By Gazette Staff Writer — Thursday, December 8th, 2016
Monday December 5, at 2:23am Fillmore Fire Department assisted in the effort to extinguish an apartment fire in Santa Paula. Along with Santa Paula Fire Department and Ventura County Fire, they were able to knock down the fire in approximately 20 minutes. Photos Courtesy of Santa Paula Assistant Chief Luis Espinosa.
By Ventura County District Attorneys Office — Thursday, December 8th, 2016
VENTURA, California â District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that yesterday, Herbert Alvarenga (DOB 02/21/1982), of Simi Valley, was sentenced to a term of 26 years 4 months in state prison. In September, a jury found Alvarenga guilty of nine separate counts including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, the active participation in a criminal street gang, residential burglary, the use and possession of tear gas, infliction of injury upon a child, battery, and failure to appear at trial. Alvarenga was an active member of the varrio criminal street gang in the city of Simi Valley.
In May 2014, during his first trial on the charges, Alvarenga bailed out of custody and absconded during jury selection. Several months later, he was captured by Simi Valley police officers after investigators from the District Attorneyâs Office discovered his whereabouts.
In September 2016, during his second trial, witnesses testified that in June 2013, Alvarenga broke into the residence of his estranged wifeâs house and pepper-sprayed the occupants. Three months later, Alvarenga and his brother, Fernando Alvarenga, attacked Fernando Medina at an apartment complex in Simi Valley, using a knife and baseball bat to stab and strike Medina several times. After emergency surgery at Los Robles Hospital, Medina survived.
By Ventura County District Attorneys Office — Thursday, December 8th, 2016
VENTURA, California â District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that after a two-week jury trial, Jose Luis Rodriguez (DOB 8/4/87), of Oxnard, was found guilty of second-degree murder, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, and driving with a revoked or suspended license. The jury also found true the special allegation that the defendant drove with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher.
The crimes took place in the early morning of June 14, 2013, when Rodriguez left a Ventura bar and drove at speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour southbound on Victoria Avenue. Rodriguez lost control of his car into an agricultural field south of Olivas Park Drive. The crash resulted in the death of Esmeralda Bello, and injury to Sergio Lemus-Martinez, both passengers in Rodriguezâs car.
Sentencing for Rodriguez is scheduled for January 18, 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 46 of the Ventura Superior Court, County of Ventura. Rodriquez faces a maximum sentence of 18 years to life in state prison.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Thursday, November 17th, 2016
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced a $14 million settlement with BP West Coast Products LLC, BP Products North America, Inc., and Atlantic Richfield Company over allegations that the companies violated state laws regarding operating and maintaining motor vehicle fuel underground storage tank laws. The Attorney Generalâs office and several district attorneys across the state allege that BP failed to properly inspect and maintain underground tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale at approximately 780 gas stations in California over a period of 10 years and violated other hazardous material and hazardous waste laws.
"BP endangered our water supply, environment, and the health of Californians by failing to adequately operate underground gasoline storage tanks,â said Attorney General Harris. "The California Department of Justice takes environmental violations seriously and will hold accountable companies that jeopardize public health or safety.â
The complaint alleges that, since 2006, BP has improperly monitored, inspected, and maintained underground storage tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale; tampered with or disabled leak detection devices; and improperly handled and disposed of hazardous wastes and materials associated with the underground storage tanks at retail gas stations throughout California. In addition, the complaint alleges that BP failed to test secondary containment systems, conduct monthly inspections, train employees in proper protocol, and maintain operational alarm systems.
The settlement is subject to approval by the Alameda County Superior Court.
BP currently owns or operates 73 facilities in California, and at the beginning of this investigation, owned or operated approximately 780 facilities.
In 2015, Attorney General Harris announced an $11.5 million settlement with Phillips 66 and ConocoPhillips, resolving law enforcement allegations that the companies violated state laws governing the proper operation and maintenance of underground storage tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale. The companies failed to comply with hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws at over 560 gasoline stations owned or operated by the companies in California. In 2011, Attorney General Harris announced a $24.5 million settlement with Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and Chevron Stations Inc., over law enforcement allegations that the companies violated state hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws with respect to its underground gasoline tanks.
A copy of the complaint and stipulation of judgment is attached to the online version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov/news
By Gazette Staff Writer — Thursday, November 10th, 2016
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued an information bulletin to law enforcement agencies across California, outlining state laws that prohibit hate crimes and other hate-related acts. Local California law enforcement agencies have reported an uptick in threats of hate crimes and other violent extremism. As a result, the bulletin encourages state and local law enforcement agencies to remain vigilant and respond appropriately to suspected or actual hate crime activity. The bulletin summarizes and reminds local law enforcement agencies about the multiple California criminal laws that prohibit hate crimes and/or provide enhanced penalties for specified hate-related acts.
The information bulletin provides recent statistics compiled by the Attorney Generalâs Office in the 2015 Hate Crime in California Report. While the total number of hate crime events has decreased 35.9 percent from 1,306 in 2006 to 837 in 2015, hate crimes and hate-related activity remain a significant problem. Hate crime events increased 10.4% from 758 in 2014 to 837 in 2015; the vast majority of this increase is attributed to an uptick in events involving religious bias. Such events are particularly damaging to our residents and communities when they involve threats of violence.
âWe must protect all Californians from acts of hate and bigotry and when an individual is victimized because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, we must act swiftly to ensure justice and accountability,â said Attorney General Harris. âHate crimes are serious crimes that may result in imprisonment or jail time for offenders. This bulletin gives local law enforcement agencies the tools to both support victims of crime and investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate these despicable crimes.â
Last month, Attorney General Harris charged a Southern California man, Mark Feigin, with one felony count of criminal threats with a special hate crime allegation for posting anti-Muslim rhetoric and threats to the Facebook page of the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles and calling the center to make death threats. If convicted, the defendant faces up to six years in prison.
Over the past ten years, the most common type of hate crime has been related to race, ethnicity, and national origin bias. This type of bias accounted for more than half (51.1 percent) of all hate crime events reported last year. Within this category, hate crimes with an anti-black bias motivation continue to be the most common hate crime, accounting for 31.9 percent of all hate crime events since 2006.
The second most common type of hate crime over the past 10 years is hate crimes with a sexual orientation bias. The sexual orientation bias type accounted for 22.5 percent of hate crimes reported in 2015. Within this category, hate crimes with an anti-gay and anti-homosexual motivation have consistently been the most common bias sub-types. Together, they account for 87.2 percent of all sexual orientation bias hate crimes since 2006.
Attorney General Harris has made the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes a top priority and has convened community members and law enforcement to discuss ways to counter Islamophobia and religiously-motivated hate crimes. Following attacks on reproductive health clinics, she also convened local, state and federal law enforcement leaders and Planned Parenthood clinic directors to discuss the recent uptick in threats and violence and ways to increase coordination to better protect patients and health care workers.
A copy of the bulletin is attached to the online version of this news release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Monday, October 24th, 2016
District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Allen Rosales (DOB 9/9/88), of Oxnard, pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in violation of Penal Code section 192(b) for the unlawful killing of Michael Mendez.
On October 22, 2014, Rosales purchased heroin from an unknown third party and provided the heroin to Mr. Mendez, Rosalesâ cousin. After using the heroin, Mr. Mendez became comatose and died of an overdose the following day.
Sentencing in this matter is set for November 17, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 44 of the Ventura Superior Court, County of Ventura. Rosales faces a maximum possible sentence of four years in prison.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Monday, October 24th, 2016
District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Alfonso Gonzalez (DOB 1/23/1955), has been found guilty of four counts of child molestation after a 2 Âœ-week jury trial. The jury returned verdicts of guilt on three counts of committing lewd acts upon a minor and one count of oral copulation against a minor, and found the special allegation that the defendant committed substantial sexual conduct against the victim to be true.
The crimes took place in 2012 and 2013 in the city of Santa Paula and Lake Casitas when the victim was aged 10 and 11. The victim referred to the defendant as âPapaâ and looked to him as a father figure, although they were not related.
Sentencing is scheduled for November 17, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. before Superior Court Judge Gilbert Romero. The defendant faces a minimum of 50 years to life in state prison.
By Ventura County District Attorneys Office — Thursday, October 20th, 2016
VENTURA, CA - District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today the filing of a criminal complaint against Thousand Oaks resident David Roger Bartels (DOB 6/14/63). The complaint charges Bartels with two felony counts of forgery. The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the District Attorneyâs Real Estate Fraud Unit.
Bartels is a licensed broker (CA DRE No. 01884368) and the owner of Help-U-Sell Conejo Valley located in Westlake Village, California. Bartels is accused of forging the signatures of two clients on an extension of a residential listing agreement.
Bartels is scheduled to appear in courtroom 12 for an early disposition conference on December 8, 2016, at 1:30 p.m.
By Ventura County District Attorneys Office — Monday, October 17th, 2016
VENTURA, CA - District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Kevin Hogrefe (DOB 7-13-89), of Camarillo, was convicted by a jury of the second-degree murder of Deputy Sheriff Eugene Kostiuchenko, who had completed a traffic stop on the Lewis onramp to the 101 freeway when Hogrefe struck and killed him while driving intoxicated. The jury also convicted Hogrefe of failure to stop following the collision which caused Deputy Kostiuchenkoâs death. The collision was witnessed by two deputies who pursued Hogrefe when he fled the scene at a high rate of speed. Hogrefe was apprehended over a mile away when he was involved in another collision while exiting the freeway.
Sentencing in this matter is set for November 14, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 46 of the Ventura Superior Court, County of Ventura. Hogrefe faces a maximum possible sentence of 19 years to life in prison.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Monday, October 17th, 2016
Part of Multi-Pronged Effort to Improve Online Privacy and Increase Compliance with CalOPPA
Today, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced the release of an online form to help consumers report websites, mobile applications, and other online services that are in violation of the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA). A website or app operator may violate CalOPPA by failing to post privacy policies or posting incomplete or inadequate policies. This new form is one of several initiatives Attorney General Harris is undertaking to protect Californiansâ privacy, especially in light of technological advances and the growth of the âinternet of things.â The form is available at https://oag.ca.gov/reportprivacy.
âIn the information age, companies doing business in California must take every step possible to be transparent with consumers and protect their privacy,â said Attorney General Harris. âAs the devices we use each day become increasingly connected and more Americans live their lives online, itâs critical that we implement robust safeguards on what information is shared online and how. By harnessing the power of technology and public-private partnerships, California can continue to lead the nation on privacy protections and adapt as innovations emerge.â
In 2011, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) conducted a study which found that many mobile apps were missing privacy policies, prompting the Attorney General to secure a first-of-its-kind agreement with the leading mobile application platforms, including Apple, Google Play and Amazon, to improve compliance; this agreement was later expanded to include Facebook. As a part of her continued commitment to privacy, Attorney General Harris directed her office to conduct a five-year review on mobile app compliance with CalOPPA and commissioned the FPF to conduct a new study of the top 100 mobile apps. In addition, the Attorney Generalâs office is collaborating with computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University to review apps in the Google Play store for compliance with the law and consulting with privacy experts, designers, and researchers to assess the effectiveness of CalOPPA and the âDo Not Trackâ legislation, which was sponsored by Attorney General Harris.
Attorney General Harris has a long track record of encouraging innovative and growth while protecting consumersâ privacy online. Earlier this week, she announced a new initiativeâthe California Cyber Crime Centerâto help law enforcement fight crime in the digital era. The center includes the California Department of Justiceâs Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit, which Attorney General Harris created in 2012. The Unit is responsible for enforcing state and federal privacy laws, providing Californians with information and strategies on how to protect their privacy, and encouraging businesses to follow best protection practices. Throughout her administration, the Attorney General has prosecuted and reached settlements with major corporations including Anthem Blue Cross, Citibank, Kaiser, Comcast, Houzz and Wells Fargo Bank for violating Californi aâs privacy protection standards. Attorney General Harris has also released numerous consumer alerts to help Californians, including alerts on how to adjust the location settings on your mobile phone and protect against identity theft, as well as consumer information sheets on a broad range of privacy issues.
Attorney General Harris is also strongly committed to data security, safeguarding consumersâ sensitive online information. In February, Attorney General Harris released a data breach report detailing the nature of reported breaches in the last four years, accompanied by recommendations for business and lawmakers including pointing to standards regarding âreasonable securityâ for protecting personally identifiable information. The office recently conducted a set of workshops for small businesses in conjunction with security experts from the Center for Internet Security.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Monday, October 17th, 2016
SAN DIEGO â Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that the California Department of Justiceâs Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse (BMFEA) will participate in an Elder Abuse Fraud Prevention Seminar this Saturday, October 15, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), California Department of Insurance, San Diego Sheriffâs Department, and several other public agencies and community organizations.
âMy office is committed to using all the tools at our disposal, including education and outreach, to protect older Americans, who are particularly vulnerable to being preyed upon by scammers,â said Attorney General Harris. âThis important community event will help seniors guard against fraud, scams and identity theft, and provide valuable resources about what to do if theyâre targeted by a con artist. I thank the FBI, IRS, California Department of Insurance and San Diego Sheriffâs Department for their partnership in these important efforts.â
The Elder Abuse Fraud Prevention Seminar is open to the public, free of charge, and will take place on Saturday, October 15, 2016 from 2:00 P.M. â 5:00 P.M. at 451 West Bobier Drive, Vista, CA. The seminar will include 75-minute anti-fraud sessions and discussions with experts from local law enforcement agencies and businesses.
In addition, there will be informational booths hosted by participating agencies and educational sessions on how to avoid identity theft, what to do if you are a victim of fraud, information about common Internet scams, malicious software, ransomware, securing your home network, and information about telemarketing and investment scams.
Attorney General Harris has made protecting seniors and prosecuting those who defraud, mistreat, and abuse them a key priority. She reinstituted the Operation Guardian program under the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA), which helps protect and improve the quality of care for California's elder and dependent adult residents living in skilled nursing facilities and which had been suspended as a result of budget cuts. In 2015, Attorney General Harris also forged a partnership with AARP California, holding tele-townhalls and sharing consumer and educational resources to protect seniors against scams and schemes. Earlier this year, Attorney General Harris and AARP California also held Shred Fest 2016, a Los Angeles event where consumers were able to shred personal documents and other sensitive records for free, an important precaution against identity theft.
The Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse is charged with investigating and prosecuting Medicaid provider fraud, the abuse and neglect of patients in Medicaid-funded residential health care facilities, and investigating fraud in Medicaid program administration. It is headquartered in Sacramento with five field offices in Sacramento, Burbank, Laguna Woods, San Diego, and West Covina.
The Bureau maintains a toll-free number (1-800-722-0432) for referrals or complaints and offers a simple-to-use complaint form online: http://ag.ca.gov/bmfea/reporting.php.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Thursday, October 13th, 2016
VENTURA, CA - District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Judge Charles Campbell sentenced Thanh Van Jensen (DOB 8/16/1960), of Simi Valley, to a term of 33 years to life in state prison for committing assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury, with the special allegation that Jensen personally inflicted great bodily injury. The victim of both charges was Jensenâs sister. Jensen was sentenced pursuant to Californiaâs Three Strikes Law having previously been convicted of the forcible rape of a child and child molestation. Jensen received the maximum sentence possible under the law.
On March 12, 2016, the victim and Jensen lived with their mother in the City of Simi Valley. The victim and Jensen got into an argument after the victim discovered that Jensen had left the toilet seat up in a bathroom the two shared. During the argument, Jensen became enraged and began punching the victim repeatedly in the face causing her eye to become swollen shut. The victim fled downstairs and attempted to dial 911 when Jensen attacked her a second time, disconnecting the call before police could be dispatched. The attack continued until Jensenâs mother intervened and Jensen retreated back upstairs. When officers arrived on scene, Jensen told them that his sister had gotten what she deserved. The victim suffered from multiple injuries including a subdural hematoma, commonly known as bleeding on the brain.
On August 25, 2016, a jury convicted Jensen of one count of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, and one count of battery causing serious bodily injury. The jury also found true a special allegation that Jensen personally inflicted great bodily injury upon the victim.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
LOS ANGELES â Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today released a report outlining best practices for developing reentry and recidivism reduction programs, based on the Attorney Generalâs âBack on Track â Los Angelesâ pilot program.
Back on Track â Los Angeles, an evidence-based pilot program, is an initiative of the Attorney Generalâs Division of Recidivism Reduction and Reentry. It provides in-custody and out-of-custody education and comprehensive services to offenders in Los Angeles County with the goal of reducing recidivism by equipping ex-offenders with the tools they need to successfully reenter society. Designed in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Sheriffâs Department, Los Angeles County Probation Department, Los Angeles Community College District, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Five Keys Charter Schools, and with local and state agencies, and community organizations, the program illustrates the effectiveness of public-private partnerships.
âShutting the revolving door of the criminal justice system requires innovative, results-driven policies and initiatives that help offenders get their lives back on track,â Attorney General Harris said. âThe lessons weâve learned through Back on Track â Los Angeles, detailed in this new publication, can serve as a blueprint for public agencies, private sector partners, and social service providers seeking proven ways to improve reentry efforts and curb recidivism.â
Back on Track â Los Angeles was launched in March 2015. The program participants consist of non-violent, non-sexual, non-serious felons, ranging in age from 23 to 58. The number of prior arrests averages 20 times per offender, with drug crimes representing the largest offense category for both arrests and convictions.
âThe Los Angeles County Sheriffâs Department is a proud partner in the development and implementation of the Back on Track-Los Angeles Program. By incorporating a solid research model, leveraging services and establishing intensive, post-release services, lives have been changed for the better and communities are safer,â said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. âWith such great outcomes already being established, the Sheriffâs Department, together with the program partners look forward to expanding the Back on Track-Los Angeles Program within the County Jails. We thank the Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, the Probation Department, and all the other partners for their collective efforts in making this important program a success.â
Back on Track â Los Angeles helps former offenders reintegrate into their communities and assists them with housing needs, child support services, financial literacy training, and employment. The program is structured into four program tracks: cognitive behavior training, education (academic and career-technical), life skills, and reentry preparation. In addition, the program provides participants with individualized case management services, family reunification services, health services, and assistance in obtaining necessary government-issued documents, such as birth certificates, social security cards, and California identification cards. The program is on pace to provide services to over 150 participants within the first two years of the program.
âAlmost two years ago, Attorney General Kamala Harris, a bold and visionary leader, requested that the Probation Department partner with her and other key stakeholders in the expansion of the Back on Track program to Los Angeles County. We readily accepted this invitation and have been pleased to provide the community linkages and transition services portion of the program since inception,â said Los Angeles County Interim Chief Probation Officer Calvin Remington. âWe are extremely pleased to be part of a groundbreaking, evidence-based program which provides support to those reentering the community. The synergistic relationships established as a result of this program are an important component of our public safety strategy as the information in this report will reflect.â
The California Department of Justice was only one of four awardees to receive a $750,000 Second Chance Act federal grant to fund this innovative program. The Ford Foundation, California Wellness Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation and the Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation also provided funding for Back on Track â Los Angeles.
The Attorney General is committed to identifying and implementing results-driven programs and policies that hold offenders accountable while preparing them to reenter into society. In November 2013, the Attorney General developed the Division of Recidivism Reduction and Reentry (âDR3â), an office designed to develop anti-recidivism programs throughout the state by collaborating with public and private partners on best practices and policy initiatives. Since DR3âs launch, the Division has developed a statewide definition of recidivism, identified grants to fund the creation and expansion of innovative anti-recidivism programs, and used technology to facilitate more effective data analysis and recidivism metrics.
The publication is available online at https://oag.ca.gov/recidivism/reports/bot
By Gazette Staff Writer — Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
VENTURA, CA â District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced that Maynard Lee Allen (DOB 9/7/61), of Oxnard, pled guilty today to second-degree murder for the May 16, 2015, killing of William Randal Tully in a residential care home in the city Oxnard. Allen also admitted personally using a metal shovel as a dangerous and deadly weapon during the commission of the murder and having a prior strike conviction from the state of Washington.
Sentencing is set for November 7, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. in courtroom 13 of the Ventura Superior Court, County of Ventura. Allen will be sentenced to 31 years to life in prison.
By Ventura County District Attorneys Office — Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
VENTURA, California â District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced that on October 6, 2016, a jury found Noe Reyes (DOB 10/16/97), of Oxnard, and Gabriel Refugio Alamillo (DOB 03/24/97), of Oxnard, guilty of multiple crimes after engaging in a crime spree spanning two cities within Ventura County on November 17, 2015.
The jury found both Reyes and Alamillo guilty of one count of robbery in violation of Penal Code section 211, one count of assault with a deadly weapon in violation of Penal Code section 245(a)(1), and one count of street terrorism in violation of Penal Code section 186.22(a). The jury also found that the crimes were committed for the benefit of or in association with the colonia chiques criminal street gang, and that Reyes personally used a deadly weapon and personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim. The jury also found Reyes guilty of first-degree residential burglary in violation of Penal Code section 459, unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle for the benefit of the colonia chiques criminal street gang in violation of Vehicle Code section 10851(a) and Penal Code section 186.22(b), and vandalism for the benefit of the colonia chiques gang in violation of Penal Code sections 594(b)(2)(A) and 186.22(d). The jury also found Alamillo guilty of shoplifting for the benefit of or in association with the colonia chiques gang in violation of Penal Code section 459.5 and 186.22(d).
In the early morning hours of November 17, 2015, a vehicle was stolen from outside a mechanic shop in Oxnard. Shortly thereafter, Alamillo and another gang member stole multiple bottles of alcohol from a Rite Aid store in Simi Valley. Sometime midday, Reyes burglarized a residence in Simi Valley. Around 8:30 p.m. that evening, Reyes, Alamillo, and a third gang member robbed and assaulted a gym patron in a parking lot in Simi Valley. Reyes repeatedly hit the victim in the head and body with an 18-inch metal pry bar. The victim was rushed to the hospital where he received nine staples for his wounds. The suspects were caught within hours trying to flee the area through a nearby apartment complex.
Sentencing is set for November 9, 2016, at 8:45 a.m. in courtroom 24 of the Ventura Superior Court, County of Ventura. Reyes faces a maximum sentence of 22 years and 8 months in prison. Alamillo faces a maximum sentence of 15 years 8 months in prison.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the creation of the California Cyber Crime Center (C4), a new initiative within the California Department of Justice to fight crime in the digital era by bringing state-of-the-art digital forensic capabilities and cyber security expertise to law enforcement across the state.
âAs the world becomes increasingly digital and crime evolves, the tools we use to prevent, investigate, and prosecute crime must keep pace. Criminals are operating online with alarming sophistication, committing identity theft, hacking, cyber exploitation, and other crimes that involve technology, and law enforcement must stay one step ahead,â said Attorney General Harris. âThe California Cyber Crime Center brings legal, technical, and forensic capabilities to law enforcement across the state, helping our partners combat crime and building on our commitment to bring innovation to government.â
C4 brings together the eCrime unit, established by Attorney General Harris in 2011 to investigate and prosecute large-scale identity theft and technology crimes; the Network Information Security Section (NISS), the California Department of Justice (DOJ)âs office of cyber security experts; and the Digital Evidence Unit, which was first piloted in the California DOJ Bureau of Forensic Service state crime labs in 2011, making California one of the first states in the nation to develop this capability. The Digital Evidence Unit uses scientific methods to extract and analyze information from technological items like cell phones and offers foundational classes on forensic training for law enforcement. To date, nearly 1,300 law enforcement personnel have been trained through these courses, with approximately 80 agencies per year trained since 2012.
C4 also includes a newly created unitâ the Office of Digital Investigations (ODI)âthat focuses on emerging technologies like software and data forensics and website reconstruction. ODI provides law enforcement with the capability to restore the digital scene of a crime to aid investigators in uncovering crucial evidence. This unitâs technical expertise was critical in the first-in-the-nation criminal convictions of cyber exploitation website operators Kevin Bollaert and Casey Meyering which Attorney General Harris secured last year. Bollaert and Meyering were sentenced to 18 years and three years respectively for running websites where users could post intimate images of unsuspecting victims without their consent.
The final component of C4 is a brand-new Cyber Accelerator, a program that brings together members of the Digital Evidence Unit, the Office of Digital Investigations, and the eCrime Unit to focus on research and development and collaborate on new innovations. The first product developed in the Cyber Accelerator is a Cyber Response Vehicle (CRV)âa re-purposed Mobile Command Vehicle that was retrofitted into a mobile digital forensics laboratory. The CRV allows multiple staff to collect, acquire, and process media, mobile devices, personal computers, servers and other sources of electronically stored information on-site during the course of an investigation.
Attorney General Harris has developed and implemented a range of initiatives to protect the privacy and cyber security of Californiaâs residents and businesses. Last year, Attorney General Harris launched an online resource hub with helpful tools for victims, the technology industry, and law enforcement agencies to combat cyber exploitation, where intimate images are shared without consent in order to humiliate or extort the victim. The Attorney General supported legislation signed into law last year by Governor Jerry Brown, Senate Bill 676 (Cannella, R-Ceres) and Assembly Bill 1310 (Gatto, D-Glendale), expanding the tools with which law enforcement can gather evidence in cyber exploitation cases and more effectively prosecute these crimes.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris created the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit in 2012 to focus on protecting consumer and individual privacy through civil prosecution of state and federal privacy laws. The eCrime Unit, created by Attorney General Harris in 2011, opened 22 investigations, filed 23 complaints, and obtained 44 convictions, securing a total of $30.6 million in restitution for victims and taxpayers in 2014-2015 alone.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
CEO Carl Ferrer Arresd
SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of Carl Ferrer, the Chief Executive Officer of online advertising website Backpage.com, on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping. Michael Lacey and James Larkin, controlling shareholders of Backpage, have also been criminally charged with conspiracy to commit pimping, a felony. Backpage hosts ads for âescort servicesâ, essentially operating as an online brothel and generating millions of dollars off the illegal sex trade.
âRaking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,â said Attorney General Harris. âBackpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the worldâs top online brothel. Thank you to the California Department of Justice Special Agents, investigators, attorneys, and our partners in law enforcement who have worked tirelessly to bring the operators of this online brothel to justice and protect thousands of victims of trafficking.â
While Backpage hosts ads for sales of a range of items and services, the arrest warrant alleges that the vast majority of Backpageâs revenue is generated through prostitution-related ads in its âadult servicesâ section. Backpage collects fees from users who post âescortâ ads, offering sex for money using coded language and nearly nude photos. The California Department of Justiceâs investigation found that many of the ads for prostitution services involved victims of sex trafficking, including children under the age of 18.
Since 2010, Backpage has been expanding operations, creating sites in hundreds of cities throughout the world, including over 30 cities in California. Backpageâs internal revenue reports show that from January 2013 to March 2015, 99% of Backpageâs worldwide income was directly attributable to the âadultâ section. During this 29-month period, Backpageâs self-reporting demonstrates that gross monthly income from California rose to $2.5 million per month, with over $51 million in revenue derived from California in that period.
In addition to making millions of dollars off the sale of âadultâ ads on Backpage, the arrest warrant alleges that Ferrer devised a way to promote Backpage by creating other prostitution-related sites that essentially serve as an escort directory comprised entirely of Backpage users. Ferrer took data from Backpage users and created content for Backpage-affiliated sites like EvilEmpire.com and BigCity.com. The investigation found that Evilempire.com featured photos and contact information from Backpage and offered no apparent way for users to submit content directly. These schemes enabled Ferrer and his co-conspirators to expand Backpageâs share of the online sex advertising market.
The California Department of Justice conducted a three-year investigation, including undercover operations posting âescortâ ads and arranging meetings with people who had advertised in the âescortâ section, confirming that commercial sex was the only purpose for both buyers and sellers. The investigation was sparked by reports from media, law enforcement agencies, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). In the last five years, NCMEC has reported an over 800% increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking, much of it the result of online child sex trafficking. Since 2012, the NCMEC has reported 2,900 instances to California law enforcement where suspected child sex trafficking occurred via Backpage.
In addition to NCMEC, other agencies assisting in the investigation include the Texas Attorney Generalâs office, the Los Angeles District Attorneyâs Office, the Contra Costa District Attorneyâs Office, the Los Angeles Sheriffâs Human Trafficking Taskforce, the Long Beach Police Department, the Mesa Police Department, the Rocklin Police Department, the Napa Police Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Justice. The CEO and founder of Runaway Girl, Carissa Phelps, also collaborated with the California Department of Justice to reach out to and support victims.
Anyone who was a victim of trafficking via Backpage is encouraged to file a report with the California Department of Justice by emailing email@example.com.
Attorney General Harris has made fighting human trafficking a priority for the California Department of Justice, and has advocated for increased collaboration among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies during the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.
The Office of the Attorney General is actively investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases across California. Most recently, the office secured a felony conviction against Andrew Jordan, 37, of Long Beach, on charges of human trafficking, pimping, pandering, domestic violence, and assault. Jordan forced women to commit commercial sex acts and kept the proceeds, severely punishing the victims if they violated his strict rules.
Last year, the Office of the Attorney General released a resource guide to help companies comply with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. The law requires large retailers and manufacturers doing business in California to disclose on their websites their âefforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from [their] direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale.â
In 2012, Attorney General Harris created a Human Trafficking Work Group and released a report, The State of Human Trafficking in California, which discussed the growth of human trafficking crimes statewide and the challenges with combatting them effectively.
Please note that an arrest warrant contains only allegations against a person and, as with all defendants, Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
By Gazette Staff Writer — Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today released the following statement applauding Governor Jerry Brown for signing Senate Bill 1150, the California Survivors Bill of Rights. The Attorney General advocated for the passage of the bill to include widows and orphans under the protections afforded by the Attorney Generalâs Homeowner Bill of Rights.
âThose who suffer the loss of a loved one should not also face the possibility of needlessly losing their family home,â said Attorney General Harris. âI applaud the Governor for signing SB 1150, which will protect surviving family members from wrongful foreclosure.â
SB 1150, authored by Senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), will require banks and other mortgage loan servicersâcompanies that collect payments from borrowersâto communicate with the widowed spouses and survivors of homeowners to ensure that survivors receive accurate information about their options. This legislation will expand protections in the California Homeowner Bill of Rights to the widows and other survivors of homeowners so that they may keep their family homes.
The bill was sponsored by the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, and California Reinvestment Coalition and has drawn the strong support of many advocacy organizations throughout the state.
In 2012, Attorney General Harris reached a historic settlement with the nationâs five largest banks, securing $20 billion in relief for California homeowners and focusing on the hardest-hit communities. Following the national mortgage settlement, Attorney General Harris helped to enact the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a landmark package of laws establishing key mortgage and foreclosure protections for California homeowners and borrowers. The laws, which took effect on January 1, 2013, restrict dual-track foreclosures, guarantee struggling homeowners a reliable point of contact at their lender, and require loan servicers to document their right to foreclose.
In May 2011, Attorney General Harris created a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force within the California Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute misconduct at all stages of the mortgage process.
For more information, see http://oag.ca.gov/hbor
By Gazette Staff Writer — Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued the following statement, following todayâs announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court denied the United Statesâ petition for a rehearing in U.S. v. Texas, the case challenging President Obamaâs immigration executive actions:
âI am disappointed that the Supreme Court has refused to rehear U.S. v. Texas, keeping President Obamaâs common-sense immigration executive actions on hold indefinitely. Millions of hard working immigrantsâmembers of our communities who contribute to our economyâcontinue to face the threat of being torn from their families, exploited in the workplace, and demonized in our society. Continued inaction from Congress and the Court undermines not only our core values of fairness and compassion, but also our nationâs economic prosperity and public safety.â
By Gazette Staff Writer — Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO -- Following last yearâs launch of an unprecedented criminal justice open data initiative, OpenJustice, and the passage of Assembly Bill 71, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today launched a web-based tool that allows California law enforcement agencies to digitally report law enforcement or civilian uses of force. As part of the Attorney Generalâs commitment to promoting government adoption of technology, this tool was built as an open-source project and the software code will be made available free of charge to other law enforcement agencies around the country. A public demo of the tool is available at ursusdemo.doj.ca.gov.
Previously, law enforcement officers in California reported on any death in custody on paper forms. No state in the country, including California, collected data on any non-lethal use of force. Assembly Bill 71, authored by Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona), and supported by Attorney General Harris, created a new requirement for California law enforcement agencies to annually report to the California Department of Justice data on any incidents that occurred in the previous year involving use of force by a civilian or peace officer against the other that involves a firearm or results in serious bodily injury or death.
The online platform, nicknamed URSUS after the bear on the California flag, can be accessed by any law enforcement agency in the state to report use of force data in an all-digital format, rather than by using a lengthy paper form. Todayâs launch is a beta release to the field in advance of the January 1, 2017 reporting deadline for data from 2016 so that law enforcement agencies may use the tool during the fall and provide feedback to our office, which may be incorporated to enhance the toolâs functionality.
âAs a country, we must engage in an honest, transparent, and data-driven conversation about police use of force,â said Attorney General Harris. âI am proud that California continues to lead the nation in the adoption of technology and data to improve our criminal justice system and keep our streets safe.â
One of the objectives of the OpenJustice initiative is to modernize data infrastructure, and this reporting tool will dramatically improve the speed and quality of data submitted, allowing data from the most complex incidents to be entered by law enforcement in under five minutes. The application includes dynamic screening questions and intelligent error-checking to help agencies input more accurate data. In addition, the platformâs advanced security features and role-based review workflows improve data reliability and integrity. This tool also minimizes costs for law enforcement, as its web-based interface and cloud storage reduce the need for local investment in custom data collection systems.
âThe California Police Chiefs Association was an early supporter of AB 71, relating to use of force data, and has been collaborating with the Department of Justice ever since the bill was signed by the Governor last year,â said CA Police Chiefs Association President Chief Ken Corney. âWe believe it is a sound practice to gather and report use of force data and make this information available to the public.â
âI commend Attorney General Harris on her development and launch of URSUS,â said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow. âURSUS will assist law enforcement in gathering critical data involving use of force by a peace office, or by a civilian against a peace officer, that results in serious injury or death or involves the use of a firearm in order to meet the requirements of Assembly Bill 71. I am confident the introduction of URSUS and the collection of this data and information will improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities that we serve.â
âWe are proud to participate in this very important program. This technology is crucial to providing accurate public data on incidents involving the use of force,â said Walnut Creek Police Chief Thomas Chaplin. âWe wholeheartedly support this approach to create additional transparency and ease of accessibility for use of force data.â
In addition to facilitating statewide collection, this tool also provides a suite of analytical tools for local agencies to better monitor incidents in their own jurisdictions, including features such as a dashboard, interactive charts, and pivot tables. Smaller agencies that may not currently have their own tracking systems will particularly benefit from these tools.
The reporting tool was built through a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the California Department of Justice and Bayes Impact, a technology-for-good non-profit organization. In her continuing efforts to bring civic technology to government, Attorney General Harris established this unique partnership combining the California Department of Justiceâs knowledge and expertise in law enforcement with Bayes Impactâs expertise in agile software development. The application was developed in just over six months, in ongoing collaboration with 12 pilot law enforcement agencies.
As part of the Attorney Generalâs commitment to ensuring that government technology serves the public, this tool was built as an open-source project and the software code will be made available free of charge to other states and agencies. Its open-source nature will also reduce ongoing maintenance costs as compared to a proprietary solution.
Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the OpenJustice Data Act of 2016 (Assembly Bill 2524), which the California Legislature unanimously passed last month. This law, sponsored by Attorney General Harris and authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), will convert Crime in California and other annual reports published by the California Department of Justice into digital datasets, which will be published on the Attorney Generalâs OpenJustice Web portal. The data from AB 71 will be posted on OpenJustice in early 2017.
Attorney General Harris first launched the OpenJustice initiative in 2015 as a mechanism for improving trust between communities and law enforcement, enhancing government accountability, and informing public policy with data.
Earlier this year, the Attorney General announced the release of OpenJustice 1.1, which enriched the web portalâs initial data sets with city and county level data exploration tools and contextual information including population and demographic information, unemployment rates, poverty rates, and educational attainment levels. In addition to providing greater transparency, this information enables policymakers to craft more informed, data-driven public policy.
Attorney General Harris has also taken several steps to strengthen the relationship of trust between law enforcement and California communities. She directed a 90-day Review of her Division of Law Enforcementâs policies on use of force and implicit bias, convened the stateâs law enforcement leaders to share best practices through her 21st Century Policing Working Group, created the first POST-certified course on Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias in the U.S., and developed a pilot for body-worn cameras for DOJ Special Agents.