in bonds to use as collateral for a $6 million loan from the West African Oil Group in Ghana. Instead of producing the promised financing, Heger and Najera are accused of eluding the victim for 19 months with excuses and false official-looking documents. They are accused of stealing the victim’s money and never paying it back.

In June 2008, Leo D. contacted the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to report a $25,000 theft in a deal with Heger and Najera. In Sept 2008, further investigation led to 10 other victims.

In Oct 2008, Heger fled to Thailand. He was arrested and extradited back to the United States Jan. 21, 2011.

Circumstances of the fraudulent scheme

Heger and Najera, with Beckham, are accused of contacting victims and getting them to pay a percentage fee to secure funding. Heger is accused of using his credentials as an attorney to legitimize the deal. Beckham, Heger, and Najera are accused of telling the investors that Beckham had gold mines in Africa and funds in Nigerian and Ghanaian bank accounts and that in order to transfer funds, the victims needed to pay a fee. They are accused of accepting a fee ranging from $25,000 to over $177,000. They are accused with promising high returns to the victims.

After collecting the money, the three are accused of avoiding the victims and dodging questions about investment returns. Heger and Najera are accused of fraudulently collecting more funds from victims for “customs fees” and “paperwork” to release funds from the African bank accounts. Some of the victims took out loans against home equity lines, credit lines, and additional mortgages on their homes. Heger and Najera are accused of never paying any of the 11 victims.

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising DA Investigator Eric Akerlind at (714) 347-8691.

Deputy DA Matt Lockhart of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.

Former security guard to be arraigned for stealing from Trinity Broadcasting donation box during late-night break-ins

Feb 23 – A former security guard will be arraigned tomorrow for stealing from the donation box at Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) after breaking-in in the middle of the night.

Robert Ellsworth Shorter Jr., 38, Garden Grove, is charged with nine felony counts of second degree commercial burglary and faces a maximum sentence of eight years and four months in state prison if convicted.

In 2008, Shorter was fired from his job as a security guard for TBN in Costa Mesa for sleeping on the job. On nine occasions between July and September 2010, Shorter is accused of entering the secured TBN property late at night or early in the morning using a gate pass-code he obtained during his employment.

Once on the property, Shorter is accused of taking a roll-up door remote from the visor of unlocked security vehicles and using the remote to open the roll-up gift shop door. The donation box was also kept inside. Shorter is accused of stealing donations from the donation box by turning it upside down and shaking it to make the envelopes fall out. The financial loss to the victim is unknown.

On each of the nine occasions, Shorter is accused of being captured on video surveillance during the theft. He is accused of often wearing a blue t-shirt with “God is Good” written in white.

A TBN property manager reported the thefts to the Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) last Sept. 17, after recognizing the defendant in a surveillance video. Shorter was arrested at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2010, on the property of TBN by CMPD. The defendant is accused of wearing the blue shirt matching that seen in the surveillance video at the time of his arrest.

Deputy District Attorney Nikki Chambers is prosecuting this case.

Sister and brother to be arraigned with third suspect for shooting-murder of innocent man outside Santa Ana restaurant on Feb 13

Feb 23 – A third defendant was charged today for the unprovoked shooting-murder of an innocent man outside of a restaurant in Santa Ana.

Maria Isabel Rocha, 28, Santa Ana, is charged with one felony count of murder with sentencing enhancements for the vicarious discharge of a firearm causing death by a gang member and criminal street gang activity. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in state prison.

Maria Rocha’s brother Ricardo Guerra Rocha, 17, Santa Ana, was charged Feb. 22, 2011, as an adult with the same counts as Maria Rocha with an additional felony count of street terrorism. He faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in state prison if convicted. Maria and Ricardo Rocha are both being held on $1 million bail.

Ivan Sanchez, 21, Santa Ana, was charged Feb. 22, 2011, with one felony count each of special circumstances murder and street terrorism with sentencing enhancements for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death, murder committed for a criminal street gang purpose, and criminal street gang activity. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. The defendant is being held without bail.

On the night of Feb. 13, 2011, Sanchez, Rocha, and Rocha, are accused of getting into an argument with an unknown group of people at Mariscos La Ola restaurant in Santa Ana over which state in Mexico was better. The three defendants are accused of leaving the restaurant, driving to get a firearm, and returning to the parking lot several minutes later.

When the defendants arrived back at the restaurant, 35-year-old Esteban Navarrete, who didn’t know them, was leaving the restaurant and getting into his car with his wife and friend. Maria Rocha is accused of being the driver and waiting in the car. Sanchez and Ricardo Rocha are both accused of being documented criminal street gang members. The male defendants are accused of getting out of the car and approaching the victims’ vehicle. Navarrete, who is not associated with any criminal street gang, got out of his vehicle to explain that he and his passengers were not involved in the earlier argument.

Sanchez is accused of murdering Navarrete by shooting him one time in the head.

The defendant is accused of firing several shots, but the other victims were not hit. Sanchez and Ricardo Rocha are accused of getting back into the vehicle and Maria Rocha is accused of driving the defendants away from the scene.

The Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) investigated this case. On Feb. 17 Sanchez was arrested after SAPD performed a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by 20-year-old Manuel Toscano. Toscano is accused of attempting to drive Sanchez to Mexico to avoid prosecution. Toscano has been charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact and faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison if convicted. Maria and Ricardo Rocha turned themselves in to SAPD on Feb. 18, 2011.

Senior Deputy DA Mark Geller of the Gang Unit is prosecuting this case.

Husband of caretaker charged as co-defendant in wife’s case for stealing $610,000 from elderly victims

Feb 22 – The Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) is seeking the public’s help in identifying potential additional victims after filing charges today against the husband of a caretaker accused of stealing money from elderly victims for personal purchases.

Leno Cassini, 56, Laguna Niguel, is charged with two felony counts each of accessory after the fact and receiving stolen property and one felony count of second degree burglary. He was arrested Feb. 17, 2011, at the Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office where he works as an administrative assistant. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison.

The OCDA added additional charges against Leno Cassini’s wife, Norma Ruth Casini, 51, Laguna Niguel, after new victims came forward as a result of seeing her arrest in the media.

Norma Casini is charged with 34 felony counts of fraudulently using an access card, 24 felony counts of forgery, two felony counts of caretaker theft from an elder, one felony count of residential burglary of an occupied home, and sentencing enhancements for loss over $100,000, property loss over $200,000, white collar crime over $500,000, and having a non-accomplice present. If convicted of all counts, she faces a maximum sentence of 49 years and eight months in state prison.

Both defendants are in custody on $610,000 bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond. They are scheduled to appear in court for a pre-trial hearing March 15, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. in Department H-1, Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach.

Charges against Ruth Casini

Victim Nancy W., 85, has required 24-hour in-home care in her Laguna Woods home since 2002. The victim has no family support and hired a caregiver service, LivHOME, to provide for her needs and basic care. LivHOME caregivers are paid by the company and are not to accept money directly from their client.

Norma Casini was employed by LivHOME and is accused of being entrusted to care for Nancy W. from November 2006 to March 2009. Without the knowledge or permission of the victim, Norma Casini is accused of stealing approximately $610,000 from Nancy W.’s bank accounts and credit cards for personal use. Norma Casini is accused of using the stolen money to pay for her home lease, dog day care and a “dog whisperer,” orthodontic work, laser eye treatment, shopping, concerts, travel, and other personal items.

In March 2009, Casini was terminated by LivHOME after the company determined that the defendant was not in Nancy W.’s home during her shift. A subsequent review of the victim’s bank accounts revealed that her savings had been depleted from over $700,000 in June 2008 to less than $5,000 in April 2009.The Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case and arrested Casini Feb. 2, 2011. As a result of the media coverage on Norma Casini’s case, additional victims came forward, which led to the arrest of Leno Casini.

New Charges against Leno Casini

Between December 2010 and January 2011, Norma Casini was employed as a caregiver by Home Helpers and is accused of being entrusted to care for married couple William and Helene S., 89 and 83 years old respectively. Norma Casini is accused of taking Helene S.’s debit card, changing the pin number, and using it to make everyday purchases totaling approximately $1,150. She is accused of stealing Helene S.’s wedding ring and band, which had an inscription of the couple’s initials. Norma Casini is accused of giving the jewelry to her husband, Leno Casini, to sell.

On Jan. 22, 2011, Leno Casini is accused of taking the rings to Jewelry Buyers, a pawn shop in Irvine. He is accused of selling the wedding set, claiming the rings belonged to his deceased mother.

The investigation is still ongoing. Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Eric Akerlind at (714) 347-8691.

Deputy DA Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.


Burglary team targeted elderly women in North Laguna by creating diversions

A burglary team consisting of an “attractive young woman”, a male and a boy eight or nine years old victimized two elderly women in North Laguna on Tuesday.

The first victim, age 90, lives in the 400 block of Locust St.  “She was approached by the female suspect about 11 a.m. who told her she had been sent by the City to dig out dirt…” that might have been contaminated from the floods, said Sgt. Louise Callus.

“She moved her to the rear of the house to look at the backyard and kept her talking out there for about thirty minutes,” Callus added.

After the suspect had left, the victim realized that her silver was missing and that her purse had been opened and dumped. She was unable to call the police right away because her phone had been disabled. She used her Life Alert who called the police.

At about four o’clock a woman near Hillcrest and Louise less than a block from Emerald Bay was approached outside as she was returning home from walking her dog. The victim, who asked that we not use her name, said of the female suspect, “She looked like she might have just walked out of Emerald Bay. She was attractive and very pleasant and wore an expensive appearing workout outfit.”

The suspect drove up and parked across the street from the victim, a retired teacher in her eighties. The woman got out of the car, “…a late model four-door sedan either blue or gray…” and told the victim that she was remodeling a home “up the street” and that her work crew had accidentally damaged the victim’s wall. At that point the man and boy walked up the street.

“It was strange. She and the man both wore only one glove. Now I realize that they were from one pair. She had me walk away a little and tried to have me walk up the street where the house she said she was remodeling was located. I said no to that.”

The victim explained that she’d seen the man walk away with the boy following him. “She kept me facing away from my home. I think the boy and the man went into the house through the unlocked kitchen door. I didn’t see them leave and it’s possible they went out of a window on the other side of the house. The woman kept talking on a…[push-to-talk device]…and told me she was telling the workers to look closer at the wall. I know now she was signaling the man inside my house.

“I felt suspicious as I walked inside and called the police about the situation. They said they would patrol the area. A few minutes later, I called them again when I saw that my bedroom had been ransacked.

Her jewelry was missing. “He unrolled all of my socks – they were strewn all over. I have two unmatched socks and I guess the mates were used to carry away what they stole from me.

“It’s very frightening. I still feel violated but I know that’s natural. They took all of my good jewelry from one drawer. It’s worth about $10,000 and it’s all irreplaceable,” she told us Thursday.

“So many memories. Much of the jewelry was my mother’s. It was very sentimental to me. Please let everyone know about this…”


Crime in the OC is no different than what we see on TV

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases containing details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office.

What always stands out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s office will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Recently from the OC DA’s office…


Attorney and co-defendant accused stealing $898,000 from 11 victims in investment scheme – more victims possible

An attorney has been arraigned on charges of stealing $898,000 from 11 victims in an investment scheme with two other men.

Attorney Jan Morton Heger, Irvine, and co-defendant Ramon Andres Najera, Laguna Woods, both 66, are charged with 16 felony counts of using untrue statements in the sale or purchase of securities and 11 felony counts of grand theft, with sentencing enhancement allegations for aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, theft exceeding $150,000, and property loss over $200,000. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 29 years and eight months in state prison. Heger and Najera are being held on $2 million bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond.

Heger Photo Najera Photo

Photos courtesy of the OC District Attorney’s office

A third accomplice in these schemes, Sonny Beckham, passed away July 2008.

Between December 2005 and July 2008, Heger and Najera are accused of working with Beckham to defraud 11 victims using investment schemes. Najera is accused of contacting Leo D. after finding the victim’s website promoting a project to build a luxury resort on the land he owned in Baja California. On Dec. 6, 2006, Heger and Najera are accused of convincing Leo D. to pay Beckham a $25,000 fee to secure $5 million in bonds to use as collateral for a $6 million loan from the West African Oil Group in Ghana. Instead of producing the promised financing, Heger and Najera are accused of eluding the victim for 19 months with excuses and false official-looking documents. They are accused of stealing the victim’s money and never paying it back.

In June 2008, Leo D. contacted the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to report a $25,000 theft in a deal with Heger and Najera. In Sept 2008, further investigation led to 10 other victims.

In Oct 2008, Heger fled to Thailand. He was arrested and extradited back to the United States Jan. 21, 2011.

Circumstances of the fraudulent scheme

Heger and Najera, with Beckham, are accused of contacting victims and getting them to pay a percentage fee to secure funding. Heger is accused of using his credentials as an attorney to legitimize the deal. Beckham, Heger, and Najera are accused of telling the investors that Beckham had gold mines in Africa and funds in Nigerian and Ghanaian bank accounts and that in order to transfer funds, the victims needed to pay a fee. They are accused of accepting a fee ranging from $25,000 to over $177,000. They are accused with promising high returns to the victims.

After collecting the money, the three are accused of avoiding the victims and dodging questions about investment returns. Heger and Najera are accused of fraudulently collecting more funds from victims for “customs fees” and “paperwork” to release funds from the African bank accounts. Some of the victims took out loans against home equity lines, credit lines, and additional mortgages on their homes. Heger and Najera are accused of never paying any of the 11 victims.

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising DA Investigator Eric Akerlind at (714) 347-8691.

Deputy DA Matt Lockhart of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.

Former security guard to be arraigned for stealing from Trinity Broadcasting donation box during late-night break-ins

Feb 23 – A former security guard will be arraigned tomorrow for stealing from the donation box at Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) after breaking-in in the middle of the night.

Robert Ellsworth Shorter Jr., 38, Garden Grove, is charged with nine felony counts of second degree commercial burglary and faces a maximum sentence of eight years and four months in state prison if convicted.

In 2008, Shorter was fired from his job as a security guard for TBN in Costa Mesa for sleeping on the job. On nine occasions between July and September 2010, Shorter is accused of entering the secured TBN property late at night or early in the morning using a gate pass-code he obtained during his employment.

Once on the property, Shorter is accused of taking a roll-up door remote from the visor of unlocked security vehicles and using the remote to open the roll-up gift shop door. The donation box was also kept inside. Shorter is accused of stealing donations from the donation box by turning it upside down and shaking it to make the envelopes fall out. The financial loss to the victim is unknown.

On each of the nine occasions, Shorter is accused of being captured on video surveillance during the theft. He is accused of often wearing a blue t-shirt with “God is Good” written in white.

A TBN property manager reported the thefts to the Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) last Sept. 17, after recognizing the defendant in a surveillance video. Shorter was arrested at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2010, on the property of TBN by CMPD. The defendant is accused of wearing the blue shirt matching that seen in the surveillance video at the time of his arrest.

Deputy District Attorney Nikki Chambers is prosecuting this case.

Sister and brother to be arraigned with third suspect for shooting-murder of innocent man outside Santa Ana restaurant on Feb 13

Feb 23 – A third defendant was charged today for the unprovoked shooting-murder of an innocent man outside of a restaurant in Santa Ana.

Maria Isabel Rocha, 28, Santa Ana, is charged with one felony count of murder with sentencing enhancements for the vicarious discharge of a firearm causing death by a gang member and criminal street gang activity. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in state prison.

Maria Rocha’s brother Ricardo Guerra Rocha, 17, Santa Ana, was charged Feb. 22, 2011, as an adult with the same counts as Maria Rocha with an additional felony count of street terrorism. He faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in state prison if convicted. Maria and Ricardo Rocha are both being held on $1 million bail.

Ivan Sanchez, 21, Santa Ana, was charged Feb. 22, 2011, with one felony count each of special circumstances murder and street terrorism with sentencing enhancements for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death, murder committed for a criminal street gang purpose, and criminal street gang activity. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. The defendant is being held without bail.

On the night of Feb. 13, 2011, Sanchez, Rocha, and Rocha, are accused of getting into an argument with an unknown group of people at Mariscos La Ola restaurant in Santa Ana over which state in Mexico was better. The three defendants are accused of leaving the restaurant, driving to get a firearm, and returning to the parking lot several minutes later.

When the defendants arrived back at the restaurant, 35-year-old Esteban Navarrete, who didn’t know them, was leaving the restaurant and getting into his car with his wife and friend. Maria Rocha is accused of being the driver and waiting in the car. Sanchez and Ricardo Rocha are both accused of being documented criminal street gang members. The male defendants are accused of getting out of the car and approaching the victims’ vehicle. Navarrete, who is not associated with any criminal street gang, got out of his vehicle to explain that he and his passengers were not involved in the earlier argument.

Sanchez is accused of murdering Navarrete by shooting him one time in the head.

The defendant is accused of firing several shots, but the other victims were not hit. Sanchez and Ricardo Rocha are accused of getting back into the vehicle and Maria Rocha is accused of driving the defendants away from the scene.

The Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) investigated this case. On Feb. 17 Sanchez was arrested after SAPD performed a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by 20-year-old Manuel Toscano. Toscano is accused of attempting to drive Sanchez to Mexico to avoid prosecution. Toscano has been charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact and faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison if convicted. Maria and Ricardo Rocha turned themselves in to SAPD on Feb. 18, 2011.

Senior Deputy DA Mark Geller of the Gang Unit is prosecuting this case.

Husband of caretaker charged as co-defendant in wife’s case for stealing $610,000 from elderly victims

Feb 22 – The Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) is seeking the public’s help in identifying potential additional victims after filing charges today against the husband of a caretaker accused of stealing money from elderly victims for personal purchases.

Leno Cassini, 56, Laguna Niguel, is charged with two felony counts each of accessory after the fact and receiving stolen property and one felony count of second degree burglary. He was arrested Feb. 17, 2011, at the Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office where he works as an administrative assistant. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison.

The OCDA added additional charges against Leno Cassini’s wife, Norma Ruth Casini, 51, Laguna Niguel, after new victims came forward as a result of seeing her arrest in the media.

Norma Casini is charged with 34 felony counts of fraudulently using an access card, 24 felony counts of forgery, two felony counts of caretaker theft from an elder, one felony count of residential burglary of an occupied home, and sentencing enhancements for loss over $100,000, property loss over $200,000, white collar crime over $500,000, and having a non-accomplice present. If convicted of all counts, she faces a maximum sentence of 49 years and eight months in state prison.

Both defendants are in custody on $610,000 bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond. They are scheduled to appear in court for a pre-trial hearing March 15, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. in Department H-1, Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach.

Charges against Ruth Casini

Victim Nancy W., 85, has required 24-hour in-home care in her Laguna Woods home since 2002. The victim has no family support and hired a caregiver service, LivHOME, to provide for her needs and basic care. LivHOME caregivers are paid by the company and are not to accept money directly from their client.

Norma Casini was employed by LivHOME and is accused of being entrusted to care for Nancy W. from November 2006 to March 2009. Without the knowledge or permission of the victim, Norma Casini is accused of stealing approximately $610,000 from Nancy W.’s bank accounts and credit cards for personal use. Norma Casini is accused of using the stolen money to pay for her home lease, dog day care and a “dog whisperer,” orthodontic work, laser eye treatment, shopping, concerts, travel, and other personal items.

In March 2009, Casini was terminated by LivHOME after the company determined that the defendant was not in Nancy W.’s home during her shift. A subsequent review of the victim’s bank accounts revealed that her savings had been depleted from over $700,000 in June 2008 to less than $5,000 in April 2009.The Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case and arrested Casini Feb. 2, 2011. As a result of the media coverage on Norma Casini’s case, additional victims came forward, which led to the arrest of Leno Casini.

New Charges against Leno Casini

Between December 2010 and January 2011, Norma Casini was employed as a caregiver by Home Helpers and is accused of being entrusted to care for married couple William and Helene S., 89 and 83 years old respectively. Norma Casini is accused of taking Helene S.’s debit card, changing the pin number, and using it to make everyday purchases totaling approximately $1,150. She is accused of stealing Helene S.’s wedding ring and band, which had an inscription of the couple’s initials. Norma Casini is accused of giving the jewelry to her husband, Leno Casini, to sell.

On Jan. 22, 2011, Leno Casini is accused of taking the rings to Jewelry Buyers, a pawn shop in Irvine. He is accused of selling the wedding set, claiming the rings belonged to his deceased mother.

The investigation is still ongoing. Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Eric Akerlind at (714) 347-8691.

Deputy DA Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.


Laguna cops solve 1978 cold case murder of Laguna architect Brent Tobey

Brent Tobey PhotoA DNA match led to murder charges being filed against a 52-year-old convicted murderer serving a 50-year sentence in Connecticut for the 1978 multiple stabbing death of Brent Stapleton Tobey inside his home in the 1300 block of Carmelita St.

Walter Dalie, 52, is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery and a sentencing enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Dalie is currently incarcerated in Osborn Prison, CT, and is expected to be extradited to Orange County to face the murder charges.

The following is from a Wednesday morning press release from LBPD:

 

Detectives from the Laguna Beach Police Department have met with representatives from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and formally requested murder charges against the prime suspect in a 33-year-old homicide.

During the early evening hours of Monday Nov 20, 1978, 55-year-old Laguna Beach resident Brent Stapleton Tobey was found murdered inside his home on Carmelita Street. Tobey was stabbed multiple times in the head and upper body by an unknown assailant.  A roommate found him lying on the floor of his bedroom in a pool of blood.

Shortly after the crime, Detectives arrested a man who had been staying with Tobey.  He was released several hours later, after being ruled out as a possible suspect in the crime.  The case sat unresolved for several years due to a lack of investigative leads.

Mr. Tobey was a well-known figure in the community.  He was a prominent architect who had served on the boards of several city committees and community organizations.  The brutality of this crime shocked the surrounding neighborhoods of this quiet town.

Strange Coincidence:

The person that found Mr. Tobey was a roommate who lived in a separate apartment on the premises.  The two men had made plans earlier in the day to have a celebratory dinner.  When Tobey failed to show up, the roommate checked the house and found his body.

They were scheduled to celebrate the murder conviction of Laguna Beach resident James Scramlin.  Scramlin had been accused of murdering their friend Albert Willard in his Temple Hills home in 1977.  Both Tobey and his roommate were the ones who discovered Willard’s bludgeoned body.  The murder case was prosecuted by current District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

In a strange coincidence, Brent Tobey was murdered the same day that Albert Willard’s murderer was convicted by an Orange County jury.

Case is Solved:

As crime scene technology continues to advance, Detectives commonly review the older murder cases for any new evidence.  In 2002, Laguna Beach Detective Paul Litchenberg submitted several items from the Brent Tobey crime scene to the Orange County Crime Lab for DNA analysis.  Out of all the belongings sent to the lab, one piece had foreign DNA on it.  This sample was submitted to the database, but there were no immediate matches in the local, State or Nationwide DNA databases.  The case hit a dead end again.

In August of 2010, Detectives were notified of a potential DNA match.  The State of Connecticut had recently loaded a group of samples.  These samples were taken from currently incarcerated individuals.  One of these prisoners matched the DNA from the Laguna Beach homicide case.

For the next several months, Sergeant Bob Rahaeuser and Lieutenant Jason Kravetz put the case together and interviewed several people involved.  In November of 2010, they traveled to Osborn Prison in Connecticut and interviewed the suspect on two separate occasions.

Walter Dallie PhotoThe Suspect:

The suspect is Walter Dalie, a 52-year-old man who is incarcerated in Connecticut.  He is serving a 50-year sentence for the 1985 murder of his girlfriend (Mary Carrington) in Newington, Connecticut.

During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Dalie was a parolee who resided in both Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.  He was raised in South Orange County and attended Dana Hills High School.

Dalie was 19 years old at the time of the crime and it is believed that he and the victim knew each other.

Procedures:

Now that the case has been filed, the District Attorney’s Office will begin proceedings to bring Walter Dalie back from Connecticut in order to stand trial for the murder of Brent Stapleton Tobey in Orange County.

Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy is prosecuting the case.

 

The District Attorney’s office said that Tobey had been stabbed 17 times in the back and head and that Dalie had gone to Tobey’s home intending to rob him.

The police department said this was the third cold case murder in their files to be solved since 2005. There are four remaining unsolved murders according to Lt. Kravetz.

Jeffrey Wilson who was shot by gang members at Aliso Beach on 5/9/92; Julie Ravenna 4/26/92, who was found dead in a Jacuzzi at a private home in the 100 block of Thalia St.  Her cause of death was drowning with strangulation; Lillian DeVilla on 2/4/98. Her body was placed alongside Laguna Canyon Rd near the old horse stables next to Anneliese School.  She had been strangled to death; Juan Morales on 5/12/98 whose bludgeoned body was found in the brush in the 2300 block of Laguna Canyon Rd. He had been struck in the head with a rock.

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