California Criminal Attorney Blog

The California Attorney General’s Office announced the indictment of six people involving the operation of a mortgage fraud scheme in Southern California. The individuals were charged with a total of 135 felony charges including conspiracy, grand theft, identity theft, forging documents and filing false documents.

Jacob Orona, Aide Orona, John Contreras, Prakashumar “Kash” Bhakta, Marcus Robinson and David Boyd were arrested last week of participating in a scheme that preyed upon homeowners facing foreclosure. The investigation involved joint cooperation between multiple law enforcement agencies into the defendants promising homeowners who are upside down in their homes ways to save their homes. The defendants required an upfront payment of $3,500 and additional monthly payments of $1,000 to file fake legal pleadings including filing fake deeds. This scam resulted in losses of over $4 million and did not save one homeowner from their distress.

Homeowners in San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino were the primary targets of the defendants. If convicted, the defendants face from 18-90 years in prison. The fraud stretched through San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties.

Recently, we wrote a blog about the biggest national health care fraud sweep, which resulted in 301 people charged and over $900 million dollars in fraudulent billings. The Medicare fraud strike force was responsible for uncovering this fraud and having over 300 individuals charged in almost every state in the nation. In California, 22 individuals were charged. The scheme involved billing and procedures that were not necessary and compounding crèmes.

One Physician charged, Dr. Donald Woo Lee is accused of performing unnecessary procedures for varicose veins when the patients had no sign of varicose veins.

The majority of losses in California stem from cases involving compounding pharmacies. Compounding medications are primarily used for pain relief and found in a topical crime. They are supposed to be made from various ingredients and tailored to the individual patient. The schemes involving compounding medications usually arise when there is a “marketer” or “capper” who may recruit patients, doctors and pharmacists. The fraud typically involves some type of incentive or “kickback” for using, prescribing or filling prescription for compounding medications. Often the patients are part of “pay to play” incentive. Insurance companies were reimbursing the doctors and pharmacists for the compounding medication, which were often not needed or requested from the patient. The reimbursements were outrageous, at times more than $15,000 for a single prescription.

United States Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the nationwide sweep of a Medicare Fraud Strike Force that included individuals from 36 federal districts. In total, 301 people were criminally charged with participating in health care fraud schemes involving $900 million in false billings, including 61 physicians, nurses and various licensed medical professionals. In addition to Medicare, twenty-three states Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in the raid and HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is suspending payments to providers who were named in various indictments and criminal complaints. The sweep was the largest in history in terms of amount of loss and criminal defendants.

All of the defendants were charged with various health care fraud charges, including money laundering, anti-kickback statutes and conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The charges stem from various medical treatment and services from home health care, psychotherapy, occupational therapy, DME and prescription drugs.

The U.S. Attorney’s office also announced the $350 million allocated from the Affordable Care Act toward the investigation and prosecution of health care related fraud. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). They in 9 locations and have charged over 2,900 defendants who have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $8.9 billion.  Including the most recent arrests, 1,200 people have been charged in national takedown operations, involving more than $3.4 billion in fraudulent billings.

Recently in the news we have been hearing about Brock Turner, the Stanford University student swimmer who was convicted of sexual assault. The judge in Mr. Turner’s case sentenced him to 180 days in county jail despite the request of six years in state prison by prosecutors. This judicial decision has caused a huge outcry from public who feel this punishment does not fit the crime. Further, headlines are calling Mr. Turner a “rapist” and most people who are posting and blogging on the topic are using that term as well. However, under the laws of California, Mr. Turner is not in fact a rapist.

What is the definition of Rape?

California Penal Code Section 261 defines rape as an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person not the spouse of the perpetrator. Sexual intercourse means any penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or genitalia by the penis.  California Penal Code, § 263. So, because Mr. Turner did not penetrate the victim with his penis, he could not be liable or guilty of rape. Further, sexual crimes against same sex individuals cannot be classified as a rape because as previously stated, the genitalia of a man and woman must be involved.

Brock Turner, a Stanford University freshman and star athlete was convicted in March 2016 of 3 felony counts of sexual assault. Just over a week ago, Judge Aaron Persky of Santa Clara County sentenced Brock Turner to six months in county jail,. Judge Persky’s sentencing sparked outrage across the nation, and started an online petition to remove him from the bench.

In January 2015, Brock Turner was a freshman at Stanford University when he was arrested in the early morning hours for raping a woman, Two men riding bikes on campus saw Turner sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster near an on –campus fraternity. The two men chased Turner down and held him down until police arrived. The police arrested Brock Turner for attempted rape. During his police interview, Turner admitted to penetrating the woman’s vagina with his fingers. The woman did not regain consciousness for several hours later and had no memory of the sex crime.

Following a jury trial, Turner was convicted of the following charges: assault with intent to commit rape of intoxicated person PC 220(a)(1)/261 which carries a potential sentence of 2, 4 or 6 years in state prison. This offense is a strike offense, and carries mandatory sex offender registration for life; Sexual penetration of unconscious person PC 289(d), which carries a potential sentence of 3,6 or 8 years in state prison. This charge requires sex offender registration for life; Sexual penetration of intoxicated person PC 289(3), which carries a potential sentence of 3, 6 or 8 years in state prison. This charge requires sex offender registration for life.

Mark Salling, 33, an actor who appeared on “Glee” was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on federal charges of possessing child pornography. Salling played Noah “Puck” Puckerman on the Fox show. He was arrested in December at his home in Los Angeles, where detectives seized a computer, hard and flash drives.

Salling is charged with one count of accessing the internet to obtain child pornographic images and another count of possessing child pornographic videos. If convicted, Salling faces up to 20 years in prison per count in addition to other terms and conditions.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Rozella A. Oliver ordered Salling to be released once he posts bail in the amount of $150,000 of which $100,000 must be his own money. Salling, plead not guilty and remains out of custody. The judge also restricted Salling’s computer time and travel.

There is little doubt that most of us know someone who has been arrested for a DUI.  Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is one of the more common misdemeanor cases that appear in criminal court.  While great strides have been made to reduce the number of alcohol related arrests, there seems to be an increase in the number of drug related DUI’s.  That being said, do individuals who get arrested for alcohol and drug related DUI’s need an attorney?

While it my not be a popular answer to our peers, the best and most honest answer is “no.”  Driving Under the Influence is statutorily driven, meaning the punishment is usually the same for everybody.  For first time offenders, unless there are extenuating circumstances, (lack of probable cause for the stop, an accident, high BAC level, or lack of cooperation with law enforcement) there is typically no jail time.  In addition there are standard fines and fees for conviction, informal probation, DUI classes on sometimes a MADD class participation.  So, if you want to save yourself thousands of dollars on an attorney, you can appear in court and ask the judge for an offer.  If you agree to the judge’s offer, you can accept it on the spot and take a plea.  If, you don’t like the offer made by the judge, you can always ask the judge for a continuance and seek the advice of an attorney.

Now, when is it a smart idea to hire a criminal defense attorney for a DUI case?  If you are charged as a multiple offender, if you are involved in an accident which causes great bodily injury or death to another person or if you are found to be in possession or  under the influence of a controlled substance, an attorney will provide immense guidance.  In these types of situations, prosecutors routinely seek 30 to 180 days in custody.  With the assistance of an attorney, you can challenge the probable cause for the stop, challenge the scientific evidence, provide mitigation material and negotiate with DA’s and judges to get you a fair offer.  Attorneys can steer you in to rehabilitative services where successful completion may serve as actual jail time.

Huntington Beach police extradited a Las Vegas man back to Orange County to face 20 counts of sexually assaulting girls for more than twenty years. Martin Rodgriquez Garcia, 49, a former resident of Huntington Beach is accused of committing lewd and lascivious acts on a minor, sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child under the age of 10, aggravated sexual assault of a child with a foreign object, aggravated sexual assault of a child and other related crimes against children in Orange County Superior Court.

Huntington Beach investigators believe the alleged assaults occurred as early as 1990 and as late as 2011 with victims between the ages of 5 and 15 years old. Garcia, a former construction worker was identified by an alleged victim who came forward in 2015. During a subsequent investigation, other alleged victims have also come forward and Huntington Beach authorities believe there may be more.

PENAL CODE §288(a), LEWD ACT WITH A CHILD occurs when an individual touches the intimate part of a child under the age of 14 for sexual purposes. What is important to remember about lewd acts with a child is that the touching does not have to be skin-to-skin, meaning the touching could be over the child’s clothing. The punishment for a conviction of Penal Code Section 288(a) includes lifetime registration as a sexual predator and up to 8 years. In addition, if the defendant used force, fear or threats and if there are multiple victims, then a defendant could face life in prison.

An Orange County woman was sentenced to six years in federal prison after pleading guilty to crimes related to mortgage fraud.  Najia Jalan, 31, of Costa Mesa, used different companies such as United Mortgage Protection, OC NonProfit, American Consumer Law Center, and National Legal Help Center to scam people into paying large fees for legal services related to their mortgages.  Jalan is not a licensed attorney and it was unclear if she ever provided any services to the victims.

Julan, and a co-defendant were previously sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2012 for falsely claiming they would provide legal representation for consumers with National Legal Help Center, despite the fact that neither were attorneys.  National Legal Help Center and the other companies promised the victims results within specified time frame and charged between $1,000 to $10,000.

Julan pleaded guilty in July  in Los Angeles to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.  In addition to receiving six years in federal prison, Julan was also ordered to pay her victims  $236,000 in restitution.  After being released from prison, Julan will then serve three years of supervised release.

 

Andrew Michaels, 19, of Laguna Niguel was arrested Saturday following the death of a San Clemente man who was killed while crossing the street on his skateboard.  Cesar Medina, 23, was rushed to Mission Hospital after being struck by a black pickup truck around 9:00 p.m. Friday.  The pickup fled the scene and never stopped to aid Medina.  When Medina arrived to the hospital, it was learned that he was the brother of one of the E.R. nurses who happened to be working that night at the Mission Viejo hospital.

Orange County Sheriff investigators tracked the pickup back to Michaels’ Laguna Niguel home where he was arrested.  Michaels is currently awaiting a court hearing and being held in Orange County Jail on $500,000 bond.

Witnesses told authorities that Medina was in the crosswalk with the “walk” sign on when he was struck.  Michaels’ Dodge Ram pickup was found at his home and is the vehicle law enforcement officers think was the vehicle that struck Medina.