Tuesday Morning News Roundup
Contractor Gives Himself Up In Involuntary Manslaughter Case
The chief executive of a Fremont construction company was arrested at the San Francisco International Airport on Monday on an involuntary manslaughter charge for the death of a carpenter at a construction site in Milpitas in January 2012.
Richard Liu, who was the subject of a $1 million arrest warrant, was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers immediately upon his arrival from China.
A Santa Clara County Grand Jury indicted Liu, his company U.S. Sino Investments, Inc., and project manager Dan Luo, 36, in August for an incident at a job site on Jan. 28, 2012, that killed construction worker Raul Zapata Mercado, 38.
Liu was in China at the time of the accident and hadn’t been back to the U.S. until Monday.
“He came back on his own,” said Bud Porter, a deputy district attorney, Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office. “This is great news for the prosecution because all the defendants will be tried together, rather than having one defendant in China and essentially untouchable.”
Porter said Liu’s attorney told the DA’s office when Liu would be coming back to the U.S. and Liu turned himself over to an investigator when he got off the plane.
The fatal incident that claimed Mercado’s life occurred at 814 Calaveras Ridge Drive in Milpitas. Mercado died when a retaining wall collapsed on him.
Unsafe conditions forced the city of Milpitas to issue a “stop work” order at the job site, but Lui’s company failed to obey the order and three days later the retaining wall collapsed, prosecutors said.
Liu was taken to the Santa Clara County Jail after he was arrested Monday. Both Liu and Luo each face up to four years in prison, Porter said.
The company may face millions in fines.
“This case is about what happens when construction companies cut corners on safety,” said District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
“Workplace safety is not an option,” Rosen said. “What happened to Raul Zapata Mercado was not an accident, it was a crime.”
U.S. Sino Investments had its contractor’s license revoked since 2012 so “it’s not really doing business,” Porter said.
A court date in the case has been set for Nov. 17, according to prosecutors.
Former Concord Elementary Teacher To Be Re-Tried On 22 Child Molestation Counts
Most of the charges filed against a Concord elementary school teacher who was initially accused of inappropriately touching more than a dozen former students have been dropped, his defense attorney said Monday.
Joseph Martin, 46, will now be re-tried on 22 child molestation counts after the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office dismissed more than 70 remaining counts against him following an August mistrial, attorney Patrick Clancy said.
The Martinez resident and former Woodside Elementary School teacher was initially charged with 150 counts of lewd and lascivious acts against 14 male former students. The alleged acts including rubbing boys’ bare chests and other inappropriate touching, according to prosecutors.
The longtime teacher was arrested in June 2013 after a student came forward to report the alleged acts.
A trial earlier this year led to a jury deadlocking on 95 of the counts against Martin and acquitting him of 21 counts. He remains in custody in lieu of $10 million bail.
But prosecutors have since dropped 73 of the remaining counts against him, leaving 22 counts involving eight purported victims, Clancy said.
“It has definitely made our case stronger than it was,” he said of the amended complaint against Martin.
“Every count that gets dropped is good news,” he said.
Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts, who is set to re-try the case, was not immediately available for comment.
Opening statements in the case could begin as soon as this Friday or next Monday, Clancy said.
The attorney said Martin’s continued incarceration has been extremely difficult on the former teacher’s family both financially and emotionally but it is prepared to return to court.
Founder Of Online University Based In Pleasanton Is Sentenced To 16 Years
The founder and president of an online university based in Pleasanton has been sentenced to 16 years in federal prison for running a visa fraud scheme.
Federal prosecutors said Tri-Valley University, which was run by Susan Xiao-Ping Su, 44, of Pleasanton, was a bogus, unaccredited venture designed to rake in millions of dollars from foreigners who sought to obtain student visas so they could stay in the U.S.
After a three-week trial before U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar, Su was convicted on March 23 of 31 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, use of a false document, false statements to a government agency, alien harboring, unauthorized access to a government computer and money laundering.
In addition to sentencing Su to the lengthy prison term at a hearing on Friday, Tigar ordered her to forfeit $5.6 million and pay $904,000 in restitution.
Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office said evidence at Su’s trial showed she engaged in a two-year-scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by submitting fraudulent documents in support of the university’s petition for approval to admit foreign students.
Prosecutors said that after Su obtained that approval she fraudulently issued visa-related documents to student aliens in exchange for “tuition and fees.”
Prosecutors said that in Su’s petition for approval, she made material false representations to the Department of Homeland Security about Tri-Valley University’s admission requirements, graduation requirements, administrators, instructors, class transferability, and intent to comply with federal regulations.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Su admitted and maintained student aliens in exchange for tuition and other payments.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Su made nearly $6 million through her operation of Tri-Valley University and engaged in seven money laundering transactions using proceeds to purchase commercial real estate, a Mercedes Benz and multiple residences, including a mansion on the Ruby Hill Golf Club in Pleasanton, each in her name.
Prosecutors said authorities began investigating Su in May 2010 after they received a tip.
Police Say Motorist Didn’t Flee After Killing Skateboarder
San Francisco police said the man behind the wheel of a vehicle that fatally struck a 21-year-old San Leandro man skateboarding in San Francisco’s Bayview District on Saturday night remained at the scene following the collision.
The skateboarder, Arman Lester, was fatally struck at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Third Street and Cargo Way, about a block south of a popular skate spot at Indiana and Tulare streets, according to police and the medical examiner’s office.
The collision was initially reported by police as a hit-and-run, but San Francisco police Officer Gordon Shyy said on Monday that the motorist, a man in his 70s, pulled over further down the road in order to get his vehicle out of the path of traffic and was apparently waiting for police to arrive.
Police located the driver and vehicle shortly after the collision.
According to Shyy, the driver was not under the influence of alcohol and no charges have been filed against him.
Police are continuing to investigate the circumstances that led up to the collision and whether or not the driver got out of his vehicle to help Lester following the collision.
Dad Finds Bag Of Meth Among Daughter’s Halloween Candy
A parent in Hercules made a startling discovery on Monday when he found a small bag of methamphetamine among his daughter’s Halloween candy, a police sergeant said.
Police said the father reported finding the drugs Monday morning while going through the bag of candy collected by his 8-year-old daughter while trick-or-treating on Halloween night.
The father reported that he had taken his daughter trick-or-treating Friday night in the city’s Promenade community, an area near the San Pablo Bay comprised of Sycamore and Railroad avenues, Promenade, Earnest, Main and Park streets and Taraya Terrace.
Police said the man gave a responding officer the small Ziploc plastic bag, which contained a white powdery substance. The substance later tested positive for containing meth and weighed about 0.1 grams without packaging, according to police.
Hercules police are encouraging parents to check their children’s bags of Halloween candy for any illegal substances.
Man Found Shot This Morning Dies At Hospital
Vallejo police said a 19-year-old man who was shot in the area of Hayman and Maple streets on Monday morning has died at a hospital.
Police Capt. Jim O’Connell identified the victim as Isaac Lopez-Reid.
Police received multiple calls around 10 a.m. about shots fired at that location, O’Connell said.
The Vallejo Fire Department responded to the shooting in front of residence at 501 Maple Ave. around 10:08 a.m., fire department Captain Kevin Hickey said.
Police said Lopez-Reid was taken to Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.
SF Man Gets 25 Years In Prison For Fatal Crash Last Year
A San Francisco man was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday in connection with a crash in Sonoma last year that killed a passenger in his car and critically injured two people in another vehicle.
Damodar Chandradas, 26 of San Francisco was driving a 1997 Jaguar south on state Highway 121 in Sonoma near the Sonoma Raceway when he collided head-on with a Toyota Corolla around 7 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2013, the California Highway Patrol said.
Chandradas was passing other vehicles as it approached the Toyota and lost control of the Jaguar, the CHP said.
The Toyota hit the right front side of the Jaguar killing 26-year-old Sergei Beloglazov who was riding in the Jaguar.
The driver of the Toyota, Gustavo Mejia, suffered two broken legs and his 5-year-old daughter, who was in a car seat, suffered a spinal cord injury that has confined her to a wheel chair for the rest of her life, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said.
Cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and a loaded semi-automatic long-rifle with 53 live rounds were found in Chandradas’ Jaguar, the district attorney’s office said.
Chandradas was driving on a suspended license and was under the influence of alcohol and the drugs when he crossed the double-yellow line and started to pass cars on a blind curve at excessive speed, the district attorney’s office said.
Chandradas was on felony probation and has two separate incidents of felony possession of drugs for sale when the fatal crash occurred, the district attorney’s office said.
In October, Chandradas pleaded guilty to all 18 charges filed against him including vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and with gross negligence, DUI, possession of drugs for sale and transportation and possession of a weapon and ammunition, the district attorney’s office said.
Chandradas has prior felony convictions for violence, weapons and drugs and three convictions for driving on a suspended license. He admitted feigning mental illness, which caused his trial to be suspended twice while two doctors evaluated his mental competency, the district attorney’s office said.
“This tragedy could have been avoided,” Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.
Jury Selection Completed, Opening Statements Next Week In Police Corruption Trial
Jury selection was completed in federal court on Monday in the federal corruption trial of two San Francisco police officers accused of stealing money and property during searches in 2009.
Opening statements and testimony in the trial of Sgt. Ian Furminger, 48, of Pleasant Hill, and Officer Edmond Robles, 47, of Danville, will begin next Monday before the jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco.
A third defendant, former Officer Reynaldo Vargas, 46, of Palm Desert, pleaded guilty before Breyer to four felony counts on Oct. 28 and agreed to testify against the other two men.
Following that plea bargain, prosecutors obtained a revised and expanded grand jury indictment against Furminger and Robles on Oct. 30.
The officers were originally charged in a six-count indictment in February. The revised indictment contains nine counts, including new charges of using wire communications to commit fraud and depriving the people of San Francisco of the officers’ honest services.
Both Furminger and Robles are charged in eight counts and the ninth charge accuses Furminger alone of extorting property from an individual identified by the initials S.S. in 2011 and 2012.
The other eight counts include two counts of wire fraud; two counts of honest services fraud; conspiracy against civil rights; conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program; theft; and conspiracy to distribute drugs.
A previous charge of selling marijuana was dropped from the revised indictment against Furminger and Robles.
The theft-conspiracy count adds new examples of alleged thefts during searches.
In addition to an earlier allegation that the officers stole a $500 Apple gift card during an apartment search in March 2009, the revised conspiracy count also alleges that either Robles or both Robles and Furminger joined Vargas in stealing money during four other searches in Newark and San Francisco between May and November 2009.
After stealing the money, the officers “split it among themselves” each time, the indictment alleges.
The counts each carry maximum sentences ranging from three to 10 years in prison, if the officers are convicted.
Chinese Woman Suspected Of Running Blessing Scams Detained In New York
A 61-year-old Chinese woman who allegedly took part in blessing scams that ripped off older Chinese residents in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City, was detained in New York as she attempted to flee the U.S. for China, according to San Francisco police.
The suspect, whose name was not immediately released, is awaiting extradition to San Francisco on charges of grand theft, conspiracy, extortion and elder abuse.
San Francisco police said the woman is believed to be responsible for multiple blessing scams that robbed elderly victims of large amounts of cash and valuables.
A scam last month led police to warn San Francisco residents, especially those in the Cantonese-speaking community, not to fall prey to blessing scams.
San Francisco police said the scams tend to target older Chinese residents and have led to victims suffering great financial loss.
Since the beginning of October, police have investigated at least two incidents related to the scam, including one instance where the victim lost $80,000 in cash and $40,000 in jewelry.
In that instance, the scam started when a Cantonese-speaking woman approached the victim and told her about a doctor with the ability to cure various diseases, police said.
On Oct. 27, San Francisco police and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, working in conjunction with agencies in New York, positively identified one of the perpetrators whose photo had been previously captured.
The suspect was identified as a suspect in two reported blessing scams that occurred in San Francisco and at least one in Los Angeles and another in New York City.
As the woman attempted to flee the U.S. back to China, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol detained her, according to police.
Police in San Francisco and New York obtained arrest warrants for the woman, stopping her from leaving the country.
The woman is being held in New York on pending charges and is awaiting extradition to San Francisco, police said.
40-Year-Old Man Arrested In Fatal Shooting Sunday
Oakland police have arrested a 40-year-old man on suspicion of murder for a fatal shooting in West Oakland on Sunday afternoon, police said Monday.
Ian Booker, an Oakland resident, was arrested in the killing of 54-year-old Rondell Johnson at a home in the 1600 block of 10th Street at about 4:45 p.m. Sunday, according to Oakland police Officer Frank Bonifacio.
Officers found Johnson suffering from apparent gunshot wounds and he was pronounced dead at the scene, Bonifacio said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Police Department’s homicide unit at (510) 238-3821.
Booker, who is being held without bail at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, is scheduled to be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Tuesday.