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

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood 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 officer 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.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


DUI driver with two priors charged with murder of woman, 29, in head-on crash while driving on wrong side of the freeway

Sept 13 – A driver under the influence of alcohol faces trial tomorrow for murdering a woman in a head-on crash while driving on the wrong side of the freeway.

Angel Herrera Leal, 30, Los Angeles, is charged with one felony count of murder. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison if convicted. Opening statements are expected to begin tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, at 8 a.m. in Department N-13, North Justice Center, Fullerton.

At approximately 4:45 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2008, Leal is accused of driving several miles on the wrong side of the Interstate 5 Freeway in Anaheim near Disney Way. He is accused of having a blood alcohol level of .29 percent. Several drivers on the freeway had to avoid Leal’s car and called 911 to report that he was driving northbound in the southbound lanes. Leal is accused of crashing his pick-up truck head-on into an oncoming Toyota Corolla, driven by 29-year-old Jisun Park.

Both cars involved in the crash spun and came to a stop on the freeway. Park’s passenger, 29-year-old Rebecca Moon, suffered blunt force trauma to the head and was killed. Park was transported to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center for injuries to her abdomen.

Leal is accused of having two prior convictions for driving under the influence in 2005 and 2007 and was driving on a suspended license at the time of the crash. The defendant had completed alcohol education courses in Los Angeles County and was informed of the danger of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was advised that he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

DA files charges against three for special circumstances murder for financial gain of 55-year-old man after following victim home from an Hawaiian Gardens casino

An arrest warrant has been issued for one defendant

Sept 10 – The Orange County District Attorney filed charges Friday against two men and a woman for the special circumstances murder for financial gain of a 55-year-old man after following the victim home from Hawaiian Gardens Casino to rob him of $10,000 in gambling winnings. Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) coordinated the investigation of this case with assistance from the casino.

Tad Allen Carroll, 41, formerly of Buena Park, Barbara Ann Hamel, 47, and Michael William Ross, 26, both of Long Beach, are all charged with one felony count each of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery, second degree robbery, and attempted second degree robbery. Ross and Carroll are each additionally charged with one felony count of second-degree robbery.

If convicted, each defendant faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. The People will be requesting that Carroll and Hamel be held without bail.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Ross.

Circumstances of the Los Angeles Robbery

In the early morning hours of June 18, 2010, Ross is accused of entering the Hawaiian Gardens Casino (Casino) in Los Angeles and surveying winning gamblers with the intention of robbing them after they left the Casino with co-defendant Carroll. Ross is accused of watching Ki Lee closely as he was gambling. Lee later visited the Casino’s cashier window to cash in his chips and left the Casino with approximately $5,000 in cash. Ross is accused of contacting and informing Carroll of Lee’s winnings. Carroll is accused of following the victim to his home. Upon arriving at the victim’s home, Carroll is accused of approaching Lee with what appeared to be a gun and robbing him. The defendant is accused of fleeing the scene. Lee reported the incident to the LASD.

Circumstances of the Orange County Murder

In the early morning on Sept. 3, 2010, Ross is accused of entering the Casino and surveying winning gamblers with the intention of robbing them after they left the Casino. Co-defendants Carroll and Hamel are accused of waiting in a Pontiac Grand Prix outside the Casino with the intention of robbing winning gamblers that Ross was watching. Ross is accused of closely watching 55-year-old Chi Bui who had been winning while gambling with his friend Kim Nguyen. At approximately 4 a.m., Bui went to the Casino’s cashier window, cashed in his chip winnings having over $10,000 in cash, and left the Casino with Nguyen. Ross is accused of following the victims out of the Casino and making a phone call to Carroll and Hamel.

Carroll and Hamel are accused of driving and following Bui, who was driving Nguyen to her Santa Ana home. Carroll and Hamel are accused of blocking-in Bui’s car after he stopped alongside the curb in front of Nguyen’s home. Carroll is accused of getting out of the vehicle, approaching the victims, and pointing a knife at them to steal their winnings. He is accused of knocking Bui to the ground and getting back into the Grand Prix.

Hamel is accused of driving over Bui’s head, killing him instantly, and then fleeing the scene with Carroll. Nguyen called 911.

The SAPD were able to link the three defendants to the two crimes with the assistance of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, LASD, California Department of Corrections, Parole Fugitive Apprehension Team, and United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force.

Carroll was arrested Sept. 8, 2010, in Anaheim. Hamel was apprehended in Long Beach later that day. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Ross.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact Supervising Homicide District Attorney Investigator Helen Moreno at (714) 347-8492 or the Santa Ana Police Department at (714) 245-8390.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Drunken driver to be arraigned for killing a pedestrian after losing control of his vehicle and crashing

Sept 9 – A drunken driver will be arraigned today for killing a pedestrian after losing control of his vehicle and crashing.

Beau Richard Cook, 26, Costa Mesa, is charged with one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of ten years in state prison. The People will be requesting Cook be held on $150,000 bail.

At approximately 11:24 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2010, Cook is accused of leaving work and consuming alcoholic beverages and driving in his Scion, heading southbound on Harbor Blvd in Santa Ana. He is accused of speeding and running a red light at the intersection of Harbor Blvd and Warner Ave. Cook is accused of swerving and losing control of his vehicle to avoid hitting a vehicle making a legal U-turn. He is accused of hitting the center median and skidding across the southbound lanes of traffic; driving up on the curb of the sidewalk and shearing off a fire hydrant and hitting victim, 57-year-old pedestrian Eloisa Aguilar, causing her to be thrown and land in the adjacent shopping center parking lot. Witnesses called 911.

The victim died at the scene due to blunt force trauma injuries.

Cook was transported to the hospital to be treated for a broken leg and pelvis he sustained in the crash. Approximately an hour and a half after the crash the defendant had a blood alcohol level of .08 percent.

Deputy DA Susan Price of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Former counselor at Orangewood Children’s Home charged in sexual assault of 17-yr-old female while providing therapy

Sept 9 – A former counselor at The Orangewood Children’s Home will be arraigned tomorrow for sexually assaulting a then-17-year-old female resident to whom he provided therapy.

Abner Z. Avila, 27, Lake Elsinore, is charged with three felony counts of sexual penetration by foreign object of a minor. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of four years and four months in state prison. Avila is out of custody and was scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 10, 2010.

Beginning on Oct. 10, 2007, Avila is accused of counseling then-17-year-old victim Jane Doe while she was a resident at The Orangewood Children’s Home (Orangewood) located in the City of Orange.

Orangewood is Orange County’s only shelter for children who have been removed from their caretakers and placed in protective custody by police or protective services. Some of the resident children have been neglected or physically, sexually, or emotionally abused. Avila is accused of sexually assaulting Jane Doe on three occasions.

Between Oct. 10, 2007, and March 1, 2008, Avila is accused of sexually assaulting Jane Doe by digitally penetrating the victim and having her masturbate him in a common room within Orangewood where toys are kept.

Between Oct. 10, 2007, and March 1, 2008, Avila is accused sexually assaulting Jane Doe on a second occasion in his car after driving Jane Doe to her court-ordered drug test appointment and then buying her fast food in Orange. The defendant is accused of digitally penetrating the victim and having Jane Doe masturbate him while inside his parked car.

Between May 1, 2008, and May 16, 2008, Avila is accused of driving and picking up Jane Doe at her foster home, after she was no longer a resident at Orangewood. The defendant is accused of sexually assaulting the victim a third time by digitally penetrating the victim inside his car while parked outside her foster home. Avila is also accused of having Jane Doe masturbate him on the same occasion.

In May 2008, a former resident of Orangewood reported the defendant’s conduct towards Jane Doe to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Avila was arrested on May 17, 2008, while working at Orangewood. Upon further investigation, the District Attorney filed charges on June 18, 2010.

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Randy Litwin at (714) 347-8794.

Deputy District Attorney Jess Rodriguez of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.


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

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood 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 officer 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.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


Husband charged with special circumstances murder of wife of 39 years by hitting her over the head with small statue

Aug 31 – A husband has been charged with murdering his wife by hitting her repeatedly over the head with a small statue after an argument in their Rancho Santa Margarita home.

Richard Gustav Forsberg, 61, is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder by lying in wait and faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. Forsberg is being held without bail.

On Feb. 9, 2010, the defendant is accused of getting into a verbal argument with his wife Marcia Ann Forsberg, whom he had been married to for 39 years. Forsberg is accused of surprising the victim by grabbing a small statue and hitting her multiple times in the head, murdering her. He is accused of keeping her body in their home over the next few days until he rented a recreational vehicle (RV). He is accused of using the RV to drive the victim’s body to a campground, Lake Piru Recreation Area in Ventura County, where he disposed of the body.

When questioned by friends about the whereabouts of his wife, Forsberg is accused of claiming that they were having some marital problems and that she had left town to be on her own. On Aug. 24, 2010, concerned friends of the victim reported her missing. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department began investigating the case.

Forsberg was arrested on Aug. 30 at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. The defendant had been admitted to the hospital and a citizen contacted the police after recognizing him from media coverage requesting public assistance locating the defendant and his wife.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Hard money lender gets 18 years in prison for stealing $2.6 million from investors in Ponzi and real estate fraud scheme

Aug 31 - A hard money lender was sentenced yesterday to 18 years in state prison for stealing $2.6 million from investors in a Ponzi and real estate fraud scheme.

Joseph Anthony Veltre, 68, Orange, pleaded guilty to a court offer to 112 felony counts including 60 counts of grand theft, 17 counts of elder financial exploitation by a non-caregiver, 17 counts of residential burglary, 13 counts of forgery, three counts of recording false documents, one count of commercial burglary, one count of identity theft, and white collar crime sentencing enhancements for loss over $500,000. Veltre was sentenced to 18 years in state prison and ordered to pay over $2,649,000 in restitution.

Between 2002 and 2007, Veltre defrauded eight people in a Ponzi and real estate fraud scheme. A “Ponzi” scheme is a fraudulent scheme that offers investors high, short-term returns on investments. Instead of using the money to generate actual income and legitimate profits, the money from the investors is kept for the benefit of the defendant or used to repay earlier investors.

Using his two Orange County-based businesses, Sea View Financial and Allied Corporate Investments, Veltre operated as a hard money lender by soliciting money from private investors for borrowers looking for funds from non-bank lenders. The term “hard money lender” is used when a lender solicits money from private investors for borrowers looking for funds from non-bank lenders. He stole from his private investors, most of who are now retired and elderly, by keeping the money they lent for borrowers looking to take out second and third mortgages and not funding the loan as promised. Veltre operated a Ponzi scheme and used funds from new investors to pay off prior investors.

The Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) began investigating Veltre after receiving complaints from some of the victims and arrested him on May 4, 2009.

Written victim impact statements were submitted to the court for consideration at sentencing. One victim, a volunteer with the NBPD, stated that, “At my age of 92, there is little, if any, hope of recovery, and of course my living expenses had to be drastically reduced as well as very little left in my will to the children.” Another victim wrote that Veltre’s fraud has impacted his ability to help and to educate his grandchildren.

Deputy District Attorney George McFetridge of the White Collar Crime Team prosecuted this case.


Police, DEA tie 2008 drug overdose death here to a new LA County “Dr. Feelgood” pill dispenser

Laguna Beach police and the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced this week that a Rowland Heights doctor’s DEA Certificate of Registration had been suspended for allegedly prescribing controlled substance medications “routinely… to drug seeking individuals, many of them between the ages of 18-26, while conducting cursory or no medical examinations,” according to a prepared statement from DEA’s Timothy J. Landrum, Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division. Many of those with the prescriptions had them filled in order to divert the drugs to sell on the street.

In a press release, Laguna police said, “On October 21, 2008, Laguna Beach Police and Fire Departments were dispatched to a residence in North Laguna where 19-year-old Calvin Jones was discovered unresponsive. Jones was transported to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, where he was pronounced dead. His death was attributed to the ingestion of the pain medication Oxymorphone.

“Police Detectives began investigating the circumstances surrounding the death and subsequently interviewed several people who knew Jones. They learned that he had recently purchased the Oxymorphone from a man in Laguna Niguel. This man had been prescribed the pain medication by Dr…[Hsiu-Ying Lisa Tseng, DO…of Rowland Heights, California.”

Between April 2008 and July 2010, Special Agents with the DEA and Investigators from the California Medical Board conducted six undercover visits to Dr. Tseng’s office posing as patients seeking prescriptions for controlled substances. On five of the six occasions, Dr. Tseng issued prescriptions for Vicodin, Suboxone (Schedule III controlled substances) and/or Xanax (Schedule IV controlled substance) while performing a cursory or no medical examination, without taking a medical history and for no legitimate medical purpose.

“Prescription drug abuse continues to rise at a disturbing rate,” said Landrum. “Many obtain these dangerous drugs from doctors prescribing drugs for no medical need. DEA is committed to working together with our state and local counterparts to ensure those few doctors who abuse their authority are not allowed to continue.”

Dr. Tseng will be given an opportunity for an administrative hearing, and after the hearing, the DEA Deputy Administrator will make a final decision on whether her DEA Certificate of Registration should be permanently revoked. This decision will be published in the Federal Register.

Laguna Beach Police investigators, in conjunction with the Tempe Police Department, Murrieta Police Department, OC Sheriff’s Department, LA County Sheriff’s Department, Medical Board of California, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange County Coroner’s Offices, assisted the DEA in investigation.


3 arrested in stolen car on S. Coast Hwy

Update: The owner of the Mazda flew in from Texas on Sunday to drive his car back home. Turns out he is a police officer there.

When a patrol car radioed the license plate of a Mazda that was being stopped for a traffic violation on S. Coast Hwy Thursday afternoon, the dispatcher informed the officer involved that the car was a stolen vehicle out of Texas. Backup units immediately headed to assist in a felony car stop.

Three male occupants were cleared one at a time at gunpoint from the Mazda on Coast Hwy near Cress St beginning shortly after 3 p.m.

Police identified them as Dylan Robinson and Jesse Chisholm, both 18 of Texas, and 19-year-old William Collins of Colorado. All three told police that they knew the car was stolen. Robinson was driving the Mazda at the time of the car stop. They were each charged with felony grad theft auto.

Chisholm was also held on a Colorado felony warrant with a burglary charge and that state will seek extradition, police said.

They were booked at the police station and later transported to Orange County Jail.


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

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood 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 officer 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.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


Off-duty Hermosa Beach Fire Department arson investigator charged with brandishing gun at woman in bar

Aug 23– An off-duty arson investigator with the Hermosa Beach Fire Department has been charged with brandishing a firearm at a woman sitting next to him in a bar in Sunset Beach.

Darryl Lee Powers, 49, La Palma, was charged Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010, with one misdemeanor count of brandishing a firearm capable of being concealed upon a person in a public place. If convicted, he faces a sentence ranging from 90 days up to one year in jail. Powers is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 24 at the West Justice Center in Westminster.

At approximately 9:15 p.m. on July 7, 2010, Powers is accused of being at Turc’s Bar in Sunset Beach having drinks with his cousin. The defendant is accused of taking out a knife and stabbing it into the bar in front of him. Victim Kimberly D., who did not know the defendant, was sitting next to him at the bar.

A bartender took the knife and told the defendant that he could not have a knife at the bar. When the bartender walked away, Powers is accused of taking a firearm from his pocket and putting in on the bar with the barrel pointing at Kimberly D. The frightened victim asked Powers to put the firearm away, but he is accused of leaving it on the bar.

The victim told the bartender, who contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). Powers was contacted by OCSD as he left the bar and released at the scene pending further investigation.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Olivieri of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.

Man charged with having unlawful sex and smoking marijuana with 12-year-old girl in his car

Aug 18 – A 31-year-old man has been charged with having unlawful sex and smoking marijuana with a 12-year-old girl in his car at 2 a.m. after meeting her for the first time earlier that day.

Neftali Pena Procopio, Santa Ana, is charged with one felony count of lewd acts on a child under 14 with a sentencing enhancement for substantial sexual conduct with a child. He is also charged with one felony count of furnishing marijuana to a minor. If convicted, Procopio faces a maximum sentence of nine years and eight months in state prison. He is being held on $100,000 bail.

On the afternoon of Aug. 16, 2010, Procopio is accused of meeting 12-year-old Jane Doe for the first time while he was playing basketball on the campus of Santa Ana High School. The victim is not a student at the high school. He is accused of arranging for the victim to sneak out of her home later that night.

Late that night, Procopio is accused of picking Jane Doe up near her home, driving her to the 300 block of South Ross Street in Santa Ana, and parking his car. The defendant is accused of giving Jane Doe marijuana and smoking it with her. He is accused of then having unlawful sex with the victim in his car. Procopio is accused of then tossing the used condom outside of the car.

At approximately 2 a.m. on Aug. 17, 2010, an officer from the Santa Ana Police Department observed the defendant’s parked car with fogged windows. The officer approached the vehicle to make contact with the occupants. Procopio is accused of being inside the car when the officer approached.

The defendant was arrested at the scene and the victim was taken home by SAPD to her parents, who were unaware that she had left the house. The discarded condom was recovered by officers.

Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.

Man arrested after ejaculating two times into female co-worker’s water bottle while at work

Aug 17 – Orange Police Dept (OPD) officers arrested a man outside his Fullerton home Aug 17 on charges of ejaculating twice into a female co-worker’s water bottle on her office desk.

Michael Kevin Lallana, 31, Fullerton, is charged with two misdemeanor counts each of releasing an offensive material in a public place and assault, with sentencing allegations for committing a crime for sexual gratification. If convicted, he faces a sentence ranging from a minimum of three months to a maximum of three years in jail with mandatory sex offender registration.

The People requested Lallana be held on $10,000 bail. The defendant is out of custody on $500 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept 14 at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-46, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

In 2005, Lallana is accused of meeting a co-worker, in her twenties, Jane Doe, while working at Northwestern Mutual Mortgage Company in Newport Beach. On Jan. 14, 2010, Lallana is accused of assaulting Jane Doe by entering the victim’s office and depositing his ejaculation into a water bottle that was on her desk. The defendant is accused of leaving the semen-filled water bottle on the victim’s desk, which Jane Doe later drank upon returning to her office. The victim, unaware of the bottle’s contents, drank the water the contaminated water. She threw it away after feeling sickened and irritated.

Approximately three months later, Jane Doe and six other employees, including the defendant, were transferred to the Northwestern Mutual Mortgage Company’s Orange branch. On April 9, 2010, Lallana is accused of assaulting Jane Doe by depositing his ejaculation into a water bottle that the victim left on her desk. The defendant is accused of leaving the contaminated bottle on Jane Doe’s desk and returning to his office. The victim later returned to her office and drank from the semen-filled water bottle. She was sickened and irritated. She sent it to a private lab to be tested.

In June 2010, Jane Doe was contacted by the private lab that confirmed the water bottle contained semen. The victim reported the incidents to the OPD. In early July, following further investigation by the OPD and Orange County Crime Lab, the defendant was linked through DNA to the crimes.

Deputy District Attorney Bobby Taghavi is prosecuting this case.


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

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood 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 officer 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.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


Drunk driver, 21, pleads guilty of hit-and-run death of man, 29

August 13 – A driver under the influence of alcohol was convicted today for hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene, which resulted in the victim’s death one week later.

Shana Lynne Calderon, 21, Newport Beach, pleaded guilty to the court to one felony count of hit and run causing death, one misdemeanor count each of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or more, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia, and driving without a valid license. Calderon faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison at her sentencing Oct. 15, 2010.

At approximately 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 12, 2009, Calderon was driving in her white 1995 Ford Explorer southbound on the Costa Mesa Freeway as it turned into Newport Blvd in Costa Mesa. The victim, 29-year-old Michael McLaughlin, stepped into the street as Calderon moved into the right hand turn lane and hit the victim at the intersection of Newport Boulevard and 19th Street.

The defendant struck the victim causing him to hit the windshield and fly into the street. Calderon parked her vehicle nearby, walked to the scene, and spoke to a witness there. Calderon and her passenger then fled the scene. The victim was transported to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where he died a week later due to blunt force trauma caused by the crash.

Approximately two hours later, Calderon turned herself in to the Costa Mesa Police Department. Calderon displayed objective signs of intoxication including bloodshot and watery eyes, flushed face, slurred speech, and a strong odor of alcohol on her breath. At the time of her arrest she was in possession of two hollowed-out pen containers used to ingest prescription drugs. At the time of the crash, Calderon was driving without a valid driver’s license.

Deputy DA Jason Baez of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.


DNA match led to arrest in Mandarin King robbery and beating from Feb 26, 2009

Gutierrez Mug ShotWhen the cops want to talk to someone about a serious crime, nothing works better for them than having a suspect with an existing felony warrant for something else.

As we reported in Police Beat here in the Tuesday edition, Laguna Beach PD detectives went to Riverside County to arrest Armando Serrano Gutierrez, 37, on a felony West Court drug possession warrant.

Turns out they brought him back to the city jail and interviewed about the robbery of the owner of Mandarin King restaurant in North Laguna on Feb 26, 2009. That night two masked men sneaked through the darkness and demanded money from the victim as he approached his car after closing. Police said the two masked men didn’t wait for a response – they just started to repeatedly beat the owner over the head and face with a wooden stick. He was knocked down and the suspects grabbed the moneybag and took off.

Despite the beating, the victim suffered only minor facial wounds and recovered fully.

Investigators weren’t able to uncover and clues that would lead them to an arrest in the case until earlier this month. LBPD was notified by the national DNA database of a match on an item detectives had submitted. That item was the wooden stick the suspects had used to beat the victim.

Gutierrez had been arrested on another felony crime in Nov 2009, which caused his DNA to be obtained and entered into the database. Gutierrez’s sample matched the previously unknown DNA from the weapon.

Detectives tracked Gutierrez, of Santa Ana, to a residence in Rubidoux and with the assistance of Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies, arrested him on the drug warrant without incident.

LBPD Detective Sgt. Bob Rahaeuser said in a statement that once he was brought to the police station, “Gutierrez provided critical evidence, which caused investigators to charge him with armed robbery. ICE was also contacted for an immigration hold.”

Police did not release any information related to a second suspect.


Man on LSD jumped cop trying to help him

A patrol officer stopped to offer assistance to a man who had been running at “a full sprint” down the sidewalk in the 800 block of N. Coast Hwy. The officer had seen the man and also saw him take a header onto Coast Hwy.

According to Sgt. Louise Callus, LBPD Press Information Officer, “The officer turned around to assist. As he approached the subject on foot, the subject’s girlfriend…stated that the subject had just ingested LSD.” Sgt. Callus explained that Jon Kelsey, 23 of Fountain Valley, quickly jumped up as the officer approached him, “…and [Kelsey] repeatedly attempted to punch and kick him. The officer drew and discharged his Taser, but they were too close and the application was ineffective.”

The officer and Kelsey tussled and the officer managed to get him down and called for emergency assistance for an officer needing help. All Laguna patrol units responded, “code three” (lights and sirens).

Just after the call for help, Callus said, “Although the officer outweighed the subject by over 50 pounds, the subject was able to throw the officer off. The officer was able to reestablish a control hold as three citizens stopped to assist. Two of the citizens (one of which was an off-duty CDC [California Dept of Corrections] employee) helped the officer control [and] handcuff him, and place him into a patrol car. The officer sustained a small cut to his nose and abrasions to his elbows and knees.”

Kelsey had numerous abrasions and bruises but was otherwise unhurt.

He was charged with battery on a police officer, being under the influence of a controlled substance and resisting arrest.

StuNewsLaguna received several “tips” from passersby.


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

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood 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 officer 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.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


OCDA hosts 10th annual Summer Youth Education Conference for students interested in law enforcement

Aug 6 – Local Orange County high school students will have the opportunity next week to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a prosecutor, defense attorney, police detective and judge during the 10th Annual Summer Youth Education Conference. This weeklong program will begin Monday, Aug. 9 at 8:30 a.m. and will include 35-40 hours of hands-on activities, culminating in a mock trial and a graduation ceremony on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010.

“I am glad that our program helps young people in our community to learn about the criminal justice system,” said District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “It’s our privilege to work with local teens to choose a positive path. The students are tomorrow’s prosecutors, police officers, and judges.”

The Summer Youth Education Conference allows students interested in law enforcement to gain a better understanding of how the criminal justice system works. Students will have an opportunity to visit numerous government agencies and network with criminal justice professionals.

The participants will visit the Santa Ana Police Department, the Federal Courthouse, a judge’s chamber, the Orange County Sheriff’s Training Facility, and the Coroner’s office. Educational workshops will be presented by police officers, OCDA investigators, prosecutors, a public defender, community agencies, and other criminal justice professionals.

Applications for the program are accepted from students who exhibit an interest in learning about the legal and criminal justice system are selected to participate. Anyone interested in applying for the 2011 conference can visit the Orange County District Attorney’s website at www.orangecountyda.com and select “Summer Youth Education Conference” under “Education and Resources.” The program is open to Orange County high school students between the ages of 16 and 18 years old.

Man described as “smelling of garlic and donuts” arraigned on charges of forcible rape and sodomy after kidnapping victim

Aug 6 – A man was arraigned this afternoon for raping and sodomizing a woman he forced into his vehicle.

Phat Huy To, 26, Garden Grove, is charged with one felony count each of forcible rape, sodomy by force, forcible oral copulation, and kidnapping. If convicted, To faces a minimum sentence of 12 years to a maximum sentence of 32 years in state prison. The defendant is being held on $250,000 bail and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing, Friday, Aug. 26, 2010, at 8:30 a.m. in Department W-14, West Justice Center, Westminster.

On July 16, 2010, at approximately 2 a.m., To is accused of driving up to Westminster Boulevard in Garden Grove in his vehicle and approaching 23-year-old Jane Doe. He is accused of rolling down the window, holding what looked like a gun under his shirt, and telling her to “get in the f***ing car.” He is accused of driving her to his house and forcibly raping, sodomizing, and forcing the victim to orally copulate him in the garage of the home for over two hours.

The defendant is accused of taking Jane Doe’s cellular phone and driving her to a street where he dropped her off. Jane Doe flagged down help and reported the crime to the Garden Grove Police Department. The defendant was described by the victim as smelling of garlic and donuts. He was also identified through his picture.

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Randy Litwin at (714) 347-8794.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.

Transient parolee charged with stabbing and attempting to murder woman during carjacking in grocery store parking lot

Aug 4 – A transient man on parole was charged today with stabbing and attempting to murder a woman in a grocery store parking lot after she refused to give him the keys to her car.

Ernesto Lucero, 25, a transient known to frequent the Cities of Santa Ana, Tustin and Orange, is charged with one felony count each of attempted murder, carjacking, and aggravated assault with sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a deadly weapon, the personal use of a deadly weapon during a carjacking, and causing great bodily injury. The defendant has a prior strike for a 2005 residential burglary conviction. If convicted, Lucero faces a maximum sentence of life plus an additional 57 years in state prison.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 2, 2010, Lucero is accused of approaching several people and asking for money in an Albertsons parking lot near Jamboree Road and Chapman Avenue. The defendant is accused of approaching 50-year-old Jane Doe and asking her for money. When the victim refused, Lucero is accused of pulling out a knife and ordering Jane Doe to hand over her car keys. Jane Doe again refused and the defendant is accused of stabbing her twice in the chest. He is accused of then stealing the victim’s car keys and fleeing the scene in her car.

A witness, a Vietnam war veteran and medic, helped the victim by placing pressure on her chest and rolling her onto her side to prevent her lungs from filling up with fluid. Jane Doe was unconscious and non-responsive when emergency personnel arrived. She was transported to Western Medical Center.

The Orange Police Department (OPD) was called to the scene and released information about the crime and a description of the defendant to the media, asking for the public’s help in locating him. At approximately 1:10 p.m., two Villa Park residents who had seen the media coverage contacted the police after seeing a man matching the description of Lucero.

Deputies from the OC Sheriff’s Department located the defendant near Cerro Villa Middle School in Villa Park. Lucero is accused of being in possession of a knife in his pocket at the time of his arrest.

Jane Doe, a mother of two, is currently in the hospital in stable condition. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Anthony Sosnowski at (714) 347-8814 or Orange Police Detective Joey Ramirez at (714) 744-7313.

Deputy District Attorney Lynda Fernandez of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.


Police release new photos of U.S. Bank suspect

Laguna Beach police released new photos of the possible suspect in the two robberies of the U.S. Bank branch downtown. The photos were taken as he exited a bank in Cathedral City and police believe they show “a better depiction” of the man’s features.

He is suspected of pulling off 12 bank robberies in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

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