Three Charged with Capital Murder in Shooting of 15-Year-Olds

Three people have been charged with capital murder in a shooting that killed two 15-year-old boys and injured two others in May in South Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today.

Cristian Ivan Macias (dob 2/19/99), Nancy Joanna De La Rocha (dob 12/4/91) and Edwin Federico Loza (dob 1/26/99), all residents of South Los Angeles, each face two counts of murder and two counts of premeditated attempted murder, according to the amended criminal complaint in case BA468865.

The charges include special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and that the defendants were active members of a street gang who carried out the crime to further the gang’s activities, making them eligible for the death penalty. The complaint also alleges that Loza personally and intentionally discharged a firearm, a handgun, in the attack.

De La Rocha and Loza are scheduled to be arraigned today in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Macias pleaded not guilty to the charges in July and has a preliminary hearing setting scheduled today in the same courtroom.

Charges were filed against De La Rocha on June 18, against Macias on Sept. 20, and against Loza on Nov. 16. The court denied bail for all three defendants.

On May 13, Macias allegedly had a confrontation with a group of teenage boys on a public street, according to Deputy District Attorney Michael Michelena of the Hardcore Gang Division. After leaving the area, Macias allegedly returned with his co-defendants in a vehicle a short time later and found the teens walking in the 300 block of West Manchester Avenue near the 110 Freeway.

Loza is accused of then opening fire on the victims with a handgun, the prosecutor said.

Lamarrion Upchurch and Monyae Jackson were killed, and the other two boys, who were also 15 years old, were hit and injured by the gunfire. All four victims lived in the South Los Angeles area.

The defendants were individually arrested over the following months.

They each face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole or death if convicted as charged. A decision will be made at a later date on whether to seek the death penalty.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, South Bureau Homicide.

Father Charged With 4-Year-Old Daughter’s Death

The father of a 4-year-old girl was charged today with her death over the weekend in South Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Charles Richard Lee (dob 4/15/95) was charged in case BA473340 with one count of assault on a child causing death. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

Deputy District Attorney Colby Cano of the Complex Child Abuse Section, Family Violence Division, is prosecuting the case.

Prosecutors said the victim was dropped off at her father’s home in the 1500 block of East 42nd Street several weeks ago. Over the course of that time, Lee allegedly physically abused her.

On Dec. 2, paramedics responded to the home where they found the girl unresponsive and took her to a nearby hospital.

If convicted as charged, Lee faces a possible maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Former NFL Player Pleads, Sentenced for Attempted Murder Of Ex-Girlfriend in La Verne

A Pomona man was sentenced today to eight years in prison after he admitted to trying to kill his former girlfriend this summer in La Verne, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Brandon Browner (dob 8/2/84) pleaded no contest to one felony count of attempted murder and two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a child in a negotiated plea agreement. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Bruce F. Marrs immediately sentenced him and issued a 10-year protective stay-away order for the victims.

On July 8, Browner broke into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment in La Verne. He was accused of chasing the victim, dragging her and then smothering her in a carpet. Her two children were present when the attack occurred.

Browner, a former NFL cornerback, fled the residence but was later arrested.

Deputy District Attorney Kelsey McKeever-Unger prosecuted case KA118551.

The La Verne Police Department investigated the case.

Pimp Sentenced For Human Sex Trafficking of Young Girls

A man was sentenced today to 281 years to life in state prison for trafficking girls as young as 13 years old for sex, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

In October, Raylonzo Roberts (dob 3/4/75) was found guilty of 11 felony counts, including human trafficking, lewd act on a child and pandering by procuring a minor under the age of 16.

Deputy District Attorney Guillermo Santiso of the Human Sex Trafficking Section of the Sex Crimes Division prosecuted the case.

Roberts sexually assaulted or sexually trafficked eight girls at various times between August 2011 and July 2015.

According to evidence presented at the trial, he physically assaulted two of the young victims, one because she failed to make sufficient money and the other because she left him to work for another pimp.

Case BA439381 was investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department’s South Bureau Human Trafficking Unit and the Long Beach Police Department.

Chiropractor Pleads in $150 Million Insurance Fraud Scheme

A 56-year-old chiropractor has pleaded guilty for his role in a massive workers’ compensation insurance fraud and conspiracy scheme, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today.

Paul Turley (dob 11/12/62) of Granada Hills made a factual basis plea on Monday to one count each of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, mayhem, insurance fraud and unlawful patient referral. As part of the written plea agreement filed with the court, Turley detailed his involvement in the scheme.

He faces up to eight years in state prison. Sentencing is set for June 14.

Deputy District Attorneys Dayan Mathai, Catherine Chon, Karen Nishita and Kennes Ma are prosecuting the case.

Turley is among a dozen defendants who were indicted by a grand jury in 2015 for fraudulently billing tens of millions of dollars to insurance companies for fraudulent surgeries, prescription medications, fake MRIs, falsifying medical reports and office visits.

Prosecutors later divided the larger case into three smaller ones in an effort to streamline the complex litigation and refile several counts that previously had been dismissed. However, indictments remain against orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Munir Uwaydah, and his office manager, Wendee Luke, both of whom are fugitives.

The conspiracy allegedly included paying lawyers and marketers as much as $10,000 a month for illegal patient referrals, known as “capping.”

Nearly two dozen patients allegedly were deceived into having surgeries they thought would be performed by Uwaydah. Instead, a physician’s assistant who never attended medical school, carried out invasive and sometimes unnecessary surgeries. Uwaydah was not present in the operating room for all surgeries, prosecutors said.

In addition, nearly two dozen patients have lasting physical scars and many needed additional surgeries to repair the original injury. Last year, co-defendant Marissa Nelson (dob 11/29/76) pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and admitted a special allegation of taking property of a value exceeding $3.2 million. She faces up to nine years in state prison when she is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25.

The other 10 defendants are awaiting trial. Among the charges they each face are conspiracy, money laundering and unlawful patient referral. Some of the defendants also face aggravated mayhem charges.

The cases were investigated by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation and the Organized Crime Division.

Woman Sentenced for Killing 6 in 2014 Fatal Car Crash on 60 Freeway

A 26-year-old Fontana woman was sentenced today to 30 years to life for killing six people in a wrong-way car crash on the 60 Freeway four years ago, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Olivia Carolee Culbreath (dob 11/3/92) pleaded no contest in May to six counts of second-degree murder in an open plea to the court. The open plea means a sentence was not negotiated with the District Attorney’s Office.

Deputy District Attorneys Elizabeth Padilla and Casey Higgins of the DUI Training and Prosecution Section co-prosecuted the case.

On Feb. 9, 2014, Culbreath drove her car against traffic on the 57 and 60 freeways in the city of Diamond Bar, prosecutors said.

The defendant was driving northbound on the southbound lanes of the 57 freeway and then traveled eastbound in the westbound lanes of the 60 freeway when she collided head-on with another vehicle, prosecutors said.

All four occupants were killed. Two passengers in Culbreath’s car, including her sister, also died in the collision, prosecutors added.

According to evidence presented at the preliminary hearing, Culbreath had previously been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in a collision. She was warned by the court about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and also was admonished that such future conduct could result in murder charges.

In addition, evidence was presented that Culbreath had a .15 percent blood alcohol content approximately three hours after the fatal crash.

Case KA104665 was investigated by the California Highway Patrol.

Man Convicted of Capital Murder in Pomona Shootings

A 36-year-old man was convicted today of killing an 8-year-old boy inside a Pomona home last year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Jurors deliberated less than two hours before finding Sengchan Houl (dob 12/14/81) guilty of one count of first-degree murder, two counts each of shooting at an occupied dwelling and negligent discharge of a firearm and one count of shooting from a motor vehicle.

The panel also found true a special circumstance allegation that the murder was perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 29 when he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Deputy District Attorney Lance Hansen prosecuted the case.

On Feb. 20, 2017, Houl was in a vehicle when he shot at a home in 1100 block of West 11th Street in Pomona.

During the shooting, victim Jonah Hwang, 8, was struck by the gunfire, the prosecutor said. The child later died from his injuries.

Houl also shot at the same home on one occasion before the murder and then again twice after the murder.

Case KA114915 was investigated by the Pomona Police Department.

Man Charged with Killing 77-Year-Old Woman in Hit-and-Run

A man has been charged with fatally hitting a 77-year-old woman with his vehicle and then fleeing last month in South Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today.

Brandon Rosendo Mazariego (dob 4/2/93) of South Los Angeles was charged with one felony count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death to another person in case BA472974. The charge includes allegations of a prior felony conviction.

The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned today in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. The case was filed on Nov. 19.

On Nov. 13, Mazariego was allegedly driving an SUV on Budlong Avenue and turned onto West 28th Street, where he is accused of striking Maria Asuncion Reynoso with his vehicle, said Deputy District Attorney Jane Brownstone. He allegedly made no effort to stop and continued driving, the prosecutor said.

The victim, who lived a few blocks away, died of her injuries. Mazariego was arrested two days later.

He faces a possible maximum sentence of eight years in state prison if convicted as charged. The prosecutor is recommending that bail be set at $125,000.

Mazariego was convicted in October 2016 of one felony count of first-degree burglary, person present, according to the criminal complaint.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, South Traffic Division.

District Attorneys Reach Settlement with Amazon to Prohibit Force-Fed Foie Gras Sales in California

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced today that Amazon.com Inc. has agreed not to sell force-fed foie gras in California under a consumer protection settlement reached with her office and the Monterey County and Santa Clara County district attorney’s offices.

The settlement was based on allegations of unlawful sales in California of foie gras on Amazon’s website. In the stipulated judgment, Amazon also agreed to pay $100,000 in civil penalties, investigative costs and restitution to a state trust fund used to enforce consumer protection laws.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James L. Stoelker approved the settlement in case 18CV338822 yesterday. Deputy District Attorney Steven Wang of the Consumer Protection Division represented the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in the case.

In 2004, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Health and Safety Code section 25982, which banned the sale in California of foie gras (“fat liver” from duck or goose liver that can also be made into a mousse or pate) produced by “force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size,” effective July 1, 2012. California also banned the production of foie gras via such force-feeding in California.

These laws were enacted because of the cruelty suffered by birds that are force-fed to make foie gras. In addition to the pain caused by having metal pipes forced down their throats, force-feeding damages the livers of the birds so badly it induces an extremely painful disease known as hepatic lipidosis.

Upon contact from prosecutors regarding sales of foie gras to consumers in California, Amazon took immediate steps to stop such sales. As the parties were in negotiations, in January 2015 a federal district court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the foie gras industry against the California attorney general that the state’s law was preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act.

This decision was overturned on appeal by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in September 2017. During the long pendency of the appeal, Amazon continued to block sales of foie gras in California. The foie gras industry plaintiffs appealed the Ninth Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and obtained a stay on the Ninth Circuit’s mandate to the lower federal court.

The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to review it is still pending.

Woman Gets Nine Years for Running Immigration Services Scam

An East Los Angeles woman was sentenced today to nine years in county jail for defrauding more than 30 people through her home-based immigration services business, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David M. Horwitz also ordered Dalila Moreno (dob 11/23/54) to pay $303,500 in restitution to the victims. She will be subject to three years of mandatory supervision after serving her prison term.

Moreno pleaded guilty on Aug. 16 to six counts of counterfeit seal, three counts of forgery, one count of grand theft of personal property, one count of attempted grand theft of personal property and one count of extortion, all felonies. She also admitted an allegation of taking property valued at more than $65,000 in the negotiated plea agreement.

Over several years through 2015, Moreno told her 32 victims that she worked for the government and had special government connections, then falsely promised to expedite the processing of visas, resident alien cards and citizenship petitions. She pretended to provide services by creating false visas and passport stamps for which she collected payment from the victims.

Deputy District Attorney Ryann Gerber Jorban of the Consumer Protection Division prosecuted case BA462322.

The District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Division and Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case.