Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Ongoing Fight Against Gangs: Ramos lauds progress, 87% conviction rate

 
San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos speaks about gangs at the Victorville Rotary Club luncheon at the Green Tree Clubhouse in Victorville on Tuesday. DAVID PARDO, DAILY PRESS
BY STEVE HUNT
EDITOR

San Bernardino County’s gang problem ranks among the worst in the nation, but county District Attorney Mike Ramos says progress is being made.

Speaking at the Barstow Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Hampton Inn in Lenwood on Tuesday morning and then at the Victorville Rotary Club luncheon at the Green Tree Golf Course clubhouse, Ramos said only Los Angeles County and Cook County in Illinois have more gang members than San Bernardino County.

However, Ramos said his office continues to work to contain that problem. He said since he took office in 2003, he has expanded the number of county gang
prosecutors from three to 20. And the DA’s conviction rate has increased from 60 percent to 87 percent, which leads the state. Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties rank second in conviction rate at 80 percent, he said.

“We’re not going to stop,” said Ramos. “People across the country look at our protocol to fight gangs as a national model. People are looking at it and copying it.”

Since 2005, Ramos said his office has prosecuted about 5,000 gang cases. More than 200 have resulted in life prison sentences, and two convicted gang members are now on death row.

“(Then Sheriff Gary) Penrod and I in 2005 came up with this protocol and
plan,” he said. “We said we are going to increase our gang prosecution unit, and put in a gang suppression unit that’s bigger and better than anywhere else.”

Besides increasing the number of deputy district attorneys committed to prosecuting gang crimes, Ramos also has increased clerical support, as well as the number of victims advocates and investigators. The DA’s office has worked hand-in-hand with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department too, and has focused on improving witness and victim protection, he said.

Ramos said the keys to getting gang members off the street are utilizing gang enhancements when charging defendants, making sure prosecutors make note of prior convictions for violent crimes or gun use and seeking and taking advantage of gang injunctions. The latter can be used for neighborhoods or entire cities.

“We can get rid of the gang and give the neighborhood back to the community,” Ramos said. “We can have a curfew on them, say what they can and cannot wear, who they can and cannot see” and even put restrictions on tattoos.

“We have some gang injunctions in Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville,” he said. “They work with gangs that are territorial and we’re going to keep doing it.”

By using gang enhancements during prosecution, Ramos said prison sentences can be dramatically lengthened — and the gang members must be sent to state prison.

“A gang allegation can add anywhere from 5 years to 25 years to a sentence,” he said. “Anybody who’s violent, uses a gun or is a gang member is going to state prison.”
 
Click here to read the rest of today's story in the Victorville Daily Press.


 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Congratulations to DA Investigators Beaty and Bremner who were promoted to Supervising DA Investigators Today

 
Bureau of Investigation Chief Mike Smith congratulates Investigator S. Beaty on his promotion.
 
 
Supervising DA Investigator E. Bremner pictured with Bureau of Investigation Chief Mike Smith following promotion ceremony.

 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Victorville man receives two life sentences for sexually assaulting 14-year-old girl


Leonel Reyes, 38, of Victorville, was sentenced to two life terms without the possibility of parole for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl during the commission of a burglary.
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  – A 38-year-old Victorville man was sentenced today to two life terms without the possibility of parole for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl during the commission of a burglary.

On May 27, 2014, Leonel Lopez Reyes was convicted by a jury of Forcible Oral Copulation, Rape, Lewd Act on a Child Under Age 14, First Degree Residential Burglary and multiple allegations related to the 2011 crime.

“Under Chelsea’s Law we were able to prosecute the defendant and seek a sentence of life without the possibility of parole,” said Lead Deputy District Attorney Kathy DiDonato, who prosecuted the case.

Chelsea’s Law is named after 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway, California, who was raped and murdered while jogging in a park in 2010. Among the crimes that carry potential sentences of life without parole under the law are rape, lewd and lascivious acts on a minor, continuous sexual abuse of a child that were committed during a kidnapping, first-degree burglary or that resulted in great bodily injury.

“In a perfect world children would not be victims of sex crimes,” DiDonato said. “Children should feel safe in their own homes, and this particular defendant stripped the 14-year-old victim of that feeling of safety. Now she can feel safe in her home, once again, knowing that Defendant Reyes will never have the opportunity to hurt her again.”

Statement of Facts

On June 22, 2011, Defendant Leonel Lopez Reyes, then age 35, came to the victim’s apartment under the guise of repaying the victim’s mother $100.  Reyes was a family friend.  The victim was home alone while her sister was at school and her mother was at work—details that Reyes was aware of prior to coming to the home. 
 
Knowing that her mother needed the money that Reyes was trying to repay, the victim slightly opened the door, took the money and quickly attempted to close the security screen door.  Reyes grabbed the door and forced it open. The victim, fearing for her safety, retreated into the small living room area.  Reyes looked around to make sure nobody was in the tiny residence and then forced the victim down onto the couch, where he forcibly raped her. 
 
When Reyes completed the acts, he ordered the victim to shower and not to tell her mother, and then he fled.  The victim did as she was told, but after showering, she called her best friend, in tears, and told her friend what happened. The friend disclosed to her own father that the victim had been raped, and the crime was reported to law enforcement.Lead Deputy District Attorney Kathy DiDonato, who is assigned to the Major CrimesAgainst Children Unit, prosecuted this case.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Weekly Sentencing Report


In this week's sentencing report the seventh and last member of a notorious drug gang is sentenced to state prison for his role in a 2009 double homicide. Congratulations to Supervising Deputy DA Britt Imes and all our support staff and law enforcement partners for their hard work on this case.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Albertsons to Pay $3.3 Million Settling Lawsuit Charging Illegal Disposal and Mismanagement of Hazardous Waste



SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. –Albertsons, LLC (Albertsons) was ordered to pay $3.3 million to settle a lawsuit charging illegal disposal, transportation, storage, and mismanagement of hazardous waste. Albertsons has 188 retail stores and two distribution centers currently operating in California. The settlement is the culmination of a civil enforcement action signed June 4, 2014, in the Superior Court of California in Orange County on behalf of 11 agencies led by the District Attorney’s Offices in the Counties of Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura, and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. The settlement pertains to all Albertsons retail stores in the State of California and was served to Albertson’s today, June 24, 2014.


Albertsons has agreed to pay $3.387 million including $2.7 million in civil penalties, $300,000 for the cost of the investigation, and $350,000 for supplemental environmental projects that will provide support for the future enforcement of California environmental law.


Albertsons violated California Hazardous Waste Law by unlawfully disposing of and transporting hazardous waste and failing to properly manage that hazardous waste at its California facilities. The hazardous waste Albertsons generated at each facility included, but was not limited to, over-the-counter medications, pharmaceuticals, aerosol products, ignitable liquids, batteries, electronic devices, pool chemicals, and other products that contain hazardous materials.

The Hazardous Waste Control Law requires hazardous waste to be properly handled and disposed of from the location where it was generated. This location would include the site where an item became unusable or unsalable due to damage, expiration, spills, or returns. Albertsons routinely and unlawfully disposed of hazardous waste in dumpsters, or transported hazardous waste to a third-party processor not certified to handle hazardous waste. Albertsons has not admitted fault or liability.

In addition to the settlement costs, the terms of the settlement require Albertsons to pay additional, substantial costs for developing and enforcing compliance efforts above and beyond the legal requirements, including permanent computerized hazardous waste classification systems, dumpster audits, employee training, and progress reports to the participating prosecuting agencies for five years.


Orange County Deputy District Attorney William Fallon, Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Jessica B. Brown, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Tiffany Nelson, San Diego Country Deputy District Attorney Karen I. Doty, San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Douglas Poston, and Ventura County Deputy District Attorney Karen L. Wold prosecuted this case.

To learn more about the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Special Prosecution Unit, click here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In The News: Nationwide human trafficking sweep rescues two girls in San Bernardino



Fontana Police officers Casey Kirkland, left, and Buddy Porch arrest Jermaine Brodie, 36, for allegedly pimping a girl (juvenile) on Thursday during Operation Cross Country in San Bernardino. John Valenzuela — Staff Photographer
       
SAN BERNARDINO >> He drove down Base Line in a white unmarked box truck pulling over near Sierra Way as officers watched two alleged prostitutes approach the truck, made what they believed was an agreement for sex and jumped in.

He was followed for a short time before two black and whites rushed in and pulled him over near 6th and G streets.

All were taken into custody, but soon after authorities learned one of the girls was only 16 years old and forced into that life by a relative.

On Thursday, the FBI — in partnership with the San Bernardino Police Department — along with the San Bernardino County Human Trafficking task force consisting of a combination of investigators from the District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department and Fontana police department and members of the San Bernardino County Probation Department swarmed this city. Their goal was to curb street prostitution and rescue children forced into selling their bodies for sex.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller declined to comment about the ongoing operation itself, but said the FBI and its law enforcement partners work together to stop the cycle of victimization that results from the prostitution of minors and to hold accountable individuals who profit from exploiting children.
These crimes occur in cities, big and small, and victimize children across societal and economic strata, she added.

Authorities rescued two young girls from this life Thursday night and arrested 14 people suspected in a variety of crimes which included pimping, pandering, prostitution and solicitation.

This was part of a larger three-day nationwide effort focusing on underage victims of prostitution known as Operation Cross Country.
As of 2013, the federally backed Innocence Lost National Initiative has resulted in the identification and recovery of more than 2,700 children who have been sexually exploited since its inception in 2003.

“Human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation have been a hidden plague on our county, state, and nation for many years,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos said.
 “In 2009 my office took a leadership role to respond to this problem and created the county’s Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation. CASE brought together a partnership of county departments including the District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, Probation Department, County Superintendent of Schools, Department of Children and Family Services, Public Defender, and Department of Behavioral Health, to raise awareness of this issue, and to provide enhanced county and community resources to victims.”

Amy Andrews of Family Assistance Program consoles a 16-year-old girl on Thursday after she was rescued from a life of prostitution during Operation Cross Country in San Bernardino. John Valenzuela — Staff Photographer
As undercover officers were cruising the streets, they discovered several men driving around in circles among Fourth Street and Base Line, and Waterman Avenue and G Street. Officers believe they were seeking the company of prostitutes.
“They’re looking for younger girls walking the tracks (streets),” one undercover officer said. “But the Internet has been a big part of prostitution over the last few years.”

Law enforcement monitors websites that cater to the sex trades such as Backpage.com and MyRedBook.com.

“Usually the more money it takes to buy a girl the younger she is,” said one undercover officer. “Craigslist used to have a section catering to the sex trades but after a nationwide lashing they eventually removed it.”
Pimps were a specific target of the sweep.

During operations in San Bernardino, a man and his partner suspected of pimping and pandering a juvenile were taken into custody at the Leisure Inn & Suites at 777 W. 6th St.

As police pulled them over the passenger was in the process of placing an ad on one of the websites to sell prostitutes.

Police allegedly identified the two as documented members of a local criminal street gang known as Pimps Players Hustlers and Gangsters who mainly deal in prostitution. As officers were making the arrest, three prostitutes were waiting inside the motel room.

“Most of these girls will work all night and sometimes 24 hours to make their quota to pay their pimp,” said another undercover officer. “Sometimes these girls will work the streets just so they can get some rest. They’re underfed and are forced into this life by fear.”

He went on to explain that pimps tell the girls they’ll hurt them or their family members if they don’t do what they’re told, and sometimes just do it to break them down.
“They’re what we call gorilla pimps,” he said. “They use fear, intimidation and brute force to control their prostitutes.”

One undercover officer compared the life of prostitution as one of modern-day slavery.
“Nobody should live like this,” he said. “In my eyes this is torture, slavery and modern day terrorism and in the eyes of the law it will not be tolerated.”

Authorities explained that gangs, who at one time wouldn’t have ventured in this line of work, have thrown their twisted honor out the window to obtain that reoccurring capital that comes with the sex-slave trades.
“Drugs can only be sold once and then they have to get more,” officials said “But a girl can be sold up to 20 times a day.”

On the prosecutorial side, Ramos has announced several directives to strengthen his zero-tolerance policy on human trafficking.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Rancho Cucamonga Man Pleads Guilty to Multiple Counts of Lewd Act on a Child by Force Charges

Joaquin Gomez faces 50 years in state prison when he is sentenced July 17 in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  – A 53-year-old Rancho Cucamonga man pleaded guilty Wednesday to five counts of lewd act upon a child by force.

Joaquin Gomez faces 50 years in state prison when he is sentenced July 17 in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court. Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss, who is assigned to the Major Crimes Against Children Prosecution Unit, prosecuted the case.

Statement of Facts

On Aug. 22, 2013, the victim’s mother came to the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department and asked to speak to a detective. She showed Det. Rafael Ixco a black iPhone 4 which had a video actively playing on it. The video was of a young child having sexual intercourse with an adult male. No faces were visible.

The mother told Det. Ixco that she recognized the voices on the video as being those of Joaquin Gomez (her sister’s boyfriend) and her 5-year-old daughter. The videos were shot in Gomez’ home and inside his truck. There were more videos on the iPhone depicting other sexual conduct along with close-ups of the child’s genitalia.
The mother told deputies that her older sister had been dating Gomez for about seven years. Her sister would often babysit the victim and sometimes spend the night.
On Aug. 21, 2013, Gomez accidentally left his iPhone at the mother’s residence.  The phone began ringing in the middle of the night.  She picked it up and saw a picture of her daughter as his screen saver. She looked further through the phone and discovered the videos of her daughter.
The victim was examined by a forensic pediatrician at the Children’s Assessment Center and found to have injuries to her genitals consistent with sexual intercourse. She told a forensics interviewer that Gomez had put his private into her private parts “lots of times.” He also took videos of her privates and once she took a video of her own private. He told her to never tell anyone.

Friday, June 13, 2014

National Association of Counties Awards San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office 2014 Achievement Award for Notification System


The National Association of Counties (NACo) is pleased to grant San Bernardino County a 2014 Achievement Award for its program titled “One Call Marsy's Law Notification System” in the category of ­­­­­­­­­Criminal Justice and Public Safety. Congratulations to everyone involved, who were able to help develop this innovative program. Your hard work will yield positive results for San Bernardino County. 
To read more about the notification system, click here read the original press release announcing its release. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Claudia Swing's passion: prevention of cruelty to animals

Claudia Swing, chief of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Administration, sits at a busy desk in her office in San Bernardino.
Her job is preparing a $70 million budget for the district attorney’s operations, guiding numerous grants through the bureaucracy, serving almost 500 employees and their payroll needs, and riding herd on the district attorney’s offices in Morongo, Barstow, Redlands, Big Bear, Twin Peaks and San Bernardino, and dealing with the County Board of Supervisors to fulfill the needs of the district attorney’s offices.
That’s her job.
But her passion is the prevention of cruelty to animals, especially roosters that are bred and equipped to fight to the death in what she calls a national and international problem.

“Where you find cockfighting, you will usually find drugs, weapons, prostitution and other violations,” says Claudia Swing of Highland.

But the real worry is the effect it has on children, who often accompany their fathers and/or mothers to the events.

“They can become desensitized to violence and cruelty,” Swing says. “Also, where you see cruelty to animals, you will often see cruelty to family members.”

She says interviews with children will often reveal comments like, “Daddy kicks the dog,” which leads to information about the father’s abuse of children and wives, as well.

That link between animal cruelty and human cruelty is a major item of interest to the Task Force that meets monthly to discuss cruelty and ways to prevent and stop it.

Law enforcement volunteers from San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties get together to compare notes and discuss progress, usually with a special speaker in some specialty dealing with the subject of animal abuse and neglect.

The task force hopes to educate law enforcement officers to this link, and the possibility that one crime can lead to more serious charges.

Click here to read the rest of the story.