Thursday, December 14, 2017

Victim Advocate Sonja Gonzales-Metelak


Congratulations to Victim Advocate Sonja Gonzales-Metelak for receiving the District Attorney's Office Standards of Excellence Award.

The Bureau of Victim Services would like to recognize Sonja for providing trauma informed services to the victims impacted by the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Working in conjunction with her co-workers that had been dispatched to Las Vegas, Sonja was the local point of contact and assisted the victims who came back home to California after the events of that traumatic day.

Her willingness to take on such an immense task demonstrates the heart, mind and spirt of an advocate. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office is eternally grateful for your service.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Project Fighting Chance


Great day! We were able to present a $1,000 check to Project Fighting Chance on behalf of our Bureau of Investigation team who received the money at the California Peace Officer CopsWest Charity BBQ! 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

In The News: Three Redlands Unified schools compete in county Mock Trial semifinals

When the county’s Mock Trial competition continues, three Redlands Unified schools will be among those hoping to advance to the next round.

Redlands, Redlands East Valley and Citrus Valley join Rancho Cucamonga’s Los Osos High School in the semi-finals beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the San Bernardino Justice Center, 247 W. Third St.

Redlands and REV are powerhouses in the competition, with RHS going for its 15th county title as the defending 2016-17 champion. REV, which last won the title in 2015-16, hopes to capture its eighth, while Los Osos and Citrus Valley are in the hunt for their first wins.

Kenneth Carpenter, Citrus Valley’s mock trial teacher/coach, said his team is excited to move forward in the competition and has “strong returners” and a “passion to win.”

“That’s what’s is really impressive,” he added. “They definitely want to win, and that’s the goal. We are definitely the underdogs … and that’s what motivates us to work harder.”

Semi-finals runs for two days and will conclude Wednesday, Dec. 5. The teams heading to the finals will be announced that evening. It is guaranteed a school from RUSD will make it to the next round, but to secure their spot, Citrus Valley will have to defeat Los Osos. Meanwhile, crosstown rivals RHS and REV will compete to see which team advances.

Finals will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9 at the Foothill Law and Justice Center, 8303 Haven Ave., in Rancho Cucamonga.

The 36th annual San Bernardino County Mock Trial Competition simulates a criminal case, allowing students to act as principal courtroom characters representing both sides of the case before a real judge. This year’s case focuses on People v. Davidson, a murder case featuring a pre-trial argument on the Fourth Amendment, according to a news release.
The competition began Nov. 1 and is sponsored by the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

The county winner moves on to the state finals in March.


Click here to read the story online at The Redlands Daily Facts.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Animal Cruelty Conviction


A Fontana man who beat, tortured and poured hot water on his girlfriend’s blind pit bull was convicted of 2 counts of felony animal cruelty. He faces 7 years and 4 months in state prison. This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Debbie Ploghaus and the West Valley Division support staff.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Storytime at the Library!

Story Time at the San Bernardino Public Library this morning was so much fun! Dozer and Lupe were even issued their own library cards.


 


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Awarded Special DUI Prosecution Grant



SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Those arrested for DUI in San Bernardino County, especially repeat offenders and those involved in fatal or injury crashes, can expect to face highly trained, specialized prosecutors, funded by a $211,883.00 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). The grant to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office will fund a Vertical Prosecution team that will work cases from arrest through conviction and sentencing.

"I will always remember CHP Officer Ruben Rios who lost his life to a drunk driver while on duty protecting the public," said District Attorney Mike Ramos. "Officer Rios had spent so much of his time as an officer educating the community about the dangers of drinking and driving. We can’t say or do anything to bring him back, but we can carry on with the work that was near and dear to his heart. This grant will allow us the chance to add more resources to protect our citizens and ultimately hold those who decide to drink and drive responsible for their actions.”

In 2015 there were 85 deaths and 1,997 serious injuries as a result of DUI crashes in San Bernardino County. Funding from this DUI Prosecution Grant will aid the San Bernardino County Attorney’s Office in handling cases through each step of the criminal process from crash scene to sentencing, prosecuting both alcohol and drug-impaired driving cases.

Prosecution team members will work with California’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Training Network to expand knowledge and resources in the office by obtaining and delivering specialized training, including the emerging problem of drug-impaired driving. Team members will share information with peers and law enforcement throughout the county and state. 

“Vertical prosecution teams working serious DUI cases get the positive results needed,” said OTS Director Rhonda Craft. “The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the Office of Traffic Safety, will be working to help keep the streets across San Bernardino County safe for everyone.”

While alcohol remains the worst offender for DUI crashes, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office supports the new effort from OTS that aims to drive awareness that “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.” Prescription medications and marijuana can also be impairing by themselves, or in combination with alcohol, and can result in a DUI arrest.

Funding for the program comes from a grant by the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deputy District Attorney Jack Liu is currently assigned to the unit.

Since his assignment in the Fall of 2015, DDA Liu has trained over 600 police officers regarding the investigation and enforcement of DUI/DUID cases. More recently, in an effort to combat the rise in opioid and marijuana use by drivers, DDA Liu spearheaded an effort by the District Attorney’s Office to bring Drug Recognition Expert training to the county. 

On Oct. 16, 2017, DDA Liu co-hosted the county’s first ever DRE training at the Ontario Police Department, which allowed over 40 police officers to be trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.
 
 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Meet Dozer and Lupe at the San Bernardino Public Library


SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- As part of county’s ongoing Vision2Read program, K9 Dozer and K9 Lupe will participate in the San Bernardino Public Library’s upcoming story time.

Lupe and Dozer are both black Labrador Retrievers who were selected as district attorney facility dogs based upon their temperament and interaction with children. Both dogs went through extensive training at the nationally-accredited Assistance Dogs of the West, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 


Lupe was born Oct. 4, 2013, and Dozer was born April 11, 2013.

Lupe is assigned to the West Valley Division and Dozer is assigned to the Central Division.

As part of the District Attorney’s Special Victims K9 Unit, their primary mission is to comfort child victims and reduce the understandable fears they have about having to go through the court process as a victim and/or witness. Most recently, Dozer and Lupe travelled to Nevada with their advocate handlers to assist in comforting the victims and family members of the Las Vegas shooting. 


“We are excited about this upcoming event with the city library,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos. “It gives our office the chance to interact with our young readers and focus on the importance of reading!”

The free reading program will take place on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 10:30 a.m. in the Children’s Room at the Feldheym Central Library, 555 W. Sixth Street. For more information call the library at (909) 381-8235 or visit their website at
www.sbpl.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SBPLfriends/

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Scenes from last night's Mock Trial competitions

Deputy District Attorney J. Crocker presiding in San Bernardino.


Supervising Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes presiding in Victorville

DDA Kathleen Fultz and DPD Paul Henderson scoring



Witness for Encore High School taking stand, being sworn in by bailiff for Silverado High School

The Honorable Harold T. Wilson presiding


DDA Casey Cunningham and DDA Leonard Chang scoring

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

DDA Rick Lal Selected by the EPA to Teach Advanced Environmental Crimes Training Program


DDA Rick Lal was recently selected by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be one of only 6 prosecutors from around the State to teach at their prestigious Advanced Environmental Crimes Training Program in Central California.

This intensive program brings together sworn law enforcement and peace officers along with environmental regulators as part of an Environmental Crimes Task Force that over the course of two weeks works on every aspect of a hazardous materials investigation including interviews, surveillance, inspections, operations planning, and executing a search warrant at a mock HazMat site (see below). 

As one of the EPA’s most popular instructors, DDA Lal instructed students in small groups on both federal and California environmental law, with drafting detailed environmental search warrants, operations planning, and executing an environmental search warrant – ultimately culminating in a jury trial to demonstrate how events in the field translate into evidence inside a courtroom.


Monday, November 6, 2017

SBCPAA Donations Drive to Benefit Our Veterans

In honor of all of the brave men and women who have served the various branches of our military, the San Bernardino County Public Attorneys Association (SBCPAA) will once again host a donations drive to benefit the Vietnam Veterans Association (VVA) and the California Disabled Veterans Association (DAV).

Friday, November 3, 2017

Magician convicted of murder of Big Bear Lake man

A Big Bear Lake man was convicted by a jury of first degree murder Monday for shooting and murdering a man.

On April 12, 2016, 55-year-old Frank Popovich Jr.—a magician who owns the Black Fox Trading Co. in Big Bear—went to a local nightclub in Big Bear and saw the victim, 42-year-old James Clark, in the back parking lot.

According to Deputy District Attorney Larissa Ruescher, who prosecuted the case, Popovich and the victim knew each other as friends and the victim had even worked in the defendant’s business.

After less than three minutes, Popovich started shoving the victim and pointing his finger in the victim’s face. The victim did nothing to defend himself and showed no signs of aggression towards the defendant. 

Popovich was not visible for ten seconds and then a flash of a gun muzzle went off and the victim’s body dropped to the ground. 

“In a scene that was captured on surveillance video, the defendant then walked over to the victim’s head area and slapped the victim in the head,” DDA Ruescher said. “The defendant then walked to the feet of the victim, took the cigarette from his left hand, and continued to smoke it for a full thirty seconds while standing over the victim’s body.” 

Popovich faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in state prison when sentenced next month.

Rancho Cucamonga man sentenced to state prison in odometer-rollback scheme



A Rancho Cucamonga man was sentenced to six years in state prison today after admitting his involvement in auto insurance fraud schemes by manipulating used car odometers and vehicle titles to make the vehicles appear more valuable and then using false identities of other victims to sell those cars on Craigslist and Auto Trader to unsuspecting customers.
Hani Abujudeh, 55, of Rancho Cucamonga, pleaded guilty to seven felony counts of Auto Insurance Fraud, Money Laundering, Perjury, False Impersonation and Grand Theft.
According to Deputy District Attorney Karen Parker-Parent, who prosecuted the case, Abujudeh was required to pay in court today the full amount of victim restitution in the amount of $189,475.22. The victims included 15 individuals and 4 insurance companies who appeared in court today to receive their restitution checks. 
Parker-Parent added at least one of the victims has been unable to buy another car since the defendant sold her a car which was actually owned by someone else.
The defendant’s scam was discovered by investigators with the California Department of Insurance (CDI) who were looking into a number of potentially false claims associated with Abujudeh’s businesses.
“The schemes started unravelling when vigilant insurance investigators began noticing an unusual number of questionable insurance claims from the ‘Perfect Auto Detailers’ auto body repair shops in Rancho Cucamonga which the defendant owned,” said Parker-Parent.
She added that local law enforcement agencies were receiving reports from various victims of identity and sales frauds who had either sold or purchased cars from a man who gave them false identities.
A multi-agency fraud investigations team headed up by the CDI served a search warrant at the defendant’s home and discovered 25 fake drivers licenses (pictured below) as well as evidence of the various fraudulent insurance claims and vehicle sales. By following the title transfers on each of these vehicles, the team began to unravel the complex web of fraud involving Abujudeh and his co-defendants.
 
Parker-Parent, who is assigned to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Auto Insurance Fraud Urban Grant Unit, commented on the elaborate scam and how investigators and prosecutors were able to shut down his illegal operations.
This prosecution is a prime example of how much can be accomplished when our law enforcement agencies network their information and resources,” Parker-Parent said. “Because Mr. Abujudeh used so many different identities in the many various auto insurance fraud schemes he committed, it would’ve been difficult for any one agency alone to identify the perpetrator.”
The case was the result of a multi-agency fraud team consisting of investigators from the California Department of Insurance, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, California Highway Patrol, San Bernardino County Sheriff, Homeland Security Investigations, Department of Motor Vehicles, and San Bernardino and Riverside County District Attorney’s offices.
“California is ground zero for auto insurance fraud, which paid for by consumers when insurers pass along their fraud losses through higher premium,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "Thanks to the hard work of our investigators at the Department of Insurance, our taskforce partners, and the San Bernardino District Attorney's office, Abujudeh's crimes were exposed and he was successfully prosecuted."
Eduardo Hernandez, 27, of Rancho Cucamonga, pleaded no contest to Insurance Fraud and was sentenced to 365 days in County Jail.  
Francisco Aguilera, 26, of Santa Paula, Calif., is charged with Defrauding an Insurer - PC 548(a), Insurance Fraud - PC 550(a)(1), and False and Fraudulent Claim – PC 549. Dane Santibanez, 29, of Rancho Cucamonga, is charged with Defrauding an Insurer - PC 548(a) and Insurance Fraud - PC 550(a)(1). Both men are scheduled to appear in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court Nov. 7.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Desert-Mountain Division Gang Unit secures conviction


Saffar Williams of Barstow has been convicted for his role in a violent 2016 Apple Valley home-invasion robbery. He faces life in prison when sentenced.

This case was prosecuted by the Desert-Mountain Division Gang Unit and investigated by the Apple Valley Police Department.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

In The News: San Bernardino County mock trial teams prepare to square off in court

 When mock trial powerhouse Redlands High School met Cajon High School in the county championships last year, it was a true Rocky v. Apollo-style match-up.

But like Rocky Balboa, the underdog lost in the final round.

This year, both schools hope to return to the finals in the San Bernardino County Mock Trial competition, which begins Wednesday, Nov. 1.


Cajon, in San Bernardino, has its sights set on a state title but it will face strong competition again this year — not only from RHS but 32 other teams participating countywide.


What to expect

More than 400 students will represent 34 teams from 30 high schools in the 2017-18 mock trial competition, according to a county news release.

The preliminary round of competition takes place Wednesday, Nov. 1, and Nov. 8, 15 and 29 at three locations: the county courthouse in Victorville, the Foothill Law and Justice Center in Rancho Cucamonga and the San Bernardino Justice Center in downtown San Bernardino.


The top four teams will advance to the semi-finals at Dec. 5-6 at the San Bernardino Justice Center.

The final two teams meet Dec. 9 in Rancho Cucamonga, with the winner moving on to state. The winner is announced the same day.

All rounds are open to the public at no cost. The competition is sponsored by the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. To learn more, go to www.sbcss.k12.ca.us.


To read the full story, click here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cold Case Unit awarded statewide honor




The California Peace Officers’ Association statewide Awards Committee has awarded Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum and other law enforcement members assigned to a 1976 cold case murder the Association’s Outstanding Cold Case award.

Yoakum received the award Monday at a luncheon in Palm Springs, alongside other recipients who were assigned to the case: San Bernardino County Sheriff Sergeants Rob Trostle and Patty Ruiz, retired Captain Ringhoffer and investigating officers from the Glendora Police Department.

The CPOA Awards Program is the culmination of a process that annually reviews and selects only the most deserving nominations recognizing law enforcement individuals in California.

The award is based on the investigative work surrounding the 1976 murder of 18-year-old Cynthia May Hernandez. On August 26, 1976, Hernandez 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 was formally charged in connection with the death of Hernandez.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum, who is assigned to the Cold Case Unit. On Oct. 17, 2016, Larry James Allred was sentenced to 7 years to life in prison for first degree murder. According to California law in 1976—at which time the crime was committed—this is the maximum sentence Allred can serve in prison.

“Securing justice for Cynthia and her family was an absolute team effort, one that involved multiple agencies,” said Yoakum. “To be recognized for those efforts is a great honor, and another chance to honor the memory of Cynthia and her family.”
 

Prosecutor Attends Law, Justice, and Public Service Academy Fair


 

Consumer & Environmental Protection Lead DDA Douglas Poston attended and represented the District Attorney's Office at an event Friday to promote and support the Chino High School Law, Justice, and Public Service Academy. 
 
The program was designed to fully represent careers in the law, justice and public service sectors. 
 
"When time permits, I always try to take advantage of any chance we as prosecutors have to empower and inspire our next generation of leaders to reach their goals, especially those who are pursuing a career in public safety," said DDA Poston.

During the event, DDA Poston provided the 8th grade students with a brief glimpse of a “Day In The Life” of a career in the DA’s Office and encouraged them to consider careers in law and related fields. 
 
The Law, Justice, Public Service sector provides a foundation for secondary students in government, public administration, public safety, and legal services.  Students engage in a common core, state standards based instructional program that integrates academic and technical preparation. The focus is on career awareness, career exploration, and skill preparation in this industry. For more information about the LJPS Academy click here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Q&A with Assistant District Attorney Mary Ashley



Mary Ashley is an Assistant District Attorney with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and has been a prosecutor since 1998. She is an Associate Board Member of the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) and the Co-Chair of the NDAA Women Prosecutors’ Section.  Ms. Ashley led the first Family Violence Unit in the DA’s office that was created in 2004.


 
Q: What is being done at the national to address issues of domestic violence?
Ashley: Our nation is still at war in putting a stop to domestic violence. There is no place in this country for this kind of abuse and violence, yet it exists in every state. Organizations like the California District Attorneys Association and the National District Attorneys Association continually offer specialized educational forums and promote awareness efforts, such as the release of a Policy Paper earlier this year by the NDAA WPS on Best Practices for Domestic Violence. It is important that we are at the table with state and national legislators who will listen to our concerns and assist in advocating for better laws, resources and assistance for victims’ rights.

Q: Why is it necessary to collaborate on these issues?Ashley: Collaboration between community partners and stakeholders is key to best hold perpetrators accountable and help victims to feel safe. When law enforcement is able to easily communicate with medical personnel, health care staff, child welfare members and the local prosecutor to best serve a victim, that victims receives comprehensive care. San Bernardino is so fortunate that our stakeholders such as advocacy groups, law enforcement, and prosecutors respect each other and understand that they are all out for one common goal: protecting victims of domestic violence.
Q: What has San Bernardino county gained as a result of these domestic violence partnerships?
Ashley: Simply put, lives are saved as a result of our coordinated community response to domestic violence. With clear policies and protocols in place for how to handle the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence, there is a stronger coordinated effort to combat these crimes. Our specially trained advocates and attorneys are trained to treat victims with respect and sensitivity. If we can empower a victim to get help and realize they will be treated with dignity, it can make a big difference.

Q: The theme of our campaign is called “Breaking the Cycle” of domestic violence. Based on your experience what is our office doing to break the cycle?
Ashley: Education, awareness and prevention are the key to breaking the cycle of domestic violence. Specially trained prosecutors repeatedly speak in the community about red flags and the warning signs of abuse. Our prosecutors teach at domestic violence shelters, along with helping train law enforcement and other agencies about abuse. If they reach one survivor, or cause one more victim to report their abuse, we all win. Another important area for prevention and intervention is getting the message directly to our youth. Research shows young adult dating abuse is a large problem in this nation. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, when it comes to adult victims of intimate partner violence and abuse, 22% of women and 15% of men first experience some form of partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17 years old.   In our Juvenile and Truancy Division, it is important to reach out to parents to ensure they are talking to their teens about what a healthy and safe relationship looks like. We all need to be involved. These are the children in our community. It is clearly not a “family problem” as we have seen that children are victimized when there is domestic violence in the home as well. Taking away the public stigma and shame associated with being a victim of domestic violence is very important, as is holding perpetrators responsible and showing domestic abuse for what is really is – a crime against the right to live in a civilized society free from violence in your relationship and in your own home.    

Monday, October 16, 2017

Morongo Basin District Attorney's Office Helps Raise Awareness


Morongo Basin District Attorney and San Bernardino County Sheriff-Morongo Station assisted the 29 Palms Marine Base Family Advocacy Program with their annual Domestic Violence Prevention Motorcycle Run.  Victim Advocate Iris Robertson and Sr. Investigator Kevin Ford spoke to the Marines and explained the legal process following a domestic violence report. 


 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Q&A with Project Fighting Chance CEO Ian Franklin

 
 
Ian Franklin is the CEO and president of Project Fighting Chance, a non-profit program founded in 1999 to provide a safe-haven for at-risk youth. Through athletics and a focus on education, the program has served over 4,000 youth since its inception. Among other distinctions, the program sent its first athlete to the Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Franklin is currently working with Option House, Inc. to expand Project Phoenix, a boxing-empowerment class for domestic violence survivors.
 
Q: What is the mission of Project Fighting Chance?
Franklin: Our mission is to provide a support system for the at-risk youth and young adults while assisting them in becoming, positive, contributing members of the community.
 
 
Q: You recently partnered with Option House, Inc. to create a class called Project Phoenix. How do you see boxing and your program helping survivors of domestic violence?
 
Franklin: We will help these participants in a variety of ways. Some things we will be looking to accomplish, using a boxing workout, is to give them a positive stress release outlet, allow them to release anger, frustration, while most importantly developing their self-esteem. As they go through the program they will go from broken victims to overcomers with a high self-esteem.
 
 
Q: What are some of the successes you have witnessed as a result of your program, whether it’s in boxing or the classroom or somewhere else?
 
Franklin: I have trained eight National Champions and two Olympic Trial participants. My son made the ‘08 Olympic team as an alternate. He had the opportunity to live at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a year prior to the ‘08 games, while traveling the world representing the USA in competitions. We currently have two youngsters ranked number one in the US and one ranked number three. But most importantly, we hold these youngsters accountable in grades as well as conduct. Through the years, I've had many grown men, some college graduates, bring their families and children back to share that our program was instrumental in their success.
  
Q: Your program is best known for boxing, but what other services are you providing for the community?
 
Franklin: We are aware of the environment we service. San Bernardino is challenged economically. We serve snacks and suppers daily. We have tutoring, art class, chess club, and guitar and music lessons.
 
 
Q: How is your program funded? Are there ways for community members to support your program, whether through donations or volunteering?
Franklin: We were funded by the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant). Now we get some funding from the San Bernardino School District, and we are looking to create partnerships that would assist us in the resources that are needed. With the ranked athletes, travel is always a huge expense that we need, as well as a 12-15 seat van.