Tag Archives: orange county district attorney

Anaheim couple face embezzlement, grand theft charges

A bookkeeper is facing embezzlement charges after authorities allege she stole $1.4 million from two law firms and used the funds to write unauthorized checks to her husband.

Shawna Renee Barretto, 39, of Anaheim, has been charged with dozens of felonies, including 22 counts of computer access fraud, 21 counts of falsifying records and seven counts of grand theft, according to an Orange County District Attorney’s office statement.

Her husband, Roberto Nilo Barretto, 53, also of Anaheim, has been charged with a felony count of grand theft, authorities said.

According to prosecutors, Shawna Barretto worked as a bookkeeper and an office manager from 2005 to 2012 at two unnamed law firms. Authorities allege she embezzled more than $1.4 million from the two firms through “deceptive record-keeping” and used the money on personal expenses such as private school tuition for her children and golf club memberships.

Prosecutors also allege that Shawna Barretto gave five checks totaling $10,825 to her husband.

An employee at one of the law firms notified the Irvine Police Department after noticing discrepancies in the business’s financial records, authorities said.

If convicted, Shawna Barretto – who is currently free on $1.4 million bail – faces up to 32 years in state prison, while Roberto Barretto – who is currently free on $20,000 bail – faces up to three years in prison.



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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D.A.: Deadly force justified in shooting of man holding box cutter

orange county bail bonds

Joseph Thomas Brewer Jr. was shot three times by an Orange police officer on June 12.

SANTA ANA – An Orange police officer was justified in fatally shooting a man armed with a box cutter who had threatened to kill himself and his landlady, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.

The District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday released the findings of its investigation into the June shooting that left Joseph Thomas Brewer Jr. dead. According to the report, Orange police Officer Brian Chambers should not face criminal charges in the shooting, which evidence showed was reasonable under the circumstances.

According to the report, here is what happened that day:

Police were called to the home on North Shaffer Street around 12:50 a.m. June 12. Brewer, who appeared to be drunk, was acting loud and belligerent, a woman told police. The formerly homeless man had been staying in the garage of her home since moving from Louisiana a year before, she told police, and he now refused to go to his room. She added he had previously killed a woman in Louisiana and on several occasions threatened her. Officers advised her to pack up Brewer’s belongings and leave them outside the home with a note that he was no longer welcome.

Instead, Brewer returned to the backyard with a paper cup and a mostly empty bottle of wine, demanding to get into the locked garage to get his wallet. When the landlady said she had packed all his belongings, he squeezed into the garage through a dog door. As his landlady unlocked the door, she found him inside with a cup of white pills. He told her they were poison, and he threatened to kill himself.

He left the property, but as she walked from the garage to the house, she saw him on the sidewalk. He ran toward her, pulled a box-cutter knife, and threatened to kill her boyfriend and children. At some point, she was cut by the box cutter, but she told investigators she wasn’t sure when it occurred.

She called police just after 2 a.m. from the walkway. Chambers, one of the officers who had been at the home earlier, arrived and heard her and Brewer arguing.

Chambers saw Brewer reach toward his pocket, and the officer drew his gun. He ordered Brewer to put his hand up and get onto his knees. Instead, Brewer came toward the officer, asking “What are you going to do if I don’t?” The landlady shouted that he had a knife, which Chambers’ saw in the man’s right hand. With what Chambers described as an “intense stare,” Brewer continued to walk toward the officer, who again ordered him to get down. Brewer was about 5 feet away when Chambers shot him three times in the chest.

Another officer arrived at the scene and began first aid on Brewer. Paramedics took him to Western Medical Center Santa Ana, where he was pronounced dead several hours later.

According to the investigation, Chambers believed he and the woman were in danger of being stabbed. That belief was reasonable given several facts, the report continued. Brewer was armed with a knife and refused to obey Chambers’ commands. He came toward the officer with the blade pointed up, and Chambers was aware of his violent history.

“Brewer could easily have closed the gap between them and stabbed Officer Chambers,” the report said. “Officer Chambers was faced with an apparent deadly threat, and he responded with proportional force.”



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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Man guilty of ax-handle murder

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Jorge Avalos booking photo.

SANTA ANA – An Orange County jury found a man guilty Friday of killing another by hitting him in the head and face with an ax handle before fleeing in the victim’s car, according to prosecutors.

This was the second trial for Jorge Santiago Avalos, 27, after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in April 2012. This time, jurors found him guilty of one count of murder.

Avalos now faces a maximum of 15 years to life in prison at his Dec. 20 sentencing by Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey.

Prosecutors say that on Sept. 12, 2008, Avalos went to the Santa Ana home of Hilario Urquiza, 50, to have drinks.

While there, Avalos got angry when Urquiza told him to get a job and get his life in order, prosecutors said. He hit Urquiza more than a dozen times with the ax handle, prosecutors said, then left him face-down in a pool of blood and fled in his Jeep.

The vehicle ran out of gas a short distance away. Santa Ana police arrested Avalos – who had a 0.16 percent blood-alcohol level — on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was later linked to the murder.



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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Trial underway in teacher’s sex-abuse case

orange county bail bonds

Richard Rack booking photo

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.



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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Authorities: Luxury-car dealer scammed customers

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Farhad Ebadat booking photo

SANTA ANA – A dealer of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls-Royces and other luxury vehicles pleaded not guilty Monday to embezzling more than $3 million from customers.

Farhad Ebadat, 37, of Huntington Beach is charged with multiple felony counts, including embezzlement, money laundering and grand theft, with sentencing enhancements and allegations of aggravated white collar crime of more than $500,000 and $1.3 million, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the county’s auto-theft task force.

Ebadat, who was arrested Dec. 3 by the task force, is accused of defrauding victims wanting to sell their high-end cars worth up to $225,000 by telling them he would sell the vehicles on consignment.

He then diverted the money from the sales to his personal accounts and buyers were not able to obtain titles to the cars because the owners had not been paid, prosecutors said. The owner and operator of Costa Mesa Bellagio Motors is accused of carrying out the scheme from 2009 to 2012.

After the investigation began this year, the defendant abruptly closed his business and moved from his Huntington Beach home to a rental in Bermuda Dunes, near Palm Springs, prosecutors said. Ebadat is accused of emptying his bank accounts and transferring money to accounts in France and Iran.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 34 years and eight months in state prison.

Ebadat is being held in lieu of $3 million bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond, and is also subject to a no-bail Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold, authorities said.



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


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Man accused of setting fire to motel room

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Thanh Van Quang booking photo

SANTA ANA – A Fountain Valley man with several felony convictions has been charged with causing an explosion that started a fire inside his motel room, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Thanh Van Quang, 38, was charged with residential burglary, arson and possession of a flammable material with sentencing enhancements for arson with use of an accelerant.

He has four convictions from 1998 for voluntary manslaughter, assault with a firearm and two felony counts of robbery.

If convicted, Quang faces a maximum sentence of 31 years to life in state prison.

Authorities said Quang started an argument with the manager at Pueblo Motel in Santa Ana about guests in his motel room at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 30. An hour later, prosecutors said, Quang walked to a nearby gas station, bought a gas canister and filled it with a gallon of gas.

Quang’s motel room exploded about 4 p.m. Several other rooms were damaged. Quang was captured on surveillance video removing several items from his room before the explosion, prosecutors said.



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


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