LOS ANGELES – As we honor our military service members on Veterans Day, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued a consumer alert to Californians regarding scams targeting seniors who served in the military and their survivors. These scams have been reported to the California Department of Justice’s Public Inquiry Unit.
“California’s veterans have made extraordinary sacrifices to keep our nation safe and uphold our most sacred values and freedoms,” said Attorney General Harris. “Sadly, many of our senior veterans are being targeted by scam artists seeking to take advantage of them for a quick profit. My office will continue to protect our veterans and ensure that predators who seek to profit from their service are held accountable.”

These reported “pension poaching” scams prey on veterans and target the financial assistance offered through the Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance Program, which provides pension benefits to financially disadvantaged wartime veterans and their survivors over 65 years of age.

Specifically, pension poaching scams involve unscrupulous insurance agents and their representatives posing as unpaid volunteers or accredited VA representatives who offer to help seniors apply for VA pension benefits. These insurance agents and their representatives lure seniors into buying an annuity or setting up an irrevocable trust to create a false appearance of financial hardship by attempting to conceal the senior’s assets.

Insurance agents and their representatives charge high fees for these services, including undisclosed sales commissions that are paid to the purported volunteer. Targeted seniors may not be fully aware of the consequences of moving their assets into an annuity or irrevocable trust, such as strict withdrawal limitations leaving them without access to funds they may actually need for their care.

Although a VA pension benefits application based on false financial need may be successful, those who receive this benefit may face significant financial and legal consequences if the concealed funds are discovered, including repayment of benefit amounts received. Seniors who receive other VA or government-sponsored benefits that require disclosure of funds held in annuities and irrevocable trusts are especially vulnerable to reversal of their VA pension benefit.

The Attorney General offers California consumers the following tips to protect themselves from VA pension benefits poaching scams:
• Anyone who asks you to pay money or move assets in connection with applying for a VA pension benefit is likely not a VA-accredited representative. He or she may be an insurance agent or representative who receives a sales commission for selling you an annuity or irrevocable trust.
• Moving assets into an annuity or irrevocable trust could restrict your access to these funds and may have significant unintended tax or legal consequences that outweigh any financial benefit gained from receiving VA pension benefits.
• If you receive VA pension benefits based on false financial need, you could be required to repay any benefits received back to the government.

If you are approached by someone offering to help you apply for VA pension benefits and you would incur any costs or fees in connection with the service being offered, contact your local VA to determine whether this assistance is reputable. Be wary of sharing personal information over the phone. VA representatives will tell you what you need to know and the advice is free.

A directory of VA centers is available at www.va.gov/directory/guide/vetcenter.asp.

If you believe that you are a victim of a pension poaching scam and do meet the age, military service, and financial need requirements for a VA pension benefit, VA-accredited representatives including Veterans Service Organizations, agents, and attorneys are available to help you file a claim, free of charge.

You can also file a complaint with the California Department of Justice by visiting http://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company.

A searchable list of VA-accredited representatives is available at www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp or call 1-800-827-1000.

For more information about VA Aid and Attendance pension benefits, visit www.benefits.va.gov/pension.

You may view the full account of this posting, including possible attachments, in the News & Alerts section of our website at: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-i...


Debt Collectors Misleading Consumers about Traffic Tickets and Infractions Amnesty Program

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued a consumer alert to warn Californians about debt collectors giving consumers inaccurate information about the amnesty program for unpaid traffic and non-traffic infraction tickets. The amnesty program offers eligible Californians who have unpaid infraction tickets the opportunity to have their debt reduced by half or more and to have their driver’s license reinstated. Each county has its own rules related to the amnesty program, so you must contact the county that issued your ticket to see if you qualify. The program, which started October 1, 2015, continues through March 31, 2017.

This consumer alert is being issued because of complaints made against debt collectors managing the amnesty program for some counties, claiming that they are not telling eligible consumers about the program or are providing misleading information. The Attorney General’s Office has received complaints about:
• Debt collectors incorrectly telling eligible consumers that they don’t qualify for amnesty;
• Debt collectors not telling eligible consumers about the program;
• Debt collectors pressuring consumers to make “good faith” payments but not telling them that such payments will make them ineligible for debt reduction; and
• Debt collectors failing to ensure that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) receives notice that consumers have completed their payments under the amnesty program.

Here is what you should know about the amnesty program:

When will the amnesty program be available?
The program started October 1, 2015, and ends March 31, 2017.

What tickets are eligible for amnesty?
• Unpaid tickets and related “failure to appear” violations with an initial payment due date on or before January 1, 2013 are eligible.
• Some misdemeanors may qualify. Contact the Superior Court in the county that issued the ticket to see if your misdemeanor qualifies. You can find a list of superior courts with phone numbers and links to their amnesty program website here: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/home/amnestyproginfo

What tickets are not eligible for amnesty?
• Parking tickets
• Citations for reckless driving
• Citations for driving under the influence (DUI)

Who cannot participate in the debt reduction portion of the amnesty program?
• People whose ticket had an initial due date of January 2, 2013 or later.
• People who owe victim restitution on any case in the county where the ticket was issued.
• People with certain outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants in the county where the ticket was issued.
• People whose ticket had an initial due date of January 1, 2013 or earlier, but who made a payment on the ticket after September 30, 2015. You may, however, still be able to have your driver’s license reinstated under the amnesty program even if you do not qualify for debt reduction.
How much will I have to pay?

Under the amnesty program, eligible participants will not have to pay any civil assessments. Once the civil assessments are deducted, the remaining balance owed will be reduced by 50% or 80%, depending on income or whether you receive public assistance.
• The discount will be 80% for those who receive public assistance or certify that they make 125 percent or less than the federal poverty level. This number is currently $14,712 for individuals, $19,912 for a family of two, $25,112 for a family of three, and $30,312 for a family of four.
• The discount will be 50% for all other eligible participants.
How do I participate in the amnesty program?
Contact the Superior Court in the county where you received the ticket to see if you qualify for the amnesty program. If you have more than one ticket in more than one county, you will have to contact the Superior Court in multiple counties.

Will there be a fee to participate?
A $50 fee may be charged by the Superior Court, county, or third party collection agency.
The DMV will also charge a $55 fee for reinstatement of your driver’s license, as it does for any license reinstatement.

Will there be an installment payment option?
Yes, a payment plan option will be available through the Superior Court, county, or third party collection agency. Payments will be based on the ability to pay.

To File a Complaint and for More Information:
If you have information about a debt collector giving people misleading information about the program, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online here (https://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-compan...), or by sending a letter to:
Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
The Judicial Council has also posted information about the amnesty program, available at: http://www.courts.ca.gov/trafficamnesty.htm.

You may view the full account of this posting, including possible attachments, in the News & Alerts section of our website at: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-i...



LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced a new collaboration between the Office of the Attorney General and AARP California to protect seniors from abuse and fraud. The collaboration will focus on educating seniors, their families and the general public about elder abuse and fraud laws designed specifically to protect those who are 50 and over.

“Seniors are one of the most vulnerable and targeted populations in our state. My office is committed to holding accountable those who defraud, abuse, or neglect our senior citizens,” said Attorney General Harris. “I am pleased to collaborate with AARP California to deepen our engagement with seniors and to ensure their protection from those who prey upon them.”

Specifically, the collaboration will include hosting tele-town halls and webinars, developing and disseminating consumer and educational resources to protect against scams and schemes, and continuing to vigorously prosecute those who mistreat the elderly population in violation of state law.

“AARP California, through its AARP Fraud Watch Network, is very pleased to join forces with the Office of the Attorney General so together we can further arm Californians with the tools they need to spot and avoid scams,” said Nancy McPherson, AARP CA State Director. “The Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for people of all ages that offers real-time alerts about the latest scams in our state, along with a scam tracking map where people can report on scams to alert their friends and neighbors. Additionally, the AARP Fraud Watch Network provides advice to outsmart con artists, and a helpline where Californians can talk to a trained volunteer for advice if they or someone they love has been scammed,” added McPherson.

Upon coming into office, Attorney General Harris 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. BMFEA is charged with investigating and prosecuting Medicaid provided fraud, the abuse and neglect of patients in Medicaid-funded residential health care facilities, and investigating fraud in Medicaid program administration.

BMFEA is headquartered in Sacramento with five field offices (including Sacramento regional, 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.

BMFEA also participates in community events, such as health fairs and neighborhood crime prevention meetings, and provides elder abuse and fraud training to law enforcement and regulatory agencies.

In addition to consumer resources to protect seniors, Attorney General Harris’ office and AARP California are exploring ways to engage AARP members in the Attorney General’s 3rd grade reading campaign to ensure children are reading at grade level by third grade and on track to graduate from high school. The initiative is a core priority for Attorney General Harris and is a central tenet of her “smart on crime” approach, as those who regularly attend school from a young age are less likely to drop out of school, fail to graduate, and come into contact with the criminal justice system. The AARP Foundation Experience Corp program engages adult aged 50-plus as tutors and mentors to increase literacy and engagement among children in grades K-3.

2nd Year of State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fund Grants
Cal Fire
Cal Fire

On Monday, CAL FIRE announced the release of the 2015-2016 State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fund (SRAFPF) Grant Program. The grants are aimed at reducing the threat of large wildfires in and around communities within the State Responsibility Area (SRA) of California.

“After what has already been an extremely busy fire season, we are eager to continue this program and bolster the momentum of fire prevention work on the ground,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE Director.

The 2015-2016 State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fund grants have a one-time allocation from the California Legislature of five million dollars that is intended to address the risk and potential impact of wildfire on habitable structures in the SRA. The grants are aimed at local governments, fire districts and fire safe councils to augment the fire prevention projects performed by CAL FIRE. This year, the maximum grant amount limit will be $100,000 per project. This will allow for broad distribution of grant funds to organizations throughout the SRA where fire prevention fees are paid. The 2015-2016 SRAFPF Grant Applications are due January 7, 2016, by 3 p.m.

CAL FIRE is encouraging a wide range of applicants throughout the state to apply for this funding. Interested parties can get more information at CAL FIRE’s grants webpage at: http://www.fire.ca.gov/grants/grants.php.

Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Please join our deputies on patrol by following the Headquarters Patrol Station Twitter account for a virtual six-hour patrol shift Tuesday, October 27, 2015.

• Have you ever wanted to go on a ride-along in a police car, with a deputy patrolling the unincorporated areas near Ventura?

• Are you interested in what type of crime or police activity may be occurring in your neighborhood?

• Have you been interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement and would like a sneak peek into the duties of a deputy sheriff on patrol?

These and many other interesting topics will be covered during the Virtual Ride-Along.

On October 27, 2015, followers of the Headquarters Station’s Twitter account @vcsoventura will be able to participate in a “Virtual Ride-Along” with the men and women who proudly serve and protect the citizens of our unincorporated areas of Saticoy, Nyeland Acres, El Rio, the Rincon, La Conchita, Silverstrand Beach, and Hollywood Beach.

From 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the Headquarters Station will be “tweeting” on its Twitter account calls for service, police activity, and photographs in what is known as a Virtual Ride-Along. This will be a unique inside view as to the activities of the patrol station and the types of calls deputies respond to. In addition to providing information on the type of calls, twitter followers will be provided with information, tips, and facts about how they can prevent becoming victims of crime and assist deputies and dispatchers by reporting crimes and suspicious activity.

An interactive feature will allow citizens to ask questions or comment during the Virtual Ride-Along by using a hashtag phrase. Twitter followers can use hashtag phrase #hqridealong to see Virtual Ride-Along posts, photos, videos, questions, comments, and more. Any citizens who follow on Twitter who ask questions or post comments during the Virtual Ride-Along are encouraged to add #hqridealong to their posts.

The goal is to provide awareness and education to community members and increase followers on our social media sites. The Headquarters Station Twitter currently has over 1,400 followers and is growing. Please follow us for the Virtual Ride-Along and more at https://twitter.com/vcsoventura

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office has a Facebook and Instagram account that will also be providing information during the Headquarters Station Twitter account during the Virtual Ride Along with other important information and events throughout the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. Follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/VenturaCountySheriff and Instagram at https://instagram.com/vcsheriff/.

Nature of Incident: Virtual Ride-Along Presented by Headquarters Patrol Station
Location: Unincorporated Areas – Ventura Area
Date & Time: October 27, 2015 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Unit(s) Responsible: Headquarters Station – Unincorporated Areas Near Ventura
Prepared by: Captain Don Aguilar
News Release Date: October 23, 2015
Media Follow-Up Contact: Captain Don Aguilar
(805) 797-7349
Approved by: Captain Patti Salas

Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies will take their oath to “serve” and protect to a new level. They’ll trade in their handcuffs and badges for menus and serving trays to assist servers at Red Robin Restaurant in Thousand Oaks on Thursday, October 22, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sheriff’s professional staff and volunteers will also be on hand to assist deputies in support of the event. The public is invited to enjoy a great meal and then “tip-a-cop.” Donations in the form of tips will benefit Ventura County Special Olympics. All tips are tax-deductible.

Ventura County Special Olympics offers training and competition opportunities in 10 different year-round sports to people with intellectual disabilities at over 20 different training sites throughout Ventura County. This program not only provides physical fitness from participating in athletic competitions, but also encourages social interaction and community involvement. Special Olympics athletes will be working with deputies as they serve customers at Tip-A-Cop.

Tip-A-Cop events are one of the main fundraisers for the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The Torch Run is part of a year-round, grassroots fundraising campaign by law enforcement agencies to benefit their local Special Olympics programs. The Torch Run makes its debut annually in the month of June when members of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and Special Olympic Athletes carry the torch as it makes its way through Ventura County and continues to Long Beach for the start of the summer games.

Nature of Incident: Sheriff’s Deputies Participating in Tip-A-Cop Event For Special Olympics
Location: Red Robin Restaurant – 170 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks
Date & Time: Thursday, October 22, 2015 – 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Unit Responsible: Thousand Oaks Police Department
Prepared by: Senior Deputy Timothy Lohman
Media Release Date: October 19, 2015
Follow-Up Contact: Senior Deputy Timothy Lohman – (805) 947-8255
Approved by: Captain John Reilly


VENTURA, CA - District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today the arrests of Patrick Abrahamian (DOB 1/6/70), Michelle Abrahamian (DOB 5/27/71) and Taline Indra (DOB 2/29/80). Patrick Abrahamian is charged with three felony counts of filing a forged instrument. Michelle Abrahamian and Taline Indra are each charged with a felony count of filing a false instrument and a felony count of forgery. The defendants are also alleged to have taken property in excess of $500,000. The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit.

Patrick Abrahamian is alleged to have approached the 65-year-old victim in 2012 with an offer to help negotiate a modification of his mortgage. In return, the victim agreed to move out and lease his home to Abrahamian while Abrahamian supposedly negotiated a new mortgage. At the end of the lease term, Abrahamian refused to vacate the home as the victim requested. After consulting with an attorney, the victim learned that a notarized grant deed had been recorded that conveyed his home to Abrahamian’s wife, Michelle Abrahamian, a licensed real estate broker.

The deed was allegedly signed by the victim in the presence of a notary public, defendant Taline Indra, who is the sister of Michelle Abrahamian. The investigation determined the victim never met Indra nor signed the grant deed. After the deed was recorded, Patrick Abrahamian is further alleged to have impersonated the victim in a lawsuit filed by Abrahamian against the victim’s lender.

Defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, October 9, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. in courtroom 12 of the Ventura Superior Court.


VENTURA, California – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that the review by the District Attorney’s Office of the circumstances surrounding the August 24, 2013, shooting of Ryan Carnan by Simi Valley Police Officers Frank Mika and Lincoln Purcell has been completed.

The full report, authored by Senior Deputy District Attorney Christopher Harman, is available on the Ventura County District Attorney’s Web site (http://www.vcdistrictattorney.com) and explains the District Attorney’s conclusions that Officer Mika and Officer Purcell acted reasonably, and the killing of Ryan Carnan was a justifiable homicide.

Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Sheriff Geoff Dean is pleased to announce the graduation of the Ventura County Criminal Justice Training Center’s Academy Class #2015-1. The graduation ceremony will be held at 1:00 p.m. Friday, October 9, 2015, at the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, California. The guest speaker for the graduation ceremony will be State Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, who represents California’s 44th Assembly District.

The recruits have completed 24 weeks of instruction provided through the combined efforts of local law enforcement agencies and other criminal justice entities. The intense training and education prepares these recruits for the responsibilities of serving their communities as peace officers.

Please see below for the names of the graduating recruits and their respective agencies.

Basic Academy Class #2015-1
Graduating Recruits


Jackson Tran


Fernando Espinosa
Anthony Golia
Victor Gonzalez
Evan Howard
Timothy Roberts
Alex Smith


Kristin Kim
Hakeem Moradeyo
Gareth Neumann
Brittney Rohrs
Anthony Tornello


Matthew Gage


Aric Almaguer
Alina Davis
James Dillard
Miguel Espinoza
Edward Kasper
Michael Rodriguez


Danny Brutz
Abraham Bueno
Nathan Carpenter
Justin Doering
Maxwell Ellis
Daniel Esters
Julian Fergerson
Amanda Foster
Steven McIntire
Conrad Meadows
Katherine Mindrup
Miguel Munguia
Spencer Nagy
Cody Pietro
Terry Ruppel Jr.
Brett Suliga

Nature of Incident: Academy Class 2015-1 Graduation
Location: Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, California.
Date & Time: Friday, October 9, 2015 / 1:00 p.m.
Unit(s) Responsible: Ventura County Criminal Justice Training Center
Prepared by: Sergeant Cecil Valenti
Media Release Date: October 6, 2015
Media Follow-Up Contact: Captain Dave Murray (805) 383-4744
Approved by: Captain Dave Murray


VENTURA, CA - District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Clemente Zamarippa-Mata (DOB 12/29/1987) of Ventura, will not be charged in the August 2, 2014, incident in which he recklessly drove his pickup truck near the Ventura County Fair. Zamarippa-Mata struck a security gate, a parked bus, and several police vehicles as he attempted to evade officers. He then accelerated the pickup in the direction of law enforcement and struck a sergeant from the Ventura Police Department. Two officers who witnessed the potentially deadly assault by Zamarippa-Mata responded by discharging their firearms, shooting him in the neck. The pickup came to a stop as it crashed into other police vehicles. Zamarippa-Mata was treated at the scene and then transported to the hospital.

A pipe used to smoke methamphetamine was located inside the truck, and Zamarippa-Mata tested positive for amphetamines.

The District Attorney’s Office has evaluated the actions of Zamarippa-Mata and find that he committed several crimes on August 2, 2014, the most serious being Assault with a Deadly Weapon Upon a Peace Officer. Under these circumstances, we believe the officers who discharged their firearms upon Zamarippa-Mata were justified.

Zamarippa-Mata was never arrested. He continues to require medical assistance for on-going complications as a result of his injury.

Some of the factors considered when prosecuting an individual include: the future safety of the community; the need for justice of the victim(s); the need for a penalty; and deterrence. After thoughtful consideration, the District Attorney’s Office has determined that the costs and resources associated with prosecuting a person in Zamarippa-Mata’s condition will not best serve the community’s needs. We expect that Zamarippa-Mata’s medical condition will prevent him from committing future crime.

The sergeant assaulted by Zamarippa-Mata initially required medical attention but ultimately made a full recovery.


SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced today that her office has filed involuntary manslaughter charges against Montrose, California-based Verdugo Valley Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre, LLC for failing to provide requisite nursing care to a burn victim resident, leading to his death.

“Families who entrust loved ones to the care of a nursing home rightfully expect residents will receive the care and attention they need and that nursing homes have a legal duty to provide,” said Attorney General Harris. “We have filed criminal charges because we allege Verdugo Valley and its employees violated that trust and their legal duties in a way that resulted in a senseless, tragic and unnecessary death. I thank the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse attorneys and agents working tirelessly to ensure these individuals are held accountable.”

The complaint filed by Attorney General Harris alleges that Verdugo Valley, LLC was grossly negligent in its care of James Populus, a resident with burns on 90 percent of his body from an arson fire two decades earlier. In the 14 months that Populus was in the care of Verdugo Valley, he was examined by a doctor far fewer times than required by law, despite the respiratory and other health needs of burn victims.

His declining health led to severe weight loss, sepsis, and pneumonia and on August 30, 2014, Populus died of multiple system failure due to sepsis. At the time of his death, Populus had infections throughout his body.

Charges of dependent adult abuse causing death have been filed against the facility’s director of nursing, Alexiuse San Mateo, who was responsible for Populus’s care at the facility and willfully permitted the patient’s death. Consuelo Policarpio, the supervising nurse, is charged with dependent adult abuse causing great bodily injury due to a delay in calling 911.

Verdugo Valley Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre, LLC, San Mateo and Policarpio were arraigned yesterday.

San Mateo faces 9 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine and Policarpio faces a maximum of 7 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. Verdugo Valley, LLC faces a $10,000 fine and exclusion from any state or federally funded health care program.

The Declaration in Support of Arrest Warrant alleges that staff at Verdugo Valley delayed calling 911 and failed to document critical changes in their patient’s condition, in addition to making false entries in medical records.

In the 14 months that Populus was a patient at Verdugo Valley, 80 change of condition forms required signature by a treating physician, but all 80 forms were void of a doctor’s signature. The facility named the patient’s primary care doctor as his treating doctor from the hospital; however, this doctor did not have a relationship with Populus and never visited him at Verdugo Valley.

The case stems from an investigation conducted by the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse. Since taking office in 2011, Attorney General Harris has created specialized BMFEA teams in Sacramento and Los Angeles composed of legal and nursing professionals to combat abuse, neglect and poor quality of care in California’s nursing homes.

A copy of the complaint and declaration in support of arrest warrant submitted to the court is attached to the online version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.

Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Operation Take Back the Pumps is a collaborative effort by Ventura County law enforcement agencies, businesses, and Federal agencies to combat credit/debit card fraud and identity theft facilitated through the illegal use of credit card skimming devices placed on gasoline/fuel pumps.

Identity theft is a national problem that is significantly affecting citizens in Ventura County. One way thieves are obtaining victim’s credit and debit card information is through the use of illegal card skimming devices being surreptitiously placed in fuel pumps. When an unsuspecting customer swipes their debit or credit card into the pay station on the fuel pump, these illegal devices capture the card and pin information. The thieves then use this stolen information to commit identity theft and other fraud related crimes. Loses from a single illegal skimming device on a fuel pump usually averages between $50,000 and $100,000.

Operation Take Back the Pumps consists of multiple phases designed to combat identity theft perpetuated by the use of illegal card skimming devices on fuel pumps. The phases consists of training law enforcement and gasoline station personnel on prevention methods and the identification/detection of illegal skimming devices; Programs that promote regular inspections of the pumps for tampering and/or illegal card skimming devices, if the agency should decide; And finally, education of the public on practices that will help keep them from becoming victims of identity theft.

Operation Take Back the Pumps was coordinated by the Moorpark Police Department and launched on August 13, 2015, beginning with a joint effort by all of the involved agencies/businesses coming together in an attempt to inspect all fuel pumps in Ventura County. This proved to be successful as 1,512 fuel pumps were inspected and three (3) illegal skimming devices were discovered and removed. These devices will be used as evidence in an attempt to identify and prosecute the suspect(s) responsible for these crimes.

The following is a breakdown by city of pumps inspected and the number of illegal card skimming devices found:
City of Camarillo - 155 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Fillmore - 76 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Moorpark - 72 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Ojai - 44 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Oxnard - 335 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Port Hueneme - 8 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Santa Paula - 42 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Simi Valley - 173 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Thousand Oaks - 272 pumps inspected and three (3) devices found
City of Ventura – 335 pumps inspected and no devices found

Law enforcement and participants in this operation encourage the public to consider the following steps when purchasing fuel. Following these steps will significantly reduce the risk of being victimized by identity thieves.
• Pay with cash whenever possible.
• If paying with a credit/debit card, go inside the gas station instead of paying at the pump.
• Look for security seals/stickers on fuel pumps. If the seals/stickers are broken, cut or read “VOID,” do not use that pump and immediately report your observations to gas station personnel (See attached photographs).

Nature of Incident: Operation Take Back the Pumps
Report Number: None
Location: Ventura County Wide
Date & Time: August 13, 2015
Unit(s) Responsible:
Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Headquarters Station, Moorpark Police Department, Thousand Oaks Police Department, Simi Valley Police Department, Camarillo Police Department, Oxnard Police Department, Fillmore Police Department, Santa Paula Police Department, Ventura Police Department, Port Hueneme Police Department, Ojai Police Department, U.S. Secret Service, Ventura County Weights and Measures, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Phillips 66, Santa Barbara Weights and Measures, Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, Ventura County Sheriff’s Crime Analysis Unit, Ventura County Credit Union
(S)uspects, (V)ictims, (P)arty, (D)ecedent City of Residence Age
Prepared by: Sergeant John Wright
News Release Date: August 13, 2015
Media Follow-Up Contact: Sergeant John Wright, (805) 797-7128
Approved by: Stephen Wade, Captain

Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information, which leads to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime. The caller may remain anonymous. The call is not recorded. Call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).


VENTURA, California – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Governor Brown has blocked the parole of first-degree murderer inmate Larry Jay.

Jay was convicted of the first-degree murder of Naomi Harris, aged 50. On May 6, 1976, Jay set up a false alibi for himself, then hid in the restroom of a bar in Ventura. After the bar closed, he ambushed the bartender, Ms. Harris, and killed her by fracturing her skull with a hammer. The evidence suggested that he struck her once when she was standing, then ordered her to lie face down on the floor, where he struck her in the back of her head multiple times with a hammer, crushing her skull and killing her. He stole $168 from two cash registers, fled the scene in a stolen truck, and went to a fast food restaurant for a snack.

The District Attorney’s Office opposed parole for this brutal crime. The Board of Parole Hearings nonetheless found Jay suitable for parole based on his current age of 67 years, length of incarceration of 39 years, remorse, lack of recent prison misconduct, risk assessment, and parole plans. The District Attorney then asked the Governor to overturn the decision, as authorized by the California Constitution. On July 1, 2015, Governor Brown reversed the grant of parole, finding that Jay poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.

The District Attorney thanks the Governor for his decision protecting the community.


LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the release of four annual reports on crime and juvenile justice in California. The reports, Crime in California 2014, Hate Crime in California 2014, Homicide in California 2014 and Juvenile Justice in California 2014, show an overall drop in crime rates in the state.
The annual crime reports provide law enforcement agencies and communities with statewide data on crime levels in their communities.

Crime in California, 2014
Crime in California, 2014 reports statistics on crime that occurred in the state in 2014. The report presents statistics for reported crimes, arrests, dispositions of adult felony arrests, adults placed on probation, full-time criminal justice personnel, citizens’ complaints against peace officers, domestic violence related calls for assistance, and law enforcement officers killed or assaulted.
• The homicide rate decreased 4.3 percent in 2014; total of 1,697 homicides in the state
• The robbery rate decreased 10.0 percent in 2014; total of 48,650 robberies in the state
• The aggravated assault rate increased 2.4 percent in 2014; total of 91,681 aggravated assaults in the state
• There were a total of 1,212,845 arrests in the state in 2014; the lowest since 1969
• There were 9,397 rapes reported in 2014
o In 2014, the California Department of Justice initiated collection of rape data utilizing the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s revised definition of rape. Under previous crime reports, data was only collected and reported on “forcible rape,” which did not account for all instances of rape, including those committed against male victims. In 2013, the FBI revised the definition from “forcible rape” to “rape,” defined as penetration without the consent of the victim. Since an updated definition was adopted this year, 2014 data is not comparable to data reported in previous years.
All police agencies and district attorney’s offices in California submit crime statistics to the California Department of Justice, which is then compiled into a yearly report. These rates are calculated to describe the number of crimes reported for every 100,000 persons within a population.

Hate Crime in California, 2014
Hate Crime in CONTINUED »


VENTURA, CA - District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Cody Silvestri (DOB 2/16/1982) of Ojai was sentenced to serve 180 days in the Ventura County jail. On May 1, 2015, Silvestri pleaded guilty to one count of Penal Code section 550(b)(3), felony workers’ compensation insurance fraud. This case was the result of an investigation by the District Attorney’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit.

Silvestri was employed at TACT Construction in Ojai and sustained an on-the-job injury. He had surgery and, while off work, was paid Temporary Total Disability (TTD) by TACT’s insurance carrier, State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF). When Silvestri returned to work, he failed to notify SCIF and continued to collect TTD benefits. He received $22,969 in TTD benefits after he returned to work.

In addition to the jail term, Silvestri was placed on five years formal probation. A restitution hearing is set for August 4, 2015, at 1:30 p.m., in courtroom 14.


VENTURA, CA - District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Jorge Moreno (DOB 9/13/56) of Ventura, pleaded guilty to 25 felony counts including two counts of residential burglary, one count of commercial burglary, one count of extortion, one count of identity theft of more than 10 people, one count of providing a false financial statement, and 19 counts of grand theft. Moreno admitted the special allegation of taking more than $100,000. The charges were the result of an investigation conducted by the District Attorney’s Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit in collaboration with the Ventura Police Department and Santa Barbara Police Department.

Since 2006, Moreno has been posing as an immigration lawyer and consultant, making false promises to provide immigration services to monolingual Spanish-speaking victims in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Bernardino Counties. Moreno promised victims he could prevent deportation, help with their immigration, and secure work visas. He collected cash payments up front but provided no actual services. Moreno threatened some of his victims with deportation to prevent them from notifying the authorities. It was alleged that Moreno engaged in a separate fraud scheme to sell fraudulent tickets to concerts and sporting events. The total of victims’ losses exceed $100,000.

Moreno is scheduled for sentencing at 10:30 a.m. on July 23, 2015, in courtroom 14 of the Ventura Superior Court. He is currently in custody without bail at the Ventura County jail. Under the terms of his plea agreement, it is expected that Moreno will receive a 10-year prison sentence.


VENTURA, CA - District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Miguel Pena (DOB 7/14/83), of Oxnard, was found guilty by court trial of the first-degree murder of Uriel Bucio on December 1, 2008. The judge found true the special circumstance that Pena committed the murder during the commission of a robbery, and found true the special allegation that he intentionally used a gun. The murder occurred in the parking lot of the car dealership where Mr. Bucio worked, as he and his 10-year-old son walked to their vehicle. Pena demanded money and ordered Mr. Bucio and his son to lay on the ground at gunpoint. After they complied, Pena shot and killed Mr. Bucio while he was still on the ground.

Pena was also found guilty of a July 17, 2010, robbery during which Pena was armed with a firearm and took property from Margarito Lopez during a fundraising event in the city of Oxnard.

Sentencing is set for July 22, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 44 of the Ventura Superior Court, County of Ventura. Pena faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.


SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced today that Casey E. Meyering, the operator of a cyber exploitation website which posted intimate images of unsuspecting victims without their consent, was sentenced to three years in jail.

“Meyering humiliated and belittled victims by operating a website that posted their intimate images and personal information, then extorted them for removal,” said Attorney General Harris. “California will not tolerate the illegal actions of cyber exploitation operators who profit by degrading victims from behind a computer screen. This sentence sends a clear message that cyber exploitation will lead to jail time.”

In May, Meyering pled no contest to one count of extortion, three counts of attempted extortion, and one count of conspiracy.

An investigation by the California Department of Justice’s eCrime unit found that Meyering operated WinByState.com, a cyber exploitation website which solicited the anonymous, public posting of private photographs containing nude and explicit images of individuals without their permission.

Described as “a user supported website where you can trade your ex-girlfriend, your current girlfriend, or any other girl that you might know,” WinByState.com solicited users to identify their “wins” by city and state, often using the victim’s complete or partial name. In the California-specific user forum for the website, there were over 400 postings.

WinbyState.com also required victims to pay $250 via a Google Wallet account to remove their posted photographs, known as “takedowns”. The account was named TakeDownHammer and it was registered to Meyering at a fictitious Beverly Hills storefront. Law enforcement agents purchased a “takedown” for one of the victims in Napa and traced the funds to Meyering’s bank account in Tulsa. Surveillance footage from the bank identified him withdrawing money from the account.

The investigation began in February 2013, stemming from a complaint by a Northern California victim to a Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety detective. The victim suspected that a college classmate had hacked the victim’s computer and retrieved nude images. Through search warrants, law enforcement discovered that the victim’s classmate had indeed hacked and stolen nude images of her. The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office convicted the classmate for identity-theft related crimes and he received an eight-month jail sentence.

Meyering’s sentence follows the sentencing of Kevin Bollaert, the operator of a similar cyber exploitation website. In April, Bollaert was sentenced to 18 years of incarceration following a verdict which found him guilty of 6 counts of extortion and 21 counts of identity theft. The Bollaert case was the first criminal prosecution of a cyber exploitation website operator in the country.

Attorney General Harris has sponsored a package of bills in the California Legislature that will increase protections for victims by providing critical tools for law enforcement to help investigate and prosecute the growing number of cyber exploitation cases in California. SB 676, authored by Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), passed the Senate and has been sent to the Assembly. AB 1310, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), passed the Assembly and has been sent to the Senate.

In addition, Attorney General Harris has convened a working group of 50 major technology companies, victim advocates, and legislative and law enforcement leaders to fight cyber exploitation through a public-private partnership. The Attorney General’s working group on cyber exploitation is focused on four key areas: (1) developing an industry statement of principles, (2) education and prevention, (3) law enforcement training and (4) collaboration, legislation and advocacy. The working group includes four major tech companies – Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft and Twitter.

Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit in 2011 to investigate and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes, and other crimes involving the use of technology.


SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris released the following statement today, following the U.S. Department of Education’s announcement that many more Corinthian Colleges, Inc. students will now be eligible for student loan relief. Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (CCI) recently closed its remaining campuses in California.

“Corinthian profited by preying on the educational dreams of vulnerable people and then left them under a mountain of debt,” said Attorney General Harris. “I applaud the Department of Education for answering our call to relieve students from this crippling debt Corinthian imposed upon them through its lies and deception. This action has the potential to give students new hope and the opportunity to achieve their educational goals and rebuild their lives.”

Attorney General Harris filed a complaint in 2013 alleging that CCI misrepresented job placement rates and school programs and intentionally targeted low-income, vulnerable Californians through persistent internet, telemarketing and television ad campaigns. In addition, the complaint alleges that Corinthian executives knowingly misrepresented job placement rates to investors and accrediting agencies, harming students, investors and taxpayers.

In April, Attorney General Harris and eight other state Attorneys General sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education urging immediate debt relief for the students who attended Heald College and other CCI campuses. View the letter here: https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/letter-asg-arne-duncan-04-....


VENTURA, CA - District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Christopher Morgan Gilcrest (DOB 05/08/64), of Lancaster, pleaded guilty to one felony count of grand theft, two felony counts of conspiracy, and one misdemeanor count of false advertising related to his online Ventura County based nursery stock business “Growquest Growers.” This case was the result of a joint investigation between the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner's Office, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

Gilcrest had been illegally operating a Web-based nursery supply company called “Growquest Growers” in Ventura County that sells and delivers rose bushes, citrus and olive trees, ladybugs and other nursery items online. Gilcrest sold nursery stock without a valid license, failed to comply with agriculture rules and quarantines, and took customers payments without actually providing them with any product. The Tri-Counties Better Business Bureau received hundreds of complaints from all over the United States over the course of the last three years. The quarantine regulation violations posed a serious threat to California’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industry.

Gilcrest will be sentenced on June 24, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. in Department 14 of the Ventura Superior Court. He is expected to receive 365 days in the Ventura County jail, serve 60 months formal probation, and pay restitution to the named victims. Under the terms of his probation, Gilcrest will be prohibited from engaging in the agriculture or horticulture business, and will not be allowed to sell nursery stock.