Friday, April 29, 2016

District Attorney’s Office releases public service announcement on workers’ compensation insurance fraud

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – The District Attorney’s Office released a public service announcement today to draw attention to workers’ compensation fraud in San Bernardino County.

“We will not tolerate employers who break the law in order to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said. “Our office will continue to ensure that all workers are protected and that the playing field is level for law-abiding businesses who wish to conduct business in San Bernardino County.”

The short film focuses on the work of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit, in conjunction with its partners: Contractors’ State License Board, Employment Development Department, and the Department of Industrial Relations.

“When contractors violate the law and feed the underground economy, everybody suffers,” Ramos said.
 




An underground economy is one that includes activities where businesses fail to comply withbusiness and consumer licensing requirements, fail to pay or underpay payroll tax and income tax, engage in unfair labor practices such as wage theft, paying under the table, denying insurance benefits, and failure to acquire workers’ compensation insurance or making fraudulentmisrepresentations to insurers in order to gain a competitive advantage over competitors who comply with all legal requirements.

The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud units conducts on average 200 investigations a year and generally has 60-70 cases pending in court.

“We acquire convictions in over ninety percent of our cases,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Gary Fagan, who oversees the unit. “In the past three years we have secured restitution orders in excess of $2.45 million. We have also provided outreach training on workers’ compensation insurance fraud issues to over 2000 people in the last three years.”

The PSA, “Underground Economy,” is available on the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnaJhSdHFSo

PLEASE POST: If you suspect Workers' Compensation Insurance Fraud or believe you are a victim of workers' compensation insurance fraud in San Bernardino County contact the District Attorney at DAWorkersComp@sbcda.org or call (909) 891-3523.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

District Attorney Ramos announces formation of Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit

I’ll always remember the images of sickly cows, caked in manure, being dragged around in chains at the Chino-based slaughterhouse. It was this series of disturbing images captured on video in 2008 by an undercover investigator from the Humane Society of the United States posing as a plant employee that would lead to the largest beef recall in U.S. history.  It also resulted in my office prosecuting the most significant animal cruelty case in San Bernardino County history.   This case caused me to refocus my office’s efforts on animal cruelty investigation and prosecution. 

First, we spearheaded the creation of the San Bernardino County Animal Cruelty Task Force (ACT) in 2012.  With the assistance and leadership of Claudia Swing, Chief of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Administration, we brought together city and county animal control agencies, law enforcement, the Humane Society of San Bernardino, Deputy District Attorneys, District Attorney Investigators, domestic violence agencies, and others to coordinate and unite our efforts to fight animal cruelty.   The Task Force has been a complete success and is now a model for the state and the nation.  Today, there are 25-plus participating agencies from multiple counties involved with ACT.

In 2014 I was honored to be invited to be a member of the newly formed National Law Enforcement Council of The Humane Society of the United States. The council brings together current and former law enforcement officers and prosecutors from across the country to assist the organization in its efforts to strengthen and better enforce laws to stop animal cruelty and abuse. Through my communication and work with this council I was able to see just how prevalent the problem of animal cruelty was across the United States.

In April 2011, Victor Lopez kicked and killed the family dog in front of his wife Lorna Lopez and four children. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in county jail. Nearly two years later, following an argument, Victor Lopez allegedly killed Lorna Lopez by strangling her. He then took her body to a sight in Chino and dumped it. This case is ongoing and set for trial next month

It is a sad fact that animal cruelty and neglect, cockfighting rings, dogfighting by criminal street gangs, animal hoarding, and companion animal abuse and co-occurring family violence are all issues still faced by San Bernardino County. The “Link” between animal cruelty and family violence (domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse) is widely recognized by law enforcement professionals and social science studies. Street gangs turn loving pets into trained fighting dogs to protect their criminal enterprises, for sport, and for profit. Hundreds of chickens each year are maimed and killed in San Bernardino County due to cock fighting rings. We must do a better job of investigating and prosecuting these cowardly and heartless abusers of helpless animals. 



On March 23, 2016, it is alleged that Keion Hector killed an 8-week old pit bull in order to intimidate a female victim.

“I killed your dog because you went over there (next door),” said Hector. “Now lay down on the bed and turn the lights off. Lay in the bed or I’ll put your face by the dead dog. If you leave, I’ll kill you like I killed Sasha.”

As District Attorney, I believe the time is now to take the next step in our fight against animal cruelty.  Effective prosecution of animal abuse requires a collaborative team approach, vertical prosecution, and specially trained prosecutors and investigators who are dedicated to protecting innocent animals. In short, it requires a special vertical prosecution unit dedicated solely to prosecuting animal cruelty. 

I am proud to announce the creation of the District Attorney’s Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit (ACU), which together with new stricter policies on prosecution, will help us accomplish the goal of investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty to the fullest extent of the law.
 
Animal Cruelty Stats

In 2013, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed 83 cases related to animal cruelty.
In 2014, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed 71 cases related to animal cruelty.

In 2015, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed 84 cases related to animal cruelty.
 
Overview of Unit

  • In recognition of the Link between animal cruelty and family violence, the Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit (ACU) will be part of the Family Violence Unit and will consist of: 
  • A Chief Deputy District Attorney (ACU-CDDA),
  • A Supervising Deputy District Attorney (ACU-SDDA) who supervises a Family Violence Unit,
  • A Lead Deputy District Attorney (Lead ACU Prosecutor),
  • Two regional Deputy District Attorneys (Regional ACU Prosecutors) specially designated to handle select ACU cases as needed,
  • Two regional Juvenile Division Deputy District Attorneys (Juvenile ACU Prosecutors),
  • A Senior Investigator from the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.

Although not technically part of the ACU, the Asset Forfeiture Unit will designate a prosecutor to handle asset forfeitures arising out of ACU cases. 


Role and Responsibilities of the Lead ACU Prosecutor

Countywide, all animal cruelty cases against adults will be handled vertically, from initial case review to sentencing, by either the Lead ACU Prosecutor or the Regional ACU Prosecutors.  All juvenile animal abuse cases will be handled vertically by a Juvenile ACU Prosecutor. 
The Lead ACU Prosecutor will be responsible for providing our animal abuse investigation partners with advice at the initial stages of case investigation.

The Lead ACU Prosecutor will also be responsible for education, training, and outreach activities for our Deputy District Attorneys, law enforcement agencies, animal control agencies, other Animal Cruelty Task Force (“Task Force”) partners, and to the community.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ride Against Child Abuse

Members of our Morongo Basin Office were on hand to represent the District Attorney's Office at Friday's inaugural Ride Against Child Abuse sponsored by the Morongo Basin Sexual Assault Services and Bikers Against Child Abuse.




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

IN THE NEWS: MOURNING IN INLAND EMPIRE WITH VICTIMS' RIGHTS WEEK VIGILS

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, right, presents Rose Madsen, director of Families and Friends of Murder Victims, Inc., with an award for her service during a special memorial on Monday, April 11, 2016 at the San Bernardino County Government Center in San Bernardino, Ca. (Micah Escamilla/The Sun)

By Ryan Hagen, San Bernardino Sun

SAN BERNARDINO » Twelve long years after her daughter’s murder, Rose Madsen stood tall. But her voice still quaked.

Life never returns to normal after a loved one is taken from you, Madsen said Monday, as she accepted the Award for Exemplary Service to Victims of Crime on behalf of the organization she created, Families and Friends of Murder Victims.

“Life may feel empty and hollow,” said Madsen, whose daughter, Jennifer LeeAnne Balber, was killed in Rialto in November 1994. “Life doesn’t mean what it used to mean. ... But in time, life can be good again.”

Recognizing the unending pain caused by crime while doing what they can to make life good again — that was the mission honored in a solemn memorial Monday for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

It’s a mission the memorial’s host, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos, said his office has in common w ith law enforcement and the dozen other public servants who attended the ceremony inside the San Bernardino County Government Center.

“We must never forget our community members and the victims whom we serve,” Ramos said. “What Rose doesn’t know is she inspires me, because if she can get up and fight, (we can do the same).”

Photos of homicide victims surrounded the entrance to the Government Center, in the third year of a tradition that ties into nationwide recognitions from April 10 to April 16.

Today, there will be a Crime Victims’ Rights Week candlelight vigil at the San Bernardino Police Department, 710 N. D St., from 7-8:30 p.m.

In Riverside County, District Attorney Mike Hestrin will host three Victims’ Rights Week candlelight vigils this week: today at Palm Desert Civil Center Park, 43900 San Pablo Ave., Palm Desert; Wednesday at Harveston Lake Park, 40135 Village Road Drive, Temecula; and Thursday at Riverside County Historic Courthouse, 4050 Main St., Riverside. Each will begin at 7 p.m. and will remember the victims of violent crime by reading their name and lighting a candle for them.

In San Bernardino, bag pipes and a moment of silence honored victims on Monday. First responders were recognized for two events in particular: Bryce Hanes, a San Bernardino police officer who was fatally hit by a drunk in November, and the Dec. 2 terrorist attack. “It really hit home Dec. 2 ... and I was so proud of the partners we have,” Ramos said.

Other partners had booths at the event to make victims aware of the help they offer, and the Redlands East Valley High School choir performed Svyati Boze.

Click here to read more.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

IN THE COMMUNITY: The Yucca Valley Pelican Club

Members of the Morongo Basin Office attended a recent community meeting which brought together leaders from Joshua Tree, Morongo Valley and the 29 Palms area.
Pictured from left to right: Supervising DDA Ron Webster, Victim Advocate Iris Robertson, Investigative Tech Bianca Ralston, Supervisor James Ramos, Supervising Investigator Paul Garcia and Sr. Investigator Phil Suchowski.
 
 
 

District Attorney’s Office to Host Third Annual National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Memorial

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is a time to honor crime victims, the surviving families of homicide victims, and those who work directly to assist victims of crime. This year, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will be observed April 10–16, 2016. This year’s theme, "Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope,” underscores the importance of early intervention and victim services in establishing trust with victims, which in turn begins to restore their hope for healing and recovery.

In honor of crime victims, this year the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office will hold a special memorial on Monday, April 11, 2016 at the San Bernardino County Government Center Rotunda from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. The government center is located at 385 N. Arrowhead Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92415.


Event Details

The memorial will feature the Redlands East Valley Choir, under the direction of Rita Stevens. The singers will perform in honor of our county’s fallen victims. During the memorial, the District Attorney’s Office will present the Award for Exemplary Service to Victims of Crime to Rose Madsen of Family and Friends of Murder Victims. A bagpipe tribute will also take place beside the bronze “Officer Down” statue in honor of the county’s fallen officers.

Social Media

Throughout the week of the memorial we will release links via Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #NCVRW2016

Statement from District Attorney Ramos regarding formation of Conviction Review Unit

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – The mission of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office is to ensure justice is done by seeking the truth, protecting the innocent, holding the guilty accountable, preserving the dignity of victims and their families, while maintaining the highest ethical standards. I am proud to say that we are accomplishing our mission. According to the latest data from the National Registry of Exonerations, which researches and documents every wrongful conviction exoneration in the nation, San Bernardino County had zero exonerations.

Our record of only convicting the guilty is due to many factors. Primarily it exists because our prosecutors work tirelessly every day to “do the right thing” on every case. We have policies and procedures in place to ensure that full and complete discovery is given to the defense on every case. We train on the unique and stringent ethical requirements for prosecutors and have imbued our entire office with a culture that places ethics above all else. Our county’s police agencies likewise put the highest value on conducting fair and ethical investigations.

However, as prosecutors, our duty to obtain justice never ends. Recent advances in technology and scientific evidence, such as DNA, could possibly cast doubt on some convictions. New witnesses or evidence may be discovered, years after a conviction, that could call into question a defendant’s guilt. It is important that we have a formal procedure to review these cases and determine whether an innocent person has been wrongfully convicted. For these reasons, I am pleased to announce that I have formed a Conviction Review Unit. The Conviction Review Unit will be responsible for reviewing qualifying claims that an innocent person was wrongfully convicted. 

For more information on how to submit an application for review, visit http://www.sbcountyda.org/ProsecutingCriminals/ConvictionReviewUnit.aspx

Crimes Against Children Prosecutor Karen Schmauss honored for her work

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss (pictured left) was recognized today at the 18th Annual “Shine a Light” on Child Abuse Awards Breakfast for her dedication and commitment as a Crimes Against Children prosecutor.

Victim Advocate Iris Robertson was also honored for her work with at-risk youth in the Human Trafficking Unit as well as her day-to-day advocacy for children who have been victimized. As an advocate, she is responsible for explaining to victims how the criminal justice system works and providing the much-needed comfort in such a difficult time. Robertson has also participated in events such as Shop with a Cop and helped coordinate multiple donation drives for families and children in need.

The annual event, hosted by Children’s Network, is held in April as a kick-off for Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month.

Schmauss is a 31-year veteran prosecutor assigned to the West Valley Division Major Crimes Against Children Unit, who specializes in the prosecution of felony crimes against children.

“Karen is a fierce advocate when it comes to protecting child abuse victims and their families,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Bruce Brown, who oversees the West Valley Division. “She gives them hope and keeps them strong throughout the court process.”

A recent thank-you note to DDA Schmauss from the mother of a 13-year-old child molest victim after a guilty verdict reads:

We just told [Victim]. We told him the jury believed him. He smiled and said, ‘They did?’ He paused and thought for a few seconds and then asked if we can make sure you have our phone number so you can tell us if they ever let [defendant] out. I told him he never has to worry about that because he will never get out and the court made sure of it. He said with the biggest smile ‘Really mom, oh good!’ The relief and happiness that came from his smile was worth every minute we spent in that courtroom. Karen this is what I live for! To see my kids happy! Thank you so much for all that you have done. Because of you my kids can be at peace and we can now move forward with our lives.

Handling child abuse cases requires specialized training both in the law and in dealing with the sensitive and emotional issues involved. DDA Schmauss has taken it upon herself to obtain this specialized training and skill, and has become a role model for other prosecutors.

Chief DDA Brown added that DDA Schmauss recognizes that effectively prosecuting child abuse cases requires a team approach. She has developed strong working relationships with the County’s entire multi-disciplinary team and she works closely with forensic pediatricians and law enforcement investigators to always prepare the best possible case for court.

Examples of significant cases handled by DDA Schmauss in the past two years include:

People v. Lucero, FWV1301177 – murder. A 2-year-old was left in care of mother’s boyfriend, the defendant. She left him at 7 p.m. and defendant called at midnight saying the victim was unconscious. The victim died of blunt force head injury and injuries to internal organs. Defendant claimed the mother caused the injuries. Trial lasted six weeks. Defendant was convicted of murder. Sentence: 25 years-life in prison.

People v. Gutierrez, FWV1301138 – child molestation. Defendant, age 22, was a friend of the family. Two brothers, ages 10 & 13, said defendant sodomized & orally copulated them for several years. Trial took six weeks. Defense argued that the boys made it up. Defendant was convicted. Sentence: 145 years to life in prison.

People v. Bland, FWV1400392 – child molestation. A cheerleading coach sexually assaulted ten girls on his cheerleading squad. Acts ranged from groping to full intercourse. He pled guilty to 18 years in prison.

People v. Gomez, FWV1302821 – child molestation. Defendant had sex with a 5-year-old child and videotaped the acts with an iPhone. Defendant pled guilty. Sentence: 50 years prison.

People v. Hardy, FWV1202573 – kidnap, rape, child molestation, human trafficking. The defendant kidnapped a 16-year-old girl, forcibly raped and orally copulated her, then sold her to another man. Defendant pled guilty. Sentence: 19 years prison.


Victim Advocate Iris Robertson received her Award at this morning's 18th Annual Shine a Light on Child Abuse Awards Breakfast

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Man charged in 1976 cold case murder

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – On August 26, 1976, 18-year-old Cynthia May Hernandez (pictured left) left her home to catch a movie at the Fox Twin Theaters in Covina.

Hernandez, a recent Charter Oak High School graduate, never came home.

The next morning, her family located her unoccupied vehicle in the theater parking lot. Fearing for her safety, they immediately filed a missing person’s report with the Glendora Police Department.

Nearly 40 years after her disappearance, a suspect has been formally charged in connection with the death of Hernandez.

Larry James Allred, 61, has been charged with murder.

“Thanks to great investigative work of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the Glendora Police Department, we were able to identify the suspect who murdered young Cynthia forty years ago,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos.

This case will be assigned to Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum, who is assigned to the Cold Case Unit.

Allred is currently serving eight years at the California Institution for Men in Chino on unrelated charges. No arraignment details available at this time. Since this is an ongoing investigation, no further details will be released.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is urged to contact Detective Patty Ruiz or Sergeant Greg Myler at (909) 387-3589. Callers wishing to remain anonymous are urged to call the We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463) or you may leave information on the We-Tip Hotline at www.wetip.com.