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.

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…


g>Man indicted for stabbing and murdering one and injuring another after New Year’s Eve hotel party

Feb 10 – A man was indicted today for murdering one man and injuring his friend by stabbing the victims after a New Year’s Eve hotel party.

Adam Randy Baker, 23, Dana Point, was indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury on one felony count of murder, one felony count of attempted murder, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 23 years to life in state prison. Baker is out of custody on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment Feb. 28.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office released a press release on Jan. 4, 2011, with the following information:

At approximately 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2011, Baker is accused of sitting on a bench near the valet parking area at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa after attending a New Year’s Eve party at the hotel. When a group of men exited the hotel, Baker is accused of flicking his cigarette at them and starting a verbal argument with 27-year-old Robert Sickles.

The defendant is accused of approaching Sickles and starting a physical fight by pushing the victim. Baker is accused of pulling out a knife, slashing the victim across the chest, and stabbing him one time in the chest. Sickles’ friend, 26-year-old Brian McTeigue, attempted to intervene to protect his friend and Baker is accused of stabbing McTeigue one time in the back.

The victims’ friends became involved in the physical fight to defend Sickles and McTeigue and detained Baker. The Costa Mesa Police Department, who were already at the hotel responding to unrelated disturbances, responded immediately.

Sickles and McTeigue were transported to Western Medical Center, where Sickles was pronounced dead on arrival as a result of his stab wound to the chest. McTeigue was treated for a non-fatal stab wound to the back and was later released. Baker was transported to Mission Hospital to be treated for facial fractures sustained after the stabbing.

Senior Deputy DA Matt Murphy of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

OCDA seeks help in identifying any additional victims of Dana Point man charged with defrauding investors in fake clothing line scheme

Feb 7 – The Orange County District Attorney is seeking the public’s help in identifying potential additional victims of a man charged with defrauding investors in a fake clothing line scheme.

Shaine Joseph LaVoie, 41, Dana Point, was indicted on four felony counts of grand theft, two felony counts of theft from an elder, two felony counts of using an untrue statement in purchase or sale of a security, and one felony count of writing non-sufficient funds check. The defendant faces a maximum sentence of seven years and four months in state prison if convicted. He is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing May 6.

In a separate case (Case # 06CF0973), LaVoie is charged with 11 felony counts of grand theft, 10 felony counts of misrepresentation in the offer or sale of a security, and one felony count of forgery.

Circumstances of Case # 11ZF0100

In 2007, LaVoie is accused of approaching two separate victims and convincing them to invest in a fake, non-existent clothing line called Agnus with the promise of high returns. La Voie is accused of stealing $10,000 from William H. and $4,200 from Brandon W. and never paying the victims back for their “investment.” He is also accused of writing a bad check from a closed account for $15,000 to Brandon W.

Circumstances of Case # 06HF0973

In 1992, the defendant co-founded Ezekial, a skateboarding clothing company. He left the company in 2003. Between February and October 2004, LaVoie is accused of approaching his friends and acquaintances to invest in a new business. He is accused of convincing them to invest in a fraudulent $1 million scheme that he claimed involved a large shipment of designer jeans being sold to a Japanese buyer. La Voie is accused of claiming the deal would close in under three months with up to a 100 percent profit.

When investors began to contact LaVoie for payment on their investments, the defendant is accused of lying that the shipment had been delayed due to customs problems. He is accused of creating a Ponzi scheme to pay back early investors with new investor’s money. A “Ponzi” scheme is when investors are offered high, short-term returns on investments, but instead of the investments generating actual income and legitimate profits, the money from the investors is kept for the benefit of the defendant or used to repay earlier investors.

LaVoie is accused of eventually cutting off all contact and failing to return calls from his 12 victims. He is accused of failing to pay back over $800,000 in stolen “investments.” He is accused of spending the stolen money on rent, expensive gifts, and luxury items for him and his girlfriend.

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 Yvette Patko of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting these cases.

Man sentenced to 54 years to life in prison for attempted murder of marijuana dispensary owner during armed robbery

Feb 4 – A man was sentenced today to 54 years to life in state prison for attempting to murder the owner of a marijuana dispensary during an armed robbery.

Arsenio Lamonte Collins, 21, Los Angeles, was convicted by a jury Oct. 4, 2010, of two felony counts of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation, two felony counts of attempted robbery, and two felony counts of assault with a firearm with a sentencing enhancement for the personal and intentional discharge of a firearm.

Co-defendants Miles York, 21, and Michael Munroe, 22, both of Laguna Niguel, pleaded guilty May 27, 2009, to two felony counts of attempted murder and two felony counts of second degree attempted robbery. Dennis Chaisson, 22, Los Angeles, pleaded guilty May 13, 2010, to two felony counts of attempted murder and one felony count of second degree attempted robbery. All three defendants were sentenced to seven years in state prison. A fourth co-defendant is as-of-yet unidentified.

In September 2008, Collins and his four co-defendants plotted to rob a medical marijuana dispensary in Laguna Niguel. When Collins and his co-defendants arrived at the dispensary, the suspicious owner allowed Collins to enter the store and then quickly locked the door to prevent the others from entering. The co-defendants remained outside.

Once inside, Collins pulled out a firearm, pointed it at the owner and two employees, and announced, “This is a robbery.” The dispensary owner began to struggle with Collins, who fired his firearm twice in an effort to shoot the victim. Both shots went through a window and no one was hit.

Collins attempted to fire his weapon several more times as he fought with the victim, but the firearm failed to discharge and the employees were able to pry it away from the defendant. Collins was arrested at the scene.

The three co-defendants were subsequently arrested and the fourth suspect remains unidentified. Anyone with information regarding the identity and whereabouts of the outstanding defendant is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Jaime Joyce at (714) 834-5649.

Deputy District Attorney Mena Guirguis of the Felony Panel prosecuted this case.

Third-striker arraigned for robbing two Bank of America employees using gun and fake bomb and stealing $30,000

Feb 3 – A third-striker will be arraigned tomorrow for robbing two employees of an Orange Bank of America branch and stealing $30,000 in cash by threatening staff and occupants with a firearm and fake bomb.

Gary Allen Reeder, 48, Santa Fe Springs, is charged with two felony counts of second degree robbery, one felony count of false bomb delivery, and one felony count of second degree commercial burglary, with sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a deadly weapon, the personal use of a firearm, and four federal prior convictions for 1992 Los Angeles bank robberies. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 40 years to life in state prison.

Reeder, called the “Scanner Bandit” in four prior bank robberies by the FBI, is being held on $1 million bail.

At approximately 2:45 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2011, Reeder is accused of entering a Bank of America branch in Orange under the pretense of opening a checking account. He is accused of sitting down at a desk with a bank employee and opening a day planner containing what appeared to be a bomb. The bomb was later determined to be fake. Reeder is accused of threatening two employees that they had 30 seconds to provide him $30,000 in cash. As the employees went to the bank’s vault, Reeder is accused of lifting his shirt and showing a firearm to bank bystanders to dissuade them from moving. He is accused of stealing $30,000 by using force and fear, leaving the fake bomb on a desk, and fleeing on foot. Bank employees called 911.

The Orange County Bomb Squad, Orange Police Department (OPD), and Federal Bureau of Investigation responded to the scene and investigated the case. Reeder was apprehended on Jan. 7, 2011, by OPD at a hotel in Corona. At the time of his arrest, Reeder is accused of being in possession of $19,000 in marked bills. Reeder is accused of spending the stolen $11,000 on hotel rooms, rental cars, and other personal expenses.

Deputy District Attorney Israel Claustro of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.

OCSD deputy charged with domestic violence and violating protective order by attempting to obtain firearm while out on bail

Feb 3 – An Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) deputy has been charged with committing domestic violence against his wife and then violating a protective order by attempting to obtain a firearm while out of custody on bail.

Travis Christopher Unholz, 36, Trabuco Canyon, is charged with one felony count of domestic battery with corporal injury, one felony count of attempted possession of a firearm in violation of a protective order, two misdemeanor counts of child abuse, one misdemeanor count of the violation of a protective order, and a sentencing enhancement for crime-bail-crime. The term “crime-bail-crime” indicates that the defendant committed a crime while out of custody on bail for another criminal offense. If convicted on all counts, Unholz faces a maximum sentence of six years and eight months in state prison.

The People will be requesting Unholz be held without bail at his arraignment tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. The time and Department are to be determined.

Sometime after 5 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2011, Unholz is accused of arguing with his wife, Jane Doe, and committing domestic violence by pushing her to the floor and causing her to hit her head. The defendant’s two children were in the home at the time. Jane Doe called a friend, who reported the abuse to OCSD. OCSD investigated this case and deputies arrested the defendant that night. He was booked into the Orange County Jail.

On Jan. 31, 2011, Unholz is accused of posting $50,000 bail and was released from custody. A protective order was served on the defendant barring him from having any direct or indirect contact through a non-attorney third party with the victim. The order also barred the defendant from possessing or attempting to acquire any firearms.

On Feb. 2, 2011, Unholz is accused of contacting a friend, and requesting that his friend assist him in acquiring an automatic weapon and survival kit. He is also accused of violating the protective order by asking his friend to contact his wife. The friend reported the conversation to OCSD, who arrested Unholz that evening.

Deputy DA Cyril Yu of the Family Protection Unit is prosecuting this case.

Caretaker charged with stealing $610,000 from 85-year-old victim and spending money on personal expenses including a “dog whisperer”

Feb 3 – An in-home caretaker will be arraigned tomorrow on charges of stealing approximately $610,000 from an 85-year-old woman and using the stolen money for personal purchases.

Norma Ruth Casini, 51, Laguna Niguel, is charged with 34 felony counts of fraudulently using an access card, 24 felony counts of forgery, one felony count of caretaker theft from an elder, and sentencing enhancements for loss over $100,000, property loss over $200,000, and white collar crime over $500,000. If convicted of all counts, Casini faces a maximum sentence of 49 years and eight months in state prison. The defendant is in custody on $610,000 bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond.

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.

Casini was employed by LivHOME and is accused of being entrusted to care for Nancy W. from Nov 2006 to March 2009. Without the knowledge or permission of the victim, Casini is accused of stealing approximately $610,000 from Nancy W.’s bank accounts and credit cards for personal use. 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 Public Guardian filed a conservator action to protect the victim and take control of her care. The OC Sheriff’s Department investigated the case and arrested Casini on Feb. 2, 2011.

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

Mt. Shasta woman charged with hate crime

A Mt. Shasta woman was arrested by Laguna police under the hate crimes section of the California penal code Monday afternoon. Amy Pembrook Walker, 50, was charged with two felonies: making terrorist threats of great bodily harm and making those threats based on a racial motivation.

Officers went to the Laguna Beach County Library branch on Glenneyre at 1:32 Monday afternoon when library staff members requested their assistance in removing a woman (Walker) who refused to leave and had been causing a disturbance inside.

As police were escorting Walker outside, an African American woman and witnesses told the officers that Walker had threatened to physically harm the other woman and she’d used the “n” word frequently during her tirade.

After interviews and a field investigation, Walker was arrested on felony counts of terrorist threats and an enhancement “based upon race”.

Bail was set on each count at $50,000. After booking at the city jail and being unable to post bond, she was transported to Orange County Jail.


San Bernardino County jails are overcrowded – LBPD directed to cite and release man with $100K warrant

 

Jail overcrowding in Southern California is a problem but nowhere is it as serious as in San Bernardino County. News reports have been frequent over the last five years with stories about the Board of Supervisors there trying to solve the problem albeit only with band aids.

Those who are regular Police Beat readers will recall that many warrant arrests with bail amounts of as little as $500 result in a night spent in jail if they are unable to post bail after being arrested.

Bail amounts for warrants are established by statute or by the courts and local agencies such as Laguna Beach PD have no discrepancy to alter the amounts.

When a computer check turns up a warrant for a person contacted by officers, the validity and status of the warrant is checked with the issuing agency so that no one is taken into custody when a warrant is invalid. Issuing agencies verify the warrant and usually direct the police to take the individual to county jail to be held there for pickup if bail isn’t posted.

Unless, that is, the warrant is from San Bernardino County.

Last Thursday night, LBPD officers went to the 200 block of Ocean Avenue when a bouncer there reported that two men were involved in a physical altercation, i.e., they were fighting. The two men were arrested.

Orange resident Robert Roy Steele, 47, was held on a warrant out of OC West Court with a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor. The court had set bail at $15,000.

The other guy, Wayne Adam Davis, 26 of Anaheim, was arrested for assault and battery – both misdemeanors – with bail set at $500. He also had a San Bernardino County felony warrant with $100,000 bail.

When authorities there were contacted, they instructed LBPD to issue Davis a citation for the warrant and then release him on his written promise to appear. Odds are that he was on the street long before Mr. Davis.

According to police, San Bernardino’s current policy is to follow that protocol as long as the warrant’s bail is $500,000 or less!


Probation search turns up unusual weapon

State law mandates that anyone on formal probation is subject to a search of their person, vehicle and home at anytime without notice or a search warrant.

This Wednesday evening at about six o’clock, Laguna Beach police and the OC Probation Dept made a probation search at the South Laguna residence of 63-year-old Joseph Nicoletti on Ocean Vista.

In the course of the search, authorities found a .22LR pen gun along with 150 rounds of .380 ammunition – a larger caliber than the pen gun uses.

Pen Gun Photo

Stinger pen pistols from Pengun.com website

Pen gun IllustrationThis graphic explanation of how a pen pistol breaks down for use was also on the Pengun.com website. It fires a single round then has to be completely reassembled to fire again or there is a possibility of “shooting yourself” according to the explanation!

These Stinger pen pistols, made of stainless steel, aren’t cheap with a cost of $200 plus. Accessories include a flare launcher.

Under the terms of Nicoletti’s probation, police said, he is not allowed to own either a gun or ammunition of any type. He was taken into custody for violation of probation, which is a no bail offense, and felony charges of a felon in possession of the firearm and ammunition.


Man grabbed woman and attempted to force her into car at a Laguna Canyon Rd bus stop last Wednesday

 

A 55-year-old woman reported that a man got out of his silver Honda two-door and grabbed her arm in an effort to get her to go with him.

The report was logged in at 11:02 last Wednesday morning after the woman had left a bus bench in the 2200 block of Laguna Canyon Road across from Laguna College of Art and Design and gone to a “neighbor’s home.”

She told the 9-1-1 dispatcher that a Middle Eastern-looking man with a strong accent had stopped his car, lowered the passenger side window and asked her if she wanted a ride and said he would taker her “…wherever she wanted to go.” She said no thank you only to have the man ask her again and again. She had said she was going to Irvine.

The woman then said the man got out of his car and came around to the bus bench and grabbed her arm saying, “I know exactly where you want to go and I will take you there.” She left the location and went to where he called a “neighbor’s house.”

It isn’t known if she is a student at LCAD or a resident or both.

The woman described her assailant as being in his mid twenties, about 5’8” with a think build, clean shaven and wearing a light blue shirt with a collar and jeans. He was last seen driving away eastbound in the silver Honda.

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