San Francisco Bay Area Thursday Morning News Roundup

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San Francisco: 'Landlords from Hell' Each Plead Guilty to Four Felony Counts

A husband and wife dubbed the "landlords from hell" for a series of escalating actions and threats made against their tenants in a San Francisco apartment building several years ago have pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Kip Macy, 38, and his wife Nicole Macy, 37, were recently extradited from Italy for a case that began when they wanted to evict tenants out of a six-unit apartment building they owned in the 700 block of Clementina Street in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood.

They each pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony counts of residential burglary, one felony count of stalking and one felony count of attempted grand theft and face up to four years and four months in prison when they are sentenced on Aug. 22.

Starting in August 2006, Nicole Macy sent an email from an account she created pretending to be a tenant to fire an attorney who was representing the tenant in a civil matter against the Macys, prosecutors said.

She also sent another fraudulent email to her own attorneys, pretending to be the tenant and threatening to kidnap and dismember the attorneys' children, prosecutors said. The next month, the Macys twice cut holes in the floor of one victim's living room with a power saw.

The tenant took a picture of one of the incidents and used a hammer to strike the saw and stop the cutting, prosecutors said. They also cut sections out of the joists below the victim's floor in an apparent attempt to make the floor collapse, prosecutors said.

The couple also threatened to shoot another victim who was working as a building manager for them and burglarized other tenants' units, while soaking beds, clothes and electronics in ammonia on one occasion, prosecutors said.

After an investigation by the district attorney's office, the Macys were charged in 2008 and indicted by a criminal grand jury the following year. As they were set to appear for trial in June 2010, the Macys failed to appear in court and fled the country. They were eventually taken into custody in Milan, Italy in May 2012 with the assistance of the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service.

After fighting extradition, they were transported back to San Francisco last month and agreed this week to plead guilty, prosecutors said. District Attorney George Gascon said the landlords created a "very unsafe situation" and "almost a cartoon-like setting" for tenants. Assistant District Attorney Kelly Burke said the Macys had wanted to evict the tenants to renovate the apartments and sell the building. Burke said the property is no longer owned by the couple.

SJ: Update: Third Suspect Indentified in Stabbing of 56-year-old man

Police arrested three suspects Saturday in connection with the allegedly gang-related fatal stabbing of a 56-year-old man in East San Jose last week.

Last Thursday, San Jose resident Gregorio Ogana was fatally stabbed near his East San Jose home, police said. Police received a report of a stabbing in the 100 block of Checkers Drive, off of Alum Rock Avenue, at 12:37 a.m., Officer Albert Morales said. Ogana was found in front of a residence suffering from multiple stab wounds. He was transported to Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead shortly after 1:30 a.m.

Homicide detectives determined the murder was gang-motivated. On Saturday, the San Jose Police Department's Covert Response Unit located and arrested three suspects in connection with the stabbing. Police arrested 21-year-old Robert Alvarez, 24-year-old Cassandra Reyes and a 17-year-old Christopher Madrigal, all San Jose residents, without incident.

Alvarez and Reyes were booked into the Santa Clara County Jail for murder with a gang enhancement. Madrigal was booked into the Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall for murder with a gang enhancement, according to police. Madrigal is being charged as an adult by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office, police said.

The killing marks San Jose's 24th homicide of 2013, according to police. Police Lt. Mike Kihmm commended the homicide detectives on their quick follow up on this case. "They were able to solve this case within 48 hours of this murder and I am glad that it will give the family members of the victim relief that these violent criminals are off our streets," Kihmm said.

Anyone with information regarding this case is urged to contact Detective Sgt. Guire or Detective Tran of the San Jose Police Department's Homicide Unit at (408) 277-5283. Persons who wish to provide information anonymously may do so by calling Silicon Valley Crimestoppers at (408) 947-STOP.

Richmond: City Council OKs Plastic Bag Ban

Richmond has become the first Contra Costa County city to approve a plastic bag ban, following other communities throughout the Bay Area and statewide.

The City Council passed a first reading Tuesday night of an ordinance that would institute a ban on plastic bags at all grocery and retail stores and a 5-cent fee for plastic bags. The paper bag fee would increase to 10 cents in 2016, according to Jennifer Ly, a sustainability analyst for the city.

The fee is meant to encourage residents to eschew paper bags for reusable shopping bags, according to city staff. Ly said the eco-friendly ordinance does not apply to restaurants and proposes a $250 fee on retailers that violate the ban. If approved, it would take effect Jan. 1.

The ordinance passed its first reading with five councilmembers' approval and councilmen Jael Myrick, Corky Booze and Nat Bates abstaining.

Ly said some residents have worried that the new law will be a burden on the city's poorest residents. The city has given out more than 5,000 reusable shopping bags at senior and recreation centers and other areas in an effort to provide low-income residents with help complying with the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance was adopted from a model law drafted by the West Contra Costa Integrated Waste Management Authority and is similar to bans already in effect in Alameda, Marin and San Mateo counties, according to city staff. Nearby El Cerrito and San Pablo are expected to adopt similar plastic bag bans this summer, Ly said. She said Richmond's City Council will likely vote on a second reading of the ordinance next month.

Fremont: Former Teacher Charge with Sodomizing Student 15 Years Ago

A former Fremont schoolteacher who was convicted more than 10 years ago of possessing child pornography faces new charges that he sodomized a boy in his classroom in the late 1990s.

Michael Schoop, 63, of Pleasanton, was arrested on the new charges last week and is being held in the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in lieu of $410,000 in bail. The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has charged Schoop with four counts of sodomy of a person under the age of 14 with an age difference of at least 10 years.

Prosecutors allege that the incidents occurred in a side room of a portable classroom at the Mission Valley Elementary School in Fremont, where Schoop taught for 25 years and once was named a distinguished teacher. In 2002 Schoop pleaded guilty in Alameda County Superior Court to one felony count of possessing child pornography.

He was placed on five years' probation and required to register as a sex offender. In a related case in federal court, Schoop was sentenced in 2003 to one year in federal prison. The state and federal cases began when a 45-year-old man told Oakland police that Schoop had molested him for several years, starting in 1967, when the man was about 12 years old.

Schoop originally was charged with four counts of lewd conduct with a child under 14 and one count of forced oral copulation with a minor but those charges were later dropped and the only charge that remained was the child pornography count to which he pleaded guilty.

Schoop's attorney, Bruce Nickerson, said Wednesday that he thinks the new charges against Schoop are "totally specious" and are related to Schoop's effort to obtain a certificate of rehabilitation so he no longer will have to register as a sex offender.

Nickerson said the district attorney alleged that Schoop, who was released from federal prison in 2004, must wait 10 years to obtain the certificate but an appellate court ruled six months ago that he only had to wait seven years. Nickerson said that when Schoop returns to court for a pretrial hearing on June 26 he will ask that the charges against him be dismissed, alleging that they lack specificity.

The defense attorney said the Fremont Police Department declined to take any action against Schoop when the allegations about the reputed conduct in 1998 and 1999 first emerged so the new charges are based on the district attorney's own investigation. Representatives from the district attorney's office declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

Salinas: Body Found Near Where Abandoned Car Of Missing Woman was Found

The decomposed body of a female was found in Salinas near where the abandoned car of a 35-year-old woman missing since Thanksgiving Day had been parked, a Salinas police spokesman said Wednesday.

A Salinas city cleaning crew reported coming across something suspicious while working last Saturday morning near Garner Avenue in Natividad Creek Park, Salinas police Officer Miguel Cabrera said.

Police later confirmed the crew had found badly decomposed human remains that the Monterey County coroner's office this week determined was of a woman but could not identify her, Cabrera said. Authorities extracted a DNA sample from the body and sent it for examination to a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice in hopes of finding a match, Cabrera said.

The remains were discovered in the vicinity of where an unlocked car owned by Leticia Morales-Soto, of Salinas, was located at the end of Garner Avenue next to Natividad Creek Park, Cabrera said. Police suspected the remains might be those of Morales-Soto and so contacted her family members before releasing details about it to the public, Cabrera said.

There is no timetable for the results of the DNA test, however "we're trying to expedite the process," Cabrera said.

Morales-Soto's husband reported her missing at 3 p.m. on Nov. 23, a day after a family member last saw her driving away to pick up an acquaintance, 37-year-old Rafael "Rafa" Carballo, Cabrera said.

On Thanksgiving Day, the day she was last seen, Morales-Soto had been cooking the holiday dinner and decided to drive to store with her uncle to do some shopping when Carballo called her cellphone and asked for a ride, police said. She agreed, then dropped her uncle off and apparently drove to meet Carballo but her family members never saw her again, police said.

The day after Thanksgiving, Carballo and members of his family went to the Salinas Police Department at 1 p.m. to report that Carballo had been assaulted at Natividad Creek Park the previous night. Carballo, known to some as "Rafa," had injuries consistent with being in some kind of struggle and an officer filed a battery report, police said.

After Morales-Soto's husband found her car later that afternoon, police arranged for the car to be towed and accompanied her husband to "Rafa's" home to talk to him, police said. Carballo was not at the residence, but one of the officers recognized some of his family members from the battery report that afternoon and identified "Rafa" as Carballo, police said.

Salinas police and the Monterey County sheriff's office searched Natividad Creek Park on Nov. 24 and Nov. 27 but were unable to find any leads. In early December, police issued a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of murder and he is still the primary suspect in the woman's disappearance, Cabrera said. Police believe Carballo may have fled to Mexico, Cabrera said.

San Mateo County: Man Arrested, Wife Sought for Allegedly Running Prostitution Ring

A 49-year-old San Bruno and South San Francisco man appeared in court Wednesday following his arrest last week when state officials busted a brothel ring based in Sacramento and the Bay Area, according to the San Mateo County chief deputy district attorney.

Zhi Liu was arrested on human trafficking, pandering, and pimping charges last Thursday after a state Department of Justice investigation revealed a Sacramento prostitution ring was using an apartment in San Bruno, according to prosecutors.

The ring was rotating prostitutes through the Bay Area, including through the San Bruno residence run by Liu who allegedly went by "Bob" and his wife, Wei Guo, 51, who used the name, "Coco." Authorities are still trying to track down Guo, who is wanted on a $100,000 arrest warrant, San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.

According to prosecutors, the brothel moved from San Bruno to a location in South San Francisco in May. State investigators took down the brothels in San Mateo County and in Sacramento County, where three others were arrested last week.

In court Wednesday, a friend of the defendant offered a property bond to release Liu, who is being held on $200,000 bail, Guidotti said. A hearing was held to determine if the property offered for bail was involved in any illegal activity, Guidotti said.

She said there was no evidence to prove there was any illicit connections with the property and the bond is expected to go through. However, Liu has been ordered to not leave the state upon his release.

SJ: Police Arrest Four Suspects in January Stabbing Murder

San Jose police Wednesday announced the arrests of three men and a juvenile in connection with the alleged gang-related fatal stabbing of a 44-year-old Donald Harvey during a street robbery in January.

Officers units arrested Enrique Martinez, 20, and Ceasar Torres, 18, in San Jose last Wednesday on suspicion of murder, police said. Two days later, officers took a 17-year-old juvenile into custody in San Jose, police said. The fourth suspect, Joel Madrigal, 27, was arrested while in custody at the Santa Clara County Main Jail for an unrelated case, police said.

On Jan. 24, Harvey, a San Jose resident, was walking by himself in the area of Southside Drive and Hope Street when several males attacked him, police said.

Someone called police at about 8:25 p.m., and responding officers found Harvey suffering from multiple stab wounds. Emergency responders took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 9:30 p.m., police said.

"Unfortunately, this was another case where the suspects robbed an innocent victim walking down the street who was minding his own business," police Lt. Mike Kihmm said. Investigators believe the suspects are gang members, police said.

The killing marked San Jose's third homicide of 2013. Kihmm said detectives from the department's gang investigations unit were instrumental in helping locate and arrest the suspects.

Fremont: Grand Opening Celebration Today For New Skate Park

Skateboarders and city officials are holding a grand opening celebration for the new Fremont Skate Park Wednesday.

The 1-acre park, which features both street courses and bowls, is part of the city's 450-acre Central Park. "Skateboarding has become an extremely popular sport. We've had so much demand for a skate park" since a temporary park closed in 2009, said Roger Ravenstad, a senior city landscape architect who was the new facility's project manager.

Ravenstad said the new park is already in use, and when the construction fence was taken down on the evening of June 7, some 50 skaters were ready to rush in. Within an hour, 150 were gliding, spinning and jumping on the course.

Wednesday's 5 p.m. grand opening celebration was timed to coincide with the last day of classes in Fremont public schools. The event will feature a ribbon-cutting, music and professional demonstrations.

Ravenstad said the $2.2 million facility was funded by park development fees provided by housing developers. The city has contracted with professional skateboarder Justin Richter to offer a fee-based summer camp and lessons at the skate park.

More information about the program, known as the Jordan Richter Skateboarding Academy Camps and Lessons, is available online at www.RegeRec.com or by calling (510) 790-5546.

Monterey: Crops Values Hit Record $4.1B As Wine Grape Production Rises 52 Percent

Monterey County's agriculture industry earned a record $4.14 billion last year, buoyed by lettuce, strawberries and a 52 percent rise in wine grape production, according to a new county report.

Crop production in the county, nicknamed by local officials as the "salad bowl of the world," rose 7 percent, or $285 million, in 2012 over 2011, the county reported. The county's 2102 crop report lists 10 crops grown there that produced more than $100 million in value, led by $794 million from leaf lettuce, $784 million from strawberries, $476 million from head lettuce and $316 million from broccoli.

"I think it shows the strength of the diversity of commodities produced in Monterey County," county Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen said. Within California's $40 billion agriculture economy, Monterey's industry is behind Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties but would rank in the middle of all American states in crop production, Lauritzen said.

"It's really staggering when you think about how important it is," Lauritzen said. The total economic benefit from the county's agriculture is about $9 billion when including things like cut lettuce for salads and wine made from grapes grown there, Lauritzen said.

As many as one in every five jobs in Monterey County, or about 20 percent, is tied to agriculture, Lauritzen said. Production of wine grapes, grown mostly in the southern part of the county, increased by 52 percent last year, Lauritzen said. Monterey exports much of its grapes to wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties for bottling. Monterey is trying to become more of a wine destination itself by bottling more of its wine locally, he said.

Other crops grown in the county that made the top ten list for production in 2012 included celery ($193 million), spinach ($130 million) and cauliflower ($109 million).

Weather Forecast

Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are expected to be in the mid 50s to upper 60s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph in the afternoon.

Mostly clear skies are likely this evening becoming partly cloudy. Patchy fog is expected after midnight.

Lows are likely to be in the upper 40s to mid 50s with westerly winds up to 30 mph. Sunny skies are expected Friday morning. Highs are expected to be in the mid 50s to lower 70s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.

 

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