Tow fee scandal forces reexamination of policy

Sheriff Lee Baca responded to a series of articles that have appeared in this paper over the past week. Here’s the top of our story:

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is reexamining how it collects towing fees in response to allegations a former traffic sergeant took nearly $500,000 from the city of La Puente in impound revenues, officials said.

“We are doing that now,” Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said. “We are probably going to go to a cashless system. Using something like an ATM card to make it more difficult for theft to occur.”

Whitmore also said the department is reviewing several other internal policies and will consult with the Board of Supervisors.

Former Sgt. Joe Dyer, who used to work out of the Industry sheriff’s station until he retired in May, has been under investigation since the beginning of the year.

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BP shooting outside High School leaves man wounded

A 15-year-old armed with a shotgun on Puente Avenue accidentally shot his 18-year-old companion, police said.

Anyway, here’s the story as we’re reporting it:

BALDWIN PARK — An 18-year-old man remains in stable condition this morning after being accidentally shot by a friend Thursday, officials said.

Police are not releasing the man’s name but said Friday his wounds are not life threatening, according to Baldwin Park Police Lt. David Reynoso.

Around 3:47 p.m. the man was among friends in the garage of a residence watching television on the 3900 block of Puente Avenue, officials said.

One of the friends – a 15-year-old boy – allegedly had a shotgun, which police believe he accidentally discharged, striking the 18-year-old in the upper torso, Reynoso said.

The 15-year-old was arrested and booked on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a shotgun, police said.

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Zendejas prelim underway (Held to Answer)*

A preliminary hearing for former Rams kicker Tony Zendejas is underway today in Pomona. Sources tell me the woman who accuses Zendejas of raping her in a motel room earlier this year has testified.

I’ll have an update when there’s more information to post.

*Zendejas will face trial in the rape case.

City News Service reports:

Former Los Angeles Rams placekicker Antonio “Tony” Zendejas was ordered today to stand trial on four charges alleging that he drugged a woman at his San Dimas sports bar and sexually assaulted her.

Zendejas, 48, is accused of giving a woman at his restaurant/bar a drink that made her groggy either late Jan. 25 or early Jan. 26. She told authorities that she woke up in a nearby motel room and had been raped.

Pomona Superior Court Judge Charles Horan found sufficient evidence to require the former National Football League player to proceed to trial on one felony count each of rape by use of drugs, rape of an unconscious person, sodomy by anesthesia or controlled substance and sodomy of an unconscious person, according to Deputy District Attorney Rouman

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Photo from a Mongols party in Beverly Hills

18218-mongolsparty-thumb-300x173.jpgMongul author Ruben “Doc” Cavazos, Mongol Little Rubes, Mongol Ogre and Mongol Bouncer attend the Book Expo Celebrity Dinner at Restaurant 208 on May 30, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California.


Doc, Little Rubes, and Bouncer are all mentioned in the 177-page federal indictment handed down against the gang Tuesday.

Here’s a mention of “Bouncer”:


[21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B)(viii)]

On or about July 25, 2006, in Los Angeles County, within the

Central District of California, defendant PETER SOTO, also known

as “Bouncer,” knowingly and intentionally distributed at least

five grams, that is, approximately 13.5 grams, of actual

methamphetamine, a schedule II controlled substance.


Here’s a mention of “LIttle Rubes”


[18 U.S.C. 924(c)]

On or about May 24, 2008, in Los Angeles County, within the

Central District of California, defendants RUBEN CAVAZOS, JR.,

also known as “Lil Rubes,” and BRIAN MCCAULEY, knowingly

possessed a firearm, namely, an H&K .45 caliber handgun, bearing

serial number 25-093654, during and in relation to, and in

furtherance of, a crime of violence, namely, the racketeering

conspiracy set forth in Count One of this Indictment, a violation

of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1962(d).



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The strange and terrible saga of Thursday’s column

There are some fascinating peeks at the workings of the Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang in the federal grand jury indictment released Tuesday.

Their brutality is apparent:

“On August 18, 2006, in Los Angeles County, defendant (William `Dago Bill’ Shawley) advised an undercover law enforcement officer that he and defendants (David `L.A. Bull’ Gil) and (Aaron `Sick Boy’ Price) had captured an individual and tortured him for three hours, by breaking the man’s knuckles with a pair of pliers, breaking his knee by hitting it with a metal pipe.”

Alongside the action, a sub-plot emerges from the pages and pages of court documents.

It lies in the ongoing feuds among individual Mongols and a turf battle between bikers and area street gangs who are loyal to La Eme.

While there’s been a push by former Mongols president Ruben “Doc” Cavazos to recruit street gang members, old-time members have been resistant.

Meanwhile, newer members have been reluctant to pay taxes on illicit drug sales to La Eme, because they are already paying the Mongols.

Last year, Cavazos wanted to broker an agreement between the organizations, but instead found himself targeted, according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, an informant told an undercover ATF agent that “Cavazos was attempting to negotiate with La Eme to compensate them for the narcotics-trafficking being conducted by Mongols members.

“Cavazos had met with

La Eme representatives at City Walk in Studio City to offer them a one-time tax payment, but that the offer had been rejected and La Eme had ordered a greenlight on the Mongols.”

Although the meeting took place on the other side of town, it’s pretty clear the San Gabriel Valley is fertile ground for organized crime.

This is prime turf for credit card scams, dope deals, money laundering, extortion, prostitution, assault and murder.

Stuff that happens here every day. Stuff that often gets reported in the newspaper, but in a disconnected, bullet-points-on-a-blotter sort of way that occasionally fleshes out the big picture.

Think about all the groups that operate in our neighborhoods. There’s La Eme. We have the Wah Ching and assorted other Asian gangs. Crips and Bloods rule some neighborhoods, while Armenian and Russian gangsters continue to filter into the SGV from Glendale and Los Angeles.

If anything it’s a Balkanization of sorts. And from time to time, each gang has its moment in the spotlight because of a large-scale federal or county prosecution.

Despite turf battles and rivalries, the prosecutions of these gangs highlight plenty of similarities – mainly the desire to make money. Lots of it. By any means necessary – including beatings and murder.

But it also paints a picture of young men who believe they are the last true individualists in America.

In his 1966 book “Hell’s Angels,” Hunter S. Thompson saw violent motorcycle gangs as part of the bleak and terrible rise of a new form of gangsterism dispensing equal amounts of violence and dope.

“(They are) not some romantic leftover, but the first wave of a future that nothing in our history has prepared us to deal with,” Thompson wrote.

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Closing arguments presented in Azusa molestation case

The state’s case against Virgil Cleon Harper went to a Jury Wednesday after both sides presented closing arguments.

Harper, a substitute teacher in Azusa, is accused of nine counts of sexual molestation involving youngsters in his classroom.

Our reporter Bethania Palma attended Wednesday’s court session and interviewed Harper. These excerpts are from her story:


Deputy District Attorney Miji Vellakkatel<NO1>cq <NO>told the jury there was solid evidence Harper touched the 9-and-10-year-old boys and girls in a sexual manner.
“The truth lies in the evidence,” he said. “He touched a total of 17 body parts that are sexual in nature.
The fourth graders had stated Harper touched genital areas, rear ends, breasts and thighs, Vellakkatel said.
Defense attorney Victor Salerno said the accusations were false and added they resulted from peer pressure and a “snowball effect.”


Harper said he had been a teacher and substitute teacher for years in various settings, including high schools and colleges. At one point he taught at Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.
He also worked as an adjunct professor at APU and served on the city’s architectural barriers commission.
Harper said he began teaching at grade schools about a year ago so he could get more hours.
He said if cleared of charges, he would not teach children again “unless there are cameras or another adult present.”

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