Monthly Archives: January 2014

Coto De Caza woman missing since Monday morning

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Leslie Karen Thomas.

COTO DE CAZA – Authorities seek the public’s help in locating a missing Coto De Caza woman who hasn’t been seen since Monday morning.

Leslie Karen Thomas, 50, has not been seen or heard from since leaving her home about 8:30 a.m. Monday, according to an Orange County Sheriff’s statement.

Family members contacted authorities after they were unable to reach her. Officials say she suffers from “various illnesses” and may need medical attention.

Thomas did not have a vehicle, and is believed to be traveling on foot.

Authorities described her as a Caucasian woman with hazel eyes and blond, mid-length hair who is about 5-foot-4 and 180 pounds. She was wearing a black T-shirt with a dragon design, dark denim jeans and black Nike athletic shoes.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department at 714-647-7055 or 714-647-7000.


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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Santa Ana shooting victim identified

Authorities have identified an 18-year-old man found shot to death in a Santa Ana neighborhood.

Officers discovered the body of Jeffery Enriquez shortly after 1 a.m. on Friday while investigating reports of someone seen lying on the ground in the 1400 block of South Standard Street.

Enriquez, a Santa Ana resident, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators have not uncovered a motive for the shooting or determined how many people were involved, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

No witnesses have come forward, Bertagna added.

Enriquez did not have identification on him, forcing authorities to use fingerprint records to identify him.

Authorities have not determined whether the shooting was gang-related.

Enriquez is not a documented gang member, Bertagna said, but investigators are looking into whether he had any associations with members of local gangs. No suspects have been identified.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact detectives at 714-245-8390, or to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS. The department offers monetary awards for information leading to the arrest of suspects in gang homicides or felony assaults involving gang members.


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


Car crashes into Costa Mesa house; driver arrested on suspicion of DUI

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A man later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence crashed into a house on Myrtlewood Street around 2 a.m. Wednesday in Costa Mesa, missing a couple and their child inside by feet, officials said.

COSTA MESA – A man later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence crashed into a house early Wednesday morning, narrowly missing a couple and their child inside, officials said.

The 26-year-old driver crashed into the home at 1:40 a.m., said Sgt. Patrick Wessel of the Costa Mesa Police Department.

A woman suffered cuts from debris, he said. She was taken to a hospital.

The crash was reported in the 1600 block of Myrtlewood Street, a residential neighborhood where the driver “missed a turn,” Wessel said.

The car, occupied by the driver and a passenger, crashed through a wall of the home between two rooms.

Lawrence Smith, a Costa Mesa resident identified as the driver, was booked on suspicion of driving under the influence, Wessel said.

Smith and his passenger were not injured in the crash.


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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Fatal club beating: 2nd suspect ID’d, charged with murder

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Annie Kim Pham, 23, was fatally injured in a fight outside The Crosby in downtown Santa Ana on Jan. 18.

Candace Marie Brito, 27, is scheduled to be arraigned at 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

Brito’s arrest was announced Friday by Santa Ana police, who did not identify her citing the ongoing investigation.

EARLIER: SANTA ANA – A second suspect arrested in connection with the beating death of a woman outside a popular Santa Ana nightclub is “petrified and confused,” her attorney said Monday.

“She didn’t do a thing wrong,” criminal defense lawyer Michael Molfetta said of the 27-year-old Santa Ana woman, whose identity has not yet been released by police and who has not been charged.

Police said they believe the second suspect and another woman, as well as Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 25, of Santa Ana, who was arrested last week, made “physical contact” with Annie Kim Pham, 23, outside The Crosby restaurant and bar in downtown Santa Ana after some kind of argument escalated into a fight in the predawn hours of Jan. 18.

Sgt. Javier Esparza of the Santa Ana Police Department said Monday that investigators continue to interview witnesses and are seeking to question a third woman described as a “person of interest.” They also are looking for two men who are sought for questioning but not considered suspects. The men may have been involved in a separate altercation outside The Crosby.

Molfetta declined to name his client. But he did describe her as having no prior trouble with the law and, like Pham, who was recently married and studied psychology at Chapman University and aspired to become a writer, she was working regularly.

The woman, held since Friday on suspicion of murder, must be arraigned or set free by Tuesday.

Pham was taken off life support on Jan. 21. An autopsy concluded that she died of complications from blunt-force trauma to her head.


A funeral Mass for Pham, who recently moved to Huntington Beach from her family’s home in Westminster, will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Westminster.

“We welcome all to attend Kim’s funeral to pray and share her love with us,” Pham’s family posted on the Facebook page “Justice for Kim Pham,” which on late Monday had more than 27,000 followers.

The funeral will come three days before Pham would have celebrated her first wedding anniversary. She and Giang Ngokhanh, 23, were married on his birthday, Jan. 31, according to Orange County marriage certificate records.

The details of what happened leading up to Pham’s death remain unclear. Officials have not determined a motive for the fight that played out in front of more than 50 people lined up to get into The Crosby.

Molfetta said again Monday what he has said previously, that Pham threw the first punch after someone in Zavala’s group inadvertently bumped into Pham.

“She (herself) got knocked down with a bunch of people coming out,” he said of his client. “She was not involved in any shape or form in any altercation with anybody.”

Police have not yet offered an alternate version of the incident. Detectives are reviewing at least three different videos of the fight, one of which shows a security guard trying to separate Pham and the women believed to have beaten her.

Zavala pleaded not guilty to murder last week and is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Orange County Jail. Her attorney, Ken Reed, has said Zavala is innocent.

Molfetta said his client was among friends of Zavala who were at the restaurant to celebrate a birthday.

Molfetta said he expects his client to be arraigned Tuesday, but does not know the specific charge.

She has no criminal record, he said, and “she’s the type of person who’s been working on a 401 (k) since she was 18.”

Molfetta added that she was born in another state but raised in Irvine and graduated from Woodbridge High School. She is single, her mother lives in the area and her father passed away several years ago. Molfetta said his client currently works in an office and attends Santa Ana College.

She hopes to become a paralegal.


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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Firefighter, now retired, admits running gambling operation

A longtime firefighter who lives in Irvine admitted Monday that he spent more than a decade arranging illegal bets through an offshore gambling business and did some of the bookmaking while on duty at a fire station.

Tod Hipsher, 51, pleaded guilty in federal court in Santa Ana to conducting an illegal gambling business.

He’ll be sentenced June 2 and faces a maximum of five years in prison, plus a $250,000 fine.

Hipsher retired late last year as a captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. His lawyer said he reached a plea agreement in October, but the hearing was delayed to allow him to retire.

Los Angeles County fire officials had no immediate comment on the case.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators, whose investigation started in 2009, believe Hipsher took thousands of bets worth millions of dollars over 12 years.

The losses left some gamblers “virtually destitute,” including one person who lost almost $900,000, said Claude Arnold, who supervises the Los Angeles office of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit.

Hipsher found customers and set up accounts for them with Tradewinds, a Costa Rica-based bookmaking organization, according to his plea agreement. Gamblers bet on the Super Bowl, college basketball and other events, either online or over the phone.

ICE said it seized more than $200,000 in cash from Hipsher’s home in March, and they believe he made $168,000 between December 2012 and March 2013 alone.

In 2011, undercover agents met at least twice with Hipsher at a fire station in Bell to conduct gambling business, said Mark Speidel, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s homeland security investigations.

Hipsher declined to comment after Monday’s court hearing, The Associated Press reported.

Federal authorities, who are still investigating, said they believed Hipsher had at least six associates.

A Laguna Niguel man has already pleaded guilty to running an illegal gambling business as part of the same scheme, ICE said. Pat Fondarella, 55, will be sentenced Feb. 4.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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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Judge orders refund of San Clemente beach parking fees

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The city of San Clemente has wanted to use its beach-parking fund to turn this lot on El Camino Real into a 33-space North Beach parking lot.

An Orange County Superior Court judge’s ruling effectively kills San Clemente’s $10 million beach-parking fund.

Judge Thierry Patrick Colaw ordered the city Thursday to issue refunds to homeowners who paid into the fund in the past 25 years.

The ruling grants a writ of mandate to petitioners in a lawsuit that challenged the fund’s validity and said the city’s handling of it did not comply with California’s Mitigation Fee Act. A writ of mandate orders a government agency to follow the law by correcting previous actions.

Colaw said the city won’t have to refund money already spent toward beach parking, but the rest of the fund must go back to homeowners.

Payments into the fund were in the form of an “impact” fee the city charged when issuing a building permit for a new home. It was intended to help the city meet beach-parking needs caused by rising population in parts of San Clemente outside the coastal zone.

In his ruling, Colaw said a required five-year progress report issued by the city in 2009 declared the city had collected sufficient funds for needed parking improvements. The city then had 180 days to identify when it would start the improvements or it would have to refund the money, the judge wrote.

“The city did not, and still has not, determined when construction will begin on any beach parking project,” Colaw wrote. “As a result, the money must be refunded.”

Brad Malamud, a San Clemente resident who brought the lawsuit with fellow property owners Daniel Walker and Justin McCarthy, said the ruling didn’t grant all he had hoped for, such as a refund of money the city spent to acquire a North Beach lot. On balance, however, he called it a victory.

“We won what we asked, to get the money back,” he said.

City Attorney Jeff Goldfarb said he was stunned by the ruling and will ask the City Council to consider options. The city had argued that even if the judge found fault with the city’s compliance with the Mitigation Fee Act, the proper remedy is to make the city go back and do it right, not forfeit the funds.

“I’m shocked,” Goldfarb said. “The court rejected all of Brad’s arguments, save one.

“Instead of offering the city an opportunity to do (what was required), which the city was already in the process of doing, the court has awarded … all the city’s beach parking funds, to the great detriment of the community.”

Malamud said he hopes the City Council will agree to a speedy refund at minimal cost. He acknowledged the city could appeal the ruling, just as the petitioners could appeal portions that didn’t go their way.

Malamud estimated that the owners of close to 6,500 homes will have refunds coming. The city has records to figure out which owners paid the fee, he said, and his group has created a spreadsheet calculating fees, interest earned and how much each person should get.

The judge ruled the petitioners could not challenge the city’s previous use of the fund to acquire land at 1832 N. El Camino Real, where the city plans to build a 33-space beach parking lot.

Still, Malamud says that if the city wants to build that lot, the estimated $740,000 cost can’t come from the impact fee. He feels the lot is unneeded and unjustified by rules governing the beach-parking fee and that the city has sufficient funds collected from the Talega development for North Beach improvements.



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Legal tokers are stoked: Super Bowl goes to pot with Denver vs. Seattle

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A member of the Stanford Cardinal marching band performs against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in 2012 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona.

Take a deep breath, America.

Your most hallowed game has become a late-night punchline; a gag. And, many say, a national referendum on the legalization of marijuana.

Get ready to hear “This bud’s for you,” a lot over the next few days. Get ready to hear about weeding out the competition. Playing on grass. And high score wins.

Dude, have you heard?

Super Bowl XLVIII (that’s 48 to those of us who never studied Latin) pits teams from the only two of our United States that have legalized recreational marijuana use. Which means we’ve got more than a Super Bowl coming Sunday. Like it or not, we’ve got our first-ever Pot Bowl.

Or Weed Bowl.

Or Bong Bowl.

Or, as Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has joked: “The Super Oobie Doobie Bowl.”

Tokers are stoked.

Traditional storylines abound: Denver’s ageless quarterback, Peyton Manning, seeking redemption; Seattle’s ranting cornerback, Richard Sherman, seeking headlines; New Jersey’s open-air stadium seeking NOT to determine the game’s outcome with wind, snow or, heaven help us, another polar vortex.

But for many, this year’s Super Bowl buzz is all about (pass the Doritos, please) marijuana.

“I’m definitely having a Stoner Super Bowl Party at my house,” says Kandice Hawes-Lopez, executive director of the O.C. chapter of NORML. “We’ll have a good variety of snacks, including medicated bean dip.”

They’ll also have “medicated” brownies, cookies and pizza. Medical marijuana, remember, is legal in California and 19 other states.

Hawes, who’s led OC NORML for 10 years, is a good sport when it comes to stoner stereotypes. But in truth, her interest in this year’s Super Bowl goes far beyond who wins the football game.

For her and millions of Americans, it’s about who wins the legalization game.

• • •

Sunday is lining up to be the perfect storm for marijuana advocates – the confluence of three significant events.

First, you have the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington. Second is the recent comment by President Barack Obama saying pot is less dangerous than alcohol. And third is the pipe dream matchup of Seattle vs. Denver, which gives the media an irresistible story line to hype.

(Who can’t picture a nation of Ron Burgundy-like news anchors delivering this story – raising their eyebrows on cue, smirking on cue and ribbing each other about their favorite munchies on cue – before sending it over to the weather reporter?)

Beyond the jokes, however, lies a serious national debate. Should we legalize marijuana? Is it safe? Or is it dangerous?

“Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from alcohol-related diseases,” Hawes says. “Cannabis doesn’t have any associated deaths. Most people, even our opponents, agree that alcohol is more dangerous.”

Obama said as much in a recent interview with The New Yorker – signaling a sea change from the Reagan-era slogan of “Just Say No,” which left no wiggle room in the debate.

“For 80 years, our federal government has been exaggerating the harm of marijuana in order to keep it illegal,” says Mason Tvert, spokesman for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project in Denver. “So it’s noteworthy that our president has acknowledged that marijuana actually is less harmful than alcohol for the consumer.”

It’s just as noteworthy that Obama’s own Office of National Drug Control Policy has publicly stated: “The administration steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana” because it would “pose significant health and safety risks … particularly young people.”

And the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that 9 percent of all pot smokers, and 17 percent of those who start young, become addicted.

Still, debate is good, marijuana advocates say, because the more people talk about it, the more they favor legalization.

Which is why they’re cheering for the Super Oobie Doobie Bowl.

• • •

The “safer-than-alcohol” argument is a powerful one. And appropriate for the Super Bowl, according to Tvert, whose Marijuana Policy Project was the largest backer of Colorado’s legalization campaign.

“The NFL has a long history of promoting alcohol,” he says. “They’ve always aggressively sold alcohol at every game. They’re officially sponsored by alcohol companies. They allow alcohol companies to dominate advertising – especially during the Super Bowl.”

And yet, the NFL still punishes players caught using marijuana. It’s time for the NFL, and America, to stop this hypocrisy, he says.

Does all this mean we should expect to see marijuana ads during the game – the way we saw dot-com ads during the tech boom and cash-for-gold ads during the recession?

Probably not, says Tim Calkins, a Northwestern University professor and expert on Super Bowl advertising. Partly because of the cost: $4 million per 30-second ad. And partly because it’s still early in the national debate.

Die-hard sports fans don’t really care about the so-called Pot Bowl.

“This is the No. 1 offense going against the No. 1 defense,” says Mike Kowaleski, 28, who started the OC Orange Crush website a few years ago. “That other stuff makes for good headlines, but I’d never read it.”

He will, however, wear his lucky Broncos undershirt, lucky team jersey and lucky team jacket to the game, urging his team toward the goal line.

Marijuana fans have another goal.

“It will be hard for the announcers not to make little comments about it,” says Hawkes, of OC NORML. “Having it mentioned on the Super Bowl is going to help get it attention, and get people talking about it.”

One thing for sure – people will talk about it. Undoubtedly, you will hear that MetLife Stadium is packed. The joint is rockin.’ And the scoreboard is lit up.

And if someone at your Super Bowl party shouts, “Pass the bowl,” remember this: They might not mean the chips.



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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