Monthly Archives: November 2013

Newport Beach man sentenced on federal fraud charges

A former Newport Beach investment adviser and two other men were sentenced Tuesday for a fraudulent investment scheme, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

William Ferry, 71, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison after he was convicted July 31, 2012, of conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. Dennis Clinton, 65, of San Diego, and Paul Martin, 64, a resident of New Jersey, were sentenced to 30 months in prison for mail and wire fraud and conspiracy.

Authorities said the three men attempted to defraud an investor of $1 billion through a high-yield investment scheme. Unbeknownst to them, the target was actually a member of an undercover FBI team.

According to the Department of Justice, the men promised undercover federal agents an extremely high rate of return at little or no risk to principal through their “Fed Trade Program,” which they said was regulated by a Federal Reserve bank.

They told the potential investors that the program helped humanitarian projects and that the promised profits would be divided in equal amounts among the humanitarian cause, program financing and the investors.

FBI officials are continuing to investigate the case, the Department of Justice said.



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Collection calls from ‘law enforcement’ are scams, officials say

Law-enforcement officials have issued a warning about a phone scam with someone masquerading as a police officer or deputy and demanding money.

Last weekend, a caller threatened a Laguna Hills man and told him SWAT officers would come to his home if he didn’t make a $4,000 payment, said Lt. Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The calls are especially troublesome because the scammers use a program to make the caller ID appear as if the call is coming from the Orange County Sheriff Department’s Santa Ana office, Hallock said.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, law-enforcement officials do not solicit donations or collections over the phone.

Officials urged residents not to give personal information such as Social Security numbers and bank-account information over the phone.

The Laguna Hills man reported being contacted on his cellphone by someone who identified himself as Assistant Sheriff Mark Billings, Hallock said.

The caller said he was working with the IRS to collect a debt and instructed the resident to buy $4,000 in MoneyPak online cash cards, Hallock said. The caller is believed to have threatened to send the department’s SWAT team to collect if no payment was received.

On Oct. 29, another caller who identified himself as a member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department called a Yorba Linda woman and tried to collect $365 for a traffic violation, officials said.

The caller told the woman to buy MoneyPak cards and provide the number over the phone to pay for the citation.

Officials ask that anyone receiving a similar phone call contact the Sheriff’s Department at 714-647-7000.



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Man who killed estranged wife gets 50-year sentence

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Investigators examine the homicide scene after a shooting near the intersection of Amalfi and Turtle Rock drives in Irvine June 16, 2011.

SANTA ANA – An Orange County judge Friday sentenced an Anaheim man to 50 years to life in prison for killing his estranged wife by shooting her nine times in the chest.

An Orange County jury in June found John Rand Agosta, 37, guilty of one count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death.

“This cold-blooded murder deserves every day of his 50-year-to-life sentence,” Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy said.

The jilted husband waited for his wife to leave her job as a teacher’s aide at an Irvine preschool before following her to a nearby cul-de-sac and shooting her at close range in June 2011, McGreevy said at Agosta’s murder trial.

Agosta then kicked Alejandra Hernandez, 28, as she lay bleeding to death on a grass parkway in the Turtle Rock area of Irvine and walked away, McGreevy said.

Hernandez’s relatives gave statements to Superior Court Judge W. Michael Hayes at the sentencing, discussing their loss and describing the victim as a person of peace and forgiveness, prosecutors said.

Agosta and Hernandez had been married nearly three years before Hernandez demanded a separation in January 2011. “She didn’t want anything more to do with him,” McGreevy said during trial.

Agosta, the prosecutor said, did not take the separation well.

He alternatively wanted to talk with his estranged wife, scream at her or kill her, McGreevy told the jury. Agosta also posted angry tirades about Hernandez on Facebook, including one ominous message in which he wrote: “If she died, I would laugh.”

Agosta bought a 9 mm Glock handgun and brought it with him June 16, 2011, when he waited for Hernandez to take her lunch break from her job at Turtle Rock Preschool, McGreevy said.

He then confronted her when she parked on the cul-de-sac and emptied the gun into her chest at close range, the prosecutor said. A resident said he heard a woman scream: “Get away from me! … Let me go!” and then the sound of rapid-fire shots.

City News Service contributed to this report



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Wrestling coach charged with felony assault

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Emmanuel Hugo Hernandez, a Villa Park High School wrestling coach, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of battering a student wrestling team member.

VILLA PARK – A wrestling demonstration turned into a violent attack when a coach choked a student into unconsciousness, punched him twice near an ear, walked away, then returned to punch the student once more in the head, according to authorities.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department released more details Friday on the alleged attack on a student wrestler by Emmanuel Hugo Hernandez, 26, a Villa Park High walk-on coach.

Hernandez, from Orange, was arrested Wednesday following the alleged incident. He was charged in Orange County Superior Court on Friday with one felony count each of child abuse and battery causing serious bodily injury.

Hernandez pleaded not guilty. He remained in custody at Orange County Jail on $100,000 bail.

Lt. Jeff Hallock said witnesses described the incident starting during wrestling practice at school when Hernandez offered to show them a move with the help of one of the team members.

Team members gathered around and Hernandez engaged the victim in what was at first a wrestling hold but then began to hold the boy in a chokehold, Hallock said.

“The kid was trying to tap out (surrender), when he (passed) out,” he said.

Other students began asking Hernandez, “What are you doing?” as the boy lost consciousness, Hallock said. Officials believe Hernandez told students, “Hey, that’s my cousin,” referring to the boy.

Hernandez and the boy are not related, Hallock said, but Hernandez referred to him at least one more time by the name of one of his cousins, who was not in the school or connected with the incident. Authorities are not sure why Hernandez referred to the student boy, incorrectly, as his cousin.

Hernandez also allegedly punched the unconscious boy two times, Hallock said. Then Hernandez began walking away, but returned and hit the boy once more in the head, Hallock said, and again referred to him by the wrong name.

According to a Sheriff’s Department report, Hernandez left the school as medical aid was given to the boy, who was treated at an area hospital. Hernandez was arrested at his home. The boy was released the same day and returned to school on Thursday, school officials said.

Hernandez has been a wrestling coach and employee at Villa Park High School since the fall 2010 semester, district officials said. He has no other duties with the district and has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, officials said.

Hernandez is scheduled to appear for a pretrial hearing in Orange County Superior Court on Nov. 25. If convicted, Hernandez faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

Register writer Vik Jolly contributed to this report.



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Man arrested in stabbing at Westminster sports bar

WESTMINSTER – A man was arrested on suspicion of stabbing a bar employee twice in the chest at the Players Lounge Bar in Westminster, police said.

James Van Dang, 36, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of attempted murder after he was seen getting into a vehicle near his home at Beach and Westminster boulevards, Westminster police Sgt. Cameron Knauerhaze said.

Dang is being held at Orange County Jail in lieu of $530,000. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

The employee was stabbed about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at the bar in the 7800 block of Westminster Boulevard while he was trying to walk out Dang, who was reportedly intoxicated and bothering two female customers, Knauerhaze said.

The employee, 31, was hospitalized in critical but stable condition. His attacker, later identified as Dang, fled on foot.

Detectives interviewed witnesses and developed leads that led them to Dang. After the arrest, detectives searched his home and found a knife believed to have been used in the crime, Knauerhaze said.

The investigation is continuing.

Anyone with information about the crime was asked to call police at 714-548-3750 or leave an anonymous tip by calling Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS.



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Deputy heard O.J. Simpson confess – maybe

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Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart, shows memorabilia from the OJ Simpson murder trial including a photo in the Las Angeles Times of him testifying in the preliminary hearing leading up to the trial.

The banner headline ran in thick capital letters across the front page of a January 1996 tabloid:


Beneath the headline in the Globe was the iconic mug shot of O.J. Simpson taken after being arrested on suspicion of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

To the left of the photo is the phrase: “O.J.’s chilling word-by-word confession to Rosey Grier – Explosive truth from the jail guard who heard it all.”

The “jail guard who heard it all” is Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart.

Today is the 19th anniversary of the jailhouse conversation overheard by Stuart that etched his name into the transcripts of one of the most sensational court cases ever.


Stuart began his law enforcement career in 1991 as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Men’s Central Jail. He was 23.

Shortly after his arrest in June 1994, Simpson was kept in the jail’s security housing unit.

Stuart was stationed in a command center, and oversaw a visiting area reserved for “keep-away” inmates – those inmates who were isolated because of their celebrity or high-profile status.

One evening that November, the young deputy checked in a visitor to see Simpson: Grier, a former NFL defensive tackle turned Christian minister.

While Grier and Simpson chatted by phone in a one-man visitation room separated by thick glass, Stuart sat at his desk. His back was to Grier, about three feet away.

“When it is normal conversation, the glass is pretty thick and you can’t hear anything,” Stuart said. “I went back to monitoring the floor and doing paperwork.”

Suddenly, he heard the thwacking sound of a phone slamming and then, he said, O.J. shouting:

“ ‘I didn’t mean to do it! … I’m sorry!’ ”

“He slams it down and yells at the top of his voice, which is loud enough to go through not only the ceiling but through the glass to Rosey Grier,” said Stuart, now 45.

Grier, after a second or so, Stuart recalled, shouted:

“ ‘O.J., you got to come clean. You got to tell somebody.’ ”

Stuart saw Simpson bury his head in the palms of his cupped hands.

“(He) was obviously visibly shaken,” Stuart said. “He was crying at the time.”

He then saw Grier motioning for Simpson to pick the phone back up.

Stuart wasn’t quite sure what to make of the outburst.

“It is a pretty ambiguous statement,” Stuart said. “It wasn’t a big deal to me when I heard it.”

When on a break in the deputy’s dining room, Stuart got called back to his post.

Supervisors told Stuart that Simpson was cursing him while being escorted back to his cell, ranting about a deputy falsely claiming to hear his confession.

But because Stuart hadn’t told anybody, he figured Simpson was trying to cover his tracks.


Stuart’s statement was sealed before making its way to the desk of Superior Court Judge Lance Ito.

Stuart was ordered to testify but was permitted to only acknowledge hearing a statement without revealing what was said.

“(It was) my first time ever testifying,” Stuart said.

The prosecution team tried to extract answers alluding to a confession of guilt.

The defense team, led by Johnnie Cochran, battled to keep the statement under wraps, arguing that conversations between inmates and clergy are protected under state law.

Stuart was grilled for more than two hours:

Did you hear a conversation? … Who made the conversation? … What were the dimensions of the room? … Where were you seated when you heard the conversation? … What was the thickness of the walls? … What was the thickness of the glass? … O.J.’s demeanor when the statement was made?

Ultimately, Ito ruled Simpson’s conversation with Grier was, in fact, protected and therefore not admissible.

The trial began on Jan. 24, 1995. On Oct. 3, Simpson was found not guilty.

By then, Stuart had switched departments to Fullerton.

When Stuart was contacted by a reporter from the Globe who asked him to tell the story of Simpson’s jailhouse statement, then-Chief Pat McKinley gave his blessing.

“I knew he was coming from the (L.A.) Sheriff’s Department but didn’t know he was part of the O.J. case,” McKinley recalled. “I had no problem with it.”

Stuart told the Globe reporter what he heard and saw on that day in the Men’s Central Jail. He was paid close to $10,000 for telling his story.

“There are some things that were added in that were a little sensationalized, but there is nothing that is factually inaccurate,” Stuart said.


With more than 20 years on the job, including assignments as a homicide detective and gang investigator, Stuart looks back on the Simpson verdict with more seasoned eyes.

“As a former detective, you take ambiguous statements and you look at other details and facts and put those together,” Stuart said.

“If I was a detective working the case and I heard that, I would want to go back and look at more evidence,” he said.

But even if Simpson’s statement had been heard by a jury, Stuart believes the verdict would have been the same.

“There was probably more evidence that was undisputed by the defense than you have in 10 homicide cases,” Stuart said.

Does Stuart think Simpson’s statement was an admission of guilt?

When considering all the other evidence … probably.

“I will never be 100 percent certain,” Stuart said. “We will never know.”



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Police seek leads in Santa Ana homicide

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Jaime Mejia Zaragoza

SANTA ANA – Police are seeking help from the public in solving a Santa Ana homicide.

Detectives have run out of clues in an investigation into the Jan. 20 stabbing death of 38-year-old Jaime Mejia Zaragoza, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

“They are not getting any new leads,” Bertagna said.

Zaragoza was with several people in a parking lot in front of 718 E. First St., Bertagna said.

An argument started between Zaragoza and one of the others in the group, he added. Zaragoza was stabbed in the upper body and died at the scene. A motive for the argument and the stabbing has not been determined.

Zaragoza was “on-and-off homeless” and was known to frequent the area where the stabbing occurred, Bertagna said.

Detectives are encouraging people who may have been at or around the scene during the assault, or who may have information on who killed Zaragoza, to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS, Bertagna said.

Individuals can provide tips and remain anonymous. Orange County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for any tip that leads to an arrest.



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