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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Molester re-committed as sexual predator

orange county bail bondsSANTA ANA – A convicted child molester was re-committed to a state mental hospital Thursday after a jury found him unsafe to join society.

A jury decided that Carlos Dominguez, 65, is a sexually violent predator and is not suitable for release from a hospital until he receives more treatment.

Authorities said that to be labeled a sexually violent predator, a person must have been convicted of a sexually violent crime, have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and be found to be likely to reoffend unless treated.

Dominguez was convicted on Nov. 9, 1979, for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old female relative after taking her to Knott’s Berry Farm for her birthday. After riding several roller coasters, Dominguez assaulted her in the back of a van, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

A jury found Dominguez guilty of one felony count of lewd and lascivious acts upon a minor, and he was sentenced to three years in prison. He was released on parole in 1983 but was sent back in 1985 after he was arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment and battery. He was released again in May 1986, officials said.

After being released from prison, Dominguez sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl who was the daughter of a family friend on July 18, 1986. He persuaded the girl’s mother to let him take her to Disneyland under the ruse that they would be attending with his girlfriend and other young girls, authorities said.

Again, Dominguez took the girl to the theme park and rode several rides before returning to the van. He told the girl that there was candy in the backseat and when she went to find it, he sexually assaulted her, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Dominguez pleaded guilty to one felony count of forcible lewd and lascivious acts upon a minor on Feb. 19, 1987, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Officials said he violated his parole in 1994 by not residing at the address he had registered as a sex offender. Officials obtained a surveillance report that showed Dominguez was seen in a car with three minor girls. In his car, authorities found a baseball bat, wood club, nylon rope, work gloves, a stun gun, 12 chocolate bars and condoms.

Dominguez was sent back to prison and released on parole again in December 1995. One month after his release, officials found that Dominguez was contacting the girls who were seen in his car a year earlier. He was found with one of the girl’s addresses and a stockpile of ammunition and was sent back to prison, officials said.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed a petition on April 2, 1996, to have Dominguez committed as a sexually violent predator, to which a jury agreed. He has been receiving treatment at a state mental hospital facility since.

Source: www.ocregister.com

By  ALYSSA DURANTY  / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

 

Police credit vigilant residents with Irvine arrests

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Christopher Lee Mearkle was arrested Tuesday after he was found with more than a pound of pot and weapons inside a parked car in Irvine.
COURTESY IRVINE POLICE DEPARTMENT

IRVINE – Police credited residents’ vigilance with the arrest of two men this week, including one with more than a pound of marijuana and an assault rifle in his car.

Irvine police officers went to Santa Clara Street on Tuesday evening after a resident reported a suspicious vehicle.

Officers saw evidence of illegal drugs inside and searched the car. Besides 1.5 pounds of pot and the assault rifle, they found another rifle, officials said.

Officers also found a high-capacity magazine, ammunition and prescription drugs.

The driver, 28-year-old Christopher Lee Mearkle, was taken into custody and booked into county jail, police said.

Court records show Mearkle has faced drug and weapons charges in the past. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to charges of being in possession of a controlled substance and exhibiting a weapon.

In 2006, he was also arrested and pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana for sale, possession of a controlled substance, and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

Residents also alerted officers early Wednesday morning when they saw someone trying to open car doors on the third floor of a parking structure at 2801 Main St.

Officers responded and found 23-year-old Mitchell Keith Thompson in a Toyota pickup, according to police.

He was arrested and booked on suspicion of burglary and possession of burglary tools.

Source: www.ocregister.com

By  SALVADOR HERNANDEZ  / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

 

Cops strive to keep downtown Fullerton calm

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Police officers arrest a man for urinating on the streets in downtown Fullerton. He was later charged with a felony for drug procession.
ROSE PALMISANO, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

A moment in time in downtown Fullerton, 1 a.m. on a recent Saturday:

Two police officers respond to a radio call about an inebriated woman roaming the parking lot just north of Commonwealth Avenue.

They arrive to find a belligerent woman in her early 20s. She’s standing alongside a Honda Civic. Her friend, sitting behind the wheel, is passed out.

Fifty yards away in the same lot, a motorcycle officer gives a field-sobriety test to a young man who’d been driving a PT Cruiser.

Across Commonwealth: At least four officers keep dozens of revelers at a safe distance while other officers question a man in his 20s suspected of fighting inside a bar. The man is handcuffed.

A call comes in about a fight on South Pomona Avenue. And another on a scuffle at a bar three blocks away.

This scenario – multiple alcohol-fueled incidents within an area rife with bars – is typical, said an officer whose job it is to maintain order in the zone.

“A lot of times we are just putting out fires more so than anything else before they become bigger problems,” said Cpl. Eric Song, who patrols with a partner in downtown Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

For years, the city has struggled to control bar patrons in its downtown. At least 4,000 partyers, many from outside of Orange County, routinely converge on downtown on a Friday or Saturday night, Song said. There are about 20 businesses that serve alcohol in the area after 10 p.m.

“I just want people to be safe,” he said. “That is my entire goal.”

One of the more volatile spots: A parking lot behind the southwest corner of Harbor Boulevard and Wilshire Avenue, where five entrances to five bars are clustered. At closing time on a recent Saturday, perhaps 1,000 patrons – dozens obviously inebriated – funneled through a courtyard and into the parking lot.

“We really try to clear this place as quickly as possible,” Song said. “The longer they start loitering, the more of a chance for fighting.”

Hanging out with friends outside a bar on Santa Fe on a recent Friday night, Karen Lozano, 22, of Placentia talked about revelry that sometimes goes too far.

“Things get crazy here,” she said. “I’ve seen people get out of control. I’ve seen women get in fights. I’ve seen people throw up all over themselves.”

In April, downtown bar owners began collaborating with the police on potential ways to curtail alcohol-related problems. Spearheaded in part by Jeremy Popoff, owner of the SlideBar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen on Commonwealth, dozens of restaurant and bar owners formed the Downtown Restaurant Association. The group meets with police about once a month.

“Everybody has the same goal of solving the problems that affect all of us,” Popoff said.

Implemented strategies:

Some bouncers wear yellow jackets near closing time, to create a larger, more uniformed presence.

Owners have started an “86” list of patrons who’ve been banned from a bar and then share the information with other establishments.

Popoff recently hired a private security firm to maintain order inside his club and in the adjoining parking lot. Other owners are considering the same move.

More measures are coming. The city received a $39,000 grant from the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, so undercover officers will go into bars to search for over-serving of alcohol and alcohol being served to minors.

“If there is less serving and less intoxication, there are less problems all the way down the line,” said Lt. Andrew Goodrich, the Police Department’s watch commander on weekend nights.

Is this push by police, along with the bar and restaurant owners, working?

There has been a slight downtick in incidents in the area on weekend nights, Goodrich said. However, more time is needed to determine the recent measures’ effectiveness.

And city officials are mulling over giving themselves another tool.

If patrons are charged to park in the city’s lots – which are now free – then the city would have more revenue to provide the area with even more security.

Source: www.ocregister.com

By  LOU PONSI  / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

 

Man sought in suspicious fires cleared

Article Tab: fire-hills-anaheim-yorbaA man sought in connection with a series of suspicious fires Monday afternoon has been questioned and cleared as a “person of interest,” authorities said.

Investigators had released a photo of a man they wanted to speak to after he was spotted by a witness near the area where the fires were started, officials said.

Firefighters responded to three fires in Anaheim and Yorba Linda that were believed to have been intentionally set Monday afternoon.

“They are still looking for a possible suspect,” said Lt. Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Firefighters with the Anaheim Fire Department and the Orange County Fire Authority responded to the three fires between noon and 3:45 p.m.

Four acres burned near East View Drive in Anaheim. A one-fourth-acre fire was set at Copper Canyon Road and Via Lomas de Yorba in Yorba Linda, and a 1-acre fire near Blue Sky Lane was also under investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS, or 855-847-6227. Tips can also be submitted online at occrimestoppers.org.

Source: www.ocregister.com

By  SALVADOR HERNANDEZ and SEAN EMERY  / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

 

Trial underway in teacher’s sex-abuse case

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Richard Rack booking photo
COURTESY OF ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

A San Clemente man told a jury Monday that he was so concerned about his daughter’s relationship with her math teacher at Shorecliffs Middle School that he met with the man and demanded he promise to stop contacting her.

After his wife learned their daughter had sent Richard John Rack a photo of herself naked, the man arranged to meet with Rack at Las Golondrinas restaurant in San Clemente, where the now-former teacher wrote and signed a statement promising to never contact the girl again..

“I’m a convincing person,” said the father, whom the Register is not identifying to protect the identity of his daughter because she is believed to be a victim of sexual abuse.

The father saved the note, along with a photo of Rack writing it. Both were entered as evidence in Rack’s sexual-abuse trial, which began Monday in Orange County Superior Court. The jury will be able to review the items while deliberating.

Rack, 51, is charged with eight felonies: six counts of lewd acts on a child age 14 or 15, one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under 14 and one felony count of oral copulation of a minor under 16. He faces up to 12 years and eight months behind bars if convicted and would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

He was fired from the Capistrano Unified School District in September and remains in jail with bond set at $1 million. He had taught math at Shorecliffs since 2002.

The testimony from the father of one of the alleged victims came after testimony from two former students of Rack who described contact that ranged from prolonged handholding and touching to sexually charged comments.

“I liked him as a teacher, but I thought he was creepy,” said one girl, now 15. “He would bite his lip sometimes, and it made me uncomfortable the way he looked at me and the gestures that he made.”

The other witness, now an 18-year-old student at Saddleback College, told jurors that she was so bothered by Rack’s prolonged hugging and his comments toward her that, at the end of the school year, she had a friend deliver him a letter she had written “expressing to him that I would not want him to treat anyone else that way.”

That was in 2009. Rack continued to teach at Shorecliffs until December 2011, when he was placed on administrative leave after school officials learned of the allegations.

The girls were the first witnesses called by Deputy District Attorney Vanessa Woods to testify against Rack, who has been in jail since June 2012.

They didn’t describe overtly sexual acts or criminal behavior by Rack, but Woods said their stories should help jurors understand Rack’s history as a sexual abuser who targeted girls through his daily interactions with them while teaching math or tutoring them during breaks and after school.

The girls saw the academic benefits of their close relationship in the classroom, Woods told jurors.

“Grades would go up. They wouldn’t have to try as hard in class. He would allow them special privileges” and invite them for study sessions in which “he would actually walk them though the tests,” Woods said.

But Rack’s lawyer, David Cohn, said Rack has long had a reputation as a caring listener for troubled students and has been unfairly accused of taking his behavior further than it went. Cohn said the allegations emerged just after Rack told Child Protective Services about potential abuse described by one of the girls regarding her mother.

Under cross examination from Cohn, the 15-year-old girl admitted to downplaying the accusations when first talking to police.

“I think I said that I was trying to defend him, in a sense,” she said.

Cohn said jurors will hear from three former students who have the “utmost respect” for Rack and never observed inappropriate behavior.

Cohn said jurors also will hear from a male student who walked in on one Rack with one of his accusers and saw nothing inappropriate. The boy also says the classroom door was open, contradicting the girl’s claims that it was closed, Cohn said.

Rack also will testify in his defense, Cohn said.

Cohn said some of Rack’s behavior may seem “unorthodox,” “strange” and “inappropriate,” including text messages sent to two girls that Cohn called “above and beyond.” But, Cohn said, if jurors focus on the timing of the allegations and put everything in context, “you will see in the end that Mr. Rack is a caring teacher. Always has been.”

“Everyone’s got their own definition of inappropriate,” Cohn said.

The charges against Rack relate to three girls, each of whom is expected to testify. All were 13 or 14 and students at Shorecliffs at the time the alleged abuse occurred. Two girls say Rack touched them inappropriately and made sexual comments about them and himself.

The third girl was contacted by investigators who noticed Rack had sent her sexual text messages. The girl eventually told police that Rack abused her several times, including forced sex acts.

But Cohn said the girl’s mother was essentially dating Rack and that the girl was jealous of her mother’s relationship with a man she had come to view as a father figure.

Cohn also urged jurors to disregard the testimony of girls who described inappropriate behavior after they learned of Rack’s arrest.

“They’re thinking Mr. Rack is a creeper. Now at this point, anything Mr. Rack did for them, holding their hand, giving them a hug, giving them a kiss on the forehead, they’re interpreting as sexual in nature,” Cohn said.

Testimony continues Tuesday before Orange County Superior Court Judge Sheila Hanson at the courthouse in Santa Ana.

Source: www.ocregister.com

By  MEGHANN M. CUNIFF and JOSH FRANCIS  / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

 

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Miss Teen case underscores ‘sextortion’ dangers

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Cassidy Wolf of Temecula is crowned Miss Teen USA 2013 on Aug. 10. Wolf, 19, says someone hacked into her computer and activated her webcam to get nude photos of her and then tried to extort her for more. The practice of “sextortion” is becoming more widespread, authorities say.
TIM HARBAUGH, AP

It’s been called “sextortion,” and sex crime investigators said it’s becoming too common.

Earlier this week, the FBI confirmed it was investigating a case of alleged sextortion involving more than a dozen victims, including Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf of Temecula. The case has garnered national media attention and shed light on a form of sexual extortion that law enforcement officials are coming across more often each day. Victims are younger, and technology has made it easier for perpetrators to zero in on victims, officials said.

Using a sexually compromising photo or video, predators try to extort more images from victims. If the victims refuse, they threaten to publish the image online or email it to friends, family or classmates. The initial picture may not be pornographic, but risqué enough to cause embarrassment. But the predator pushes for more explicit pictures and, with a gradual bank of embarrassing images, extorts more from the victim.

“The goal is to get more images,” said Wade Walsvick, an investigator with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and a member of the Child Exploitation Task Force.

Wolf’s case is the most recent high-profile investigation involving sextortion, but officials said the practice has become very widespread, with predators using websites to trade images like currency, and some are amassing sexually explicit libraries of dozens of targeted victims.

“It’s a commodity,” Walsvick said. “They spend so much time getting new girls to do stuff, and acquiring as much as they can.”

Wolf told reporters someone hacked into her computer to turn its webcam on, but officials said most cases are not as sophisticated.

About two cases a month will come across Walsvick’s desk involving some sort of sextortion, he said, and many of them involve former boyfriends or friends who threaten victims when the relationship sours. Some of the cases involve suspects pretending to be someone else closer to the victim’s age, seeking them out in video chat rooms to record sexually compromising video.

Victims have been as young as 9 years old, he said.

“These are just normal kids,” he said.

In some cases, a perpetrator finds a video online and then seeks out the victim to extort new sexually explicit images, he said.

One of the most egregious cases he’s worked originated about six years ago, Walsvick said, when a 12-year-old victim went into a video chat.

“She engaged with a kid she thought was 12 years old,” Walsvick said. “That video has followed that young (girl) for six years.”

The explicit 10-minute video was posted on dozens of websites. The Orange County girl has been contacted about a dozen times in the last three years by predators who found the video and then contacted her online, he said.

“She went through four different high schools, five different junior highs, threats every other 10 months,” he said.

Walsvick has contacted multiple websites to have the video removed on the grounds that it is child pornography. He’s attempted to reach the person who originally posted it, but the video has continued to make its way through pornographic websites.

Some of the websites are taken down, only to resurface days later with another address.

Suspects can be blunt and forceful as well, Walsvick said. One victim received an email resembling a formal business letter, Walsvick said, asking for sexually explicit pictures or threatening to publish images. The suspect included links to the Facebook profiles of the victim’s relatives.

Some have gone through with the threat, he said, including one case in which the suspect emailed a nude picture to teachers at a girl’s school.

“They’re usually pretty ruthless because they don’t know them,” he said.

Last year, two sisters – ages 9 and 10 – told their parents someone was asking them to send sexual pictures through their iPod touch. After investigators were called, the girls’ parents told investigators they didn’t even know their daughters could connect online with their iPods.

The practice has expanded, making it more difficult for investigators to keep up. Authorities have found websites dedicated to the practice, complete with sexual videos, comment sections and links to the social network profiles of a victim. In the comment threads, some of the websites’ visitors make requests of what videos they’d like the perpetrator to obtain, Walsvick said.

“It’s just a different breed of bad guys,” he said.

The vast majority of victims tend to be girls, and the websites provide a way for many of them to be victimized repeatedly when they are contacted by new perpetrators.

Some suspects spend vast amounts of time trying to collect the material. After the parents of an Orange County high school student found suspicious texts on her phone in January, investigators began looking into the source.

Walsvick said officials found 33 teenage girls from the same Orange County high school were contacted by the same 17-year-old, whose profile included a picture of him posing in a bowling alley.

“It turned out to be a 38-year-old man who lived with his mother in Ohio,” Walsvick said.

Using the same lines of conversation with the girls, the man reached out to them via Facebook. The girls had first agreed to connect with him because he was friends – on Facebook – with common friends.

Most of the girls rebuffed his advances, he said, but the online conversations “showed what he was doing,” Walsvick said. “He was using the same lines with all 33 girls.”

In his home, investigators found a trove of pictures and images of young victims. Ohio authorities told Orange County officials they “had so much investigative material, so many girls, (they) just need to weed through it.”

Walsvick has investigated sex crimes for about 16 years, and many times parents are not aware of their child’s online activities, he said. They are also not aware how easy it may be for predators to target children for sexually explicit images and then extort them for more.

Throughout the school year, Walsvick and other investigators go to Orange County high schools and middle schools to educate parents about social media use, and the importance of parents keeping an eye on their child’s online interactions.

“I love talking to the parents because I figure, this is going to happen a lot because kids are going to be kids,” he said. “So I tell parents, it’s becoming upon you to monitor what your kids are doing. It just doesn’t happen overnight.”

Source: www.ocregister.com

By  SALVADOR HERNANDEZ  / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

 

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Husband faces trial in 1998 slaying of prison guard

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A van is at the scene of the fatal shooting of Elizabeth Wheat Begaren on Jan. 17. 1998. Her husband, Nuzzio Begaren was arrested in connection with the killing. His trial begins next week. FILE PHOTO: ROSE PALMISANO, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

“No, Tony, no!”

Those were the last words of California prison guard Elizabeth Wheat Begaren, according to grand jury testimony.

Then she tried to run up a darkened freeway on-ramp along a brick sound wall in Anaheim. Two bullets slammed into her body – one in the head and one in the chest – before she made it five feet.

Corrections Officer Begaren crumpled to the ground on the East Street on-ramp of the 91 freeway as three Los Angeles County gang members scrambled into a Buick Regal and sped off, according to the grand jury transcripts.

That was January 1998.

The investigation of the freeway slaying stalled and became one of Orange County’s most scrutinized cold cases – in part because the victim was law enforcement and in part because detectives felt from the beginning that the case was solvable.

The primary suspect from the beginning was Begaren’s husband, Nuzzio, who said he was crouching behind the Buick with his 10-year-old daughter when the fatal shots were fired.

He told detectives that it was a road robbery that became deadly when the gang members found his wife’s Department of Corrections badge. Nuzzio said they followed his SUV from a Burbank mall when they saw him put a large roll of cash into his wife’s purse.

Next week – more than 15 years after the late-night shooting – Nuzzio Begaren goes on trial in Orange County Superior Court on special-circumstances murder charges that could lead to a life term in prison without the possibility of parole.

Nuzzio Begaren’s middle name is Anthony, but most everyone calls him Tony.

Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin contends that Nuzzio Begaren orchestrated the murder of his newlywed bride to collect $1 million in life insurance from a policy he took out shortly after they married five months earlier.

Two of the three gang members who were in the Buick Regal have turned on Begaren, Yellin said, and will be prosecution witnesses who will testify that he hired them as hit men, led them to the darkened freeway on-ramp and got out of the way so his wife could be killed.

One of those witnesses, Jose Sandoval, will testify that Begaren was the driver of the Buick Regal who, by pre-arrangement, followed the Begaren family SUV for miles until Nuzzio Begaren pulled over on the East Street on-ramp next to the sound wall, grabbed his 10-year-old daughter by the hand and walked behind the car, Yellin said.

Sandoval testified before the Orange County grand jury that he saw Elizabeth Begaren, looking scared, get out of the SUV and attempt to run up the freeway before fellow gang member Guillermo Espinoza, 36, shot her twice.

Espinoza, who is also charged with Elizabeth Begaren’s murder in the 2011 indictment returned by the Orange County grand jury, is at large and authorities have asked for the public’s help in finding him. There is a $60,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, authorities said.

Sandoval, 36, is also charged with murder in the case, but he testified before the grand jury that he expects to get a deal from prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against Nuzzio Begaren.

A third gang member, a convict named Rudy Duran, testified before the grand jury that Nuzzio Begaren contacted him about wanting his wife killed, insisting that it look like a gang robbery. Duran testified he then recruited two other gang members to carry out the murder-for-hire plot.

Sal Ciulla, Begaren’s attorney, said the prosecution’s case against Nuzzio Begaren is built on questionable stories provided by Sandoval and Duran, the gang members who participated in the killing but who have been promised plea deals in exchange for testimony against his client.

“They will say anything and do anything to get a free pass,” Ciulla said.

Duran, who is said to have set up the murder, “knew what the police wanted and he knew what he needed to say to get his deal, and he gave it to them,” Ciulla added. “I don’t think my client had anything to do with his wife’s death.”

But Yellin said no one is getting a free pass in exchange for testimony, and that both Sandoval and Duran will be prosecuted after consideration is given to their cooperation.

Yellin added that solid circumstantial evidence will link some of the gang members to Nuzzio Begaren before the murder and show that the shooting was not a chance encounter.

Witnesses also will testify that Elizabeth Begaren helped solve her own murder when she jotted down the license plate of the Buick Regal as it followed her family’s SUV from Los Angeles County to Anaheim, Yellin said. Anaheim police officers found her note, ripped into six pieces, near the SUV.

They also found Elizabeth Begaren’s Department of Corrections badge discarded on the ground next to her body.

Nuzzio Begaren’s trial before Judge Richard Toohey is expected to last about two weeks.

Source: www.ocregister.com

By  LARRY WELBORN  / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

 

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