Sierra Madre man returns home after serving sentence for Canadian child porn conviction

SIERRA MADRE — A man convicted last year in Canada of possessing and smuggling child pornography has returned to his hometown of Sierra Madre after serving his sentence, police said.
Robert Matheson was convicted of possessing and smuggling 2,820 images and 285 video — many of them depicting underage boys engaged in sex acts with adult men, officials said.
He is also under investigation by U.S. officials, though investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been tight-lipped about their probe.
Because his conviction was outside the United States, Matheson is not required by California law to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law, Sierra Madre Interim Police Chief Larry Giannone said.
After being sentenced to 120 days in jail for the Canadian child pornography conviction, Matheson was released Wednesday, officials said.
On Thursday, “Mr. Matheson voluntarily came into the police station to advise us that he was back at his residence and simply stated; ‘There are two sides to every story,” Giannone said.
Prior to Wednesday’s release, ICE officials had been informed to expect Matheson’s release in February, however an exact date was not available, police said.
“I.C.E. is still actively working on the Matheson case, however it is a lengthy process and I am not at liberty to discuss details of the investigation,” Giannone said. “Mr. Matheson is aware of the continuing investigation.”
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UPDATE: Jury reaches verdict in Rose Bowl murder trial

PASADENA — Jurors have reached a verdict in the murder trial for a Duarte man accused of shooting and trying to decapitate his brother with a machete in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl, court officials said.
Clifton Ashley Cass, 57, is charged with the murder of 57-year-old Victor Cass of Duarte, as well as possession of a firearm by a felon with five prior convictions, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Officials.
Authorities announced Friday that after only a few hours of deliberation, the jury had reached a verdict, which was scheduled to be read Friday afternoon in Pasadena Superior Court.
The body of 57-year-old Victor Cass of Duarte was discovered by a maintenance worker in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl on Feb. 28, 2011.
Authorities allege that Clifton Cass, angered by perceived disrespect displayed by Victor Cass toward their mother, lured his brother to the Rose Bowl under the ruse of a cocaine deal before shooting him and trying, unsuccessfully, to decapitate him with a machete.
Clifton Cass was jailed in April of last year after being found with drugs and weapons during a traffic stop, officials said. A search at his home yielded yet more drugs and guns.
A second suspect in the case, Dwayne Sims, 60, of Duarte pleaded no contest late last year to charges of being an accessory after the fact for helping clean up evidence following the killing and being a felony with five previous convictions in possession of a firearm, Los Angeles, district attorney’s officials said.
Sims is due back in Court March 2 for sentencing.
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Overturned pickup slows 60 in Hacienda Heights; crash may be related to street racing

HACIENDA HEIGHTS — Two lanes of the eastbound 60 Freeway were blocked by an overturned pickup truck early Friday after a crash that was initially reported as possibly caused by racing cars.
The crash was reported just before 9 a.m. on the eastbound freeway, just west of 7th Avenue, according to California Highway Patrol logs.
Initial reports from 9-1-1 callers at the scene indicated that, “Two vehicles were racing and caused another vehicle to flip over,” logs show.
Authorities issued a Sig Alert on the freeway as they moved the wreckage, but cleared the roadway about 20 minutes later.
No injuries were reported.
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Former La Habra police officer suspected of embezzling $60,000 from charity organization

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SANTA ANA — Officials Thursday arrested and charged a former La Habra police officer suspected of embezzling more than $60,000 from a charity law enforcement organization he volunteered for.
Kirk Robert Lotzgesell, 43, of Winchester is accused of taking the money from the Orange County Cop Bowl Association between 2007 and 2009 while he served as an unpaid treasurer for the organization, Orange County District Attorney’s Officials said in a written statement. The OCCBA runs football games between police officers and firefighters to raise money for youth scholarships.
“Lotzgesell is accused of stealing over $60,000 from OCCBA by writing checks to himself and making ATM withdrawals from the organization’s accounts,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “He’s accused of spending the stolen money on personal expenses and bills.”
After being arrested Thursday by Brea police, who investigated the case, Lotzgesell appeared in court and was charged with a felony count of grand theft, officials said.
He was released from jail on his own recognizance early Friday, counting booking records show. He could not be reached for comment.
Lotzgesell was hired by the La Habra Police Department in October of 1989 and “separated” in January of 2006 at the rank of corporal, department spokeswoman Cindy Knapp said. Due to personnel policies, she said, she declined to comment on the circumstances of his separation from the agency.
In 2007, Lotzgesell began volunteering as treasurer for the OCCBA, “after misrepresenting himself himself to the organization as a current police officer on medical leave,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
His occupation is listed as “Realtor” in booking records.
In its 34-year history, the OCCBA has raised over $1 million for charity, officials said.
Prior to his release, Lotzgesell was initially scheduled to be arraigned Monday at the Central Jail courthouse in Santa Ana, district attorney’s officials said. His updated court date following his release was not available early Friday.
If convicted as charged, Lotzgesell could face up to three years in state prison.
PHOTO of Kirk Lotzgesell courtesy of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office
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Man pleads not guilty to assaulting man in argument over public toilet in Montebello

EAST LOS ANGELES — A transient appeared in court Thursday to charges that he assaulted and broke the arm of another man earlier this week during an argument over a public toilet, authorities said.
Kenny Sakamoto pleaded not guilty to a charge of battery causing serious bodily injury, court officials said.
He was arrested Tuesday after a assaulting and breaking the arm of a 64-year-old Los Angeles man during an argument over who was going to first us a public restroom at a Montebello Del Taco restaurant, 880 N. Wilcox Ave., according to Montebello police Lt. Mike Bergman.
Sakamoto was ordered back to East Los Angeles Superior Court Friday for a bail review hearing, officials said.
Because Sakamoto uses a wheelchair and may require special accommodations, the date of his preliminary hearing was uncertain, officials added.
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Pasadena police plan checkpoint Friday

PASADENA — Police are planning to hold a checkpoint late Friday, officials said.
The checkpoint will be held from 7 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday on South Fair Oaks Avenue, near the city’s southern limit, Pasadena police officials said in a written statement.
“Checkpoints are placed in locations that have the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence and provide the greatest safety for officers and the public,” according to the statement.
“Drivers caught driving impaired can expect jail, license suspension, and insurance increases, as well as fines, fees, DUI classes, court probation and other expenses that can exceed $10,000,” the police statement said.
The checkpoint is being funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
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Suspected West Whittier serial robber jailed

WEST WHITTIER — Deputies served a warrant early Thursday and arrested a man suspected of three armed robberies along Whittier Boulevard earlier this month, authorities said.
David Jimenez, 38, of West Whittier was booked on suspicion of robbery following the 7:15 a.m. raid on his home in the 6000 block of McNees Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Smith said.
He was wanted in connection with three robberies that took place between Feb. 4 and Feb. 12 along Whittier Boulevard, just west of the 605 Freeway, in unincorporated West Whittier, the lieutenant said.
The robberies targeted the same donut shop twice, as well as a nearby gas station, Smith said.
Cash and merchandise were taken in the heists, he added.
“Detectives developed information that led them to believe the suspect was a resident of an adjacent neighborhood,” Smith said.
Jimenez was arrested without a struggle when deputies arrived at his home early Thursday, he added.
According to county booking records, Jimenez was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending arraignment Monday in Whittier Superior Court.
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East LA boys soccer coach accused of molesting player

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EAST LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors Wednesday charged an East Los Angeles soccer coach with molesting a 15-year-old player as detectives investigate allegations made by a second teenager against the longtime coach, authorities said.
Javier Arrioja, 48, of East Los Angeles pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four counts of lewd acts on a minor and one count of sending harmful matter, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s and court officials said.
The alleged molestations took place between May and November of 2011.
He was arrested without incident Feb. 17 at his home in the 100 block of Townsend Avenue in East Los Angeles, Sgt. Peter Hahn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said.
“The lewd acts were alleged to have occurred in the suspect’s car in Obregon Park in East Los Angeles, and in the coach’s home in East Los Angeles,” the sergeant added.
Arrioja coaches soccer for a private soccer club called, “Missioneros,” for boys under 17, according to investigators.
“He has coached boys and girls soccer teams in the Los Angeles area for over 15 years,” Hahn said.
The investigation revealed a second possible victim, a 14-year-old boy, “who reported similar lewd acts committed by the suspect,” Hahn said. “The second case is still under investigation.”
According to county booking records, Arrioja was being held without bail due to a hold placed on him by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and was next scheduled to appear in East Los Angeles Superior Court for a preliminary hearing March 5.
“Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau detectives believe it is possible there are additional victims and urge anyone who may have been a victim to contact investigators,” Hahn said. Anyone with information is asked to contact Special Victims Bureau detectives by calling 877-710-5273 or sending an e-mail to specialvictims@lasd.org.
Tips can also be left anonymously be calling L.A. Crimestoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO of Javier Arriojo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
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UPDATED AGAIN: East LA high school teacher, Montebello resident, suspected of sex with students

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MONTEBELLO — Montebello police arrested a female Roosevelt High School Spanish teacher from Montebello late Wednesday on suspicion of carrying on sexual relationships with two boys while they were her students, authorities said.
Gabriela Cortez, 42, of Montebello was arrested about 6 p.m. Wednesday and booked on suspicion of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, according to Montebello police officials and county booking records.
Both of the victims are now adults, police said. Cortez teaches at Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles, which is operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The relationships took place between 2008 and 2010, Montebello police Lt. Luis Lopez said, while the victims were between the ages of 16 and 17.
Both former students were believed to have been involved in “long-term” relationships with the teacher, Lopez added.
One of the men came forward Feb. 15 and reported the alleged misconduct, launching an investigation, the lieutenant said.
“It appears that the first victim, it was on his mind,” Lopez said. It was not immediately clear of the arrest of six other LAUSD teachers in the past month on suspicion of molesting students played a role in his decision to come forward.
Police informed the school of the investigation the day the allegations were made, and the district “took immediate action,” removing Cortez from contact with students.
Detectives were able to corroborate the information provided by the first victim, Lopez said, and the investigation further revealed a second young man who also is believed to have been involved in a sexual relationship with Cortez.
School officials first learned of the first student’s allegation from his family on the evening of Feb. 14, said Patrick Sinclair, spokesman for the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools — a coalition of 22 LAUSD schools and the City of Los Angeles designed to turn around low-performing campuses. Roosevelt High is part of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.
Officials were prepared to place her on administrative leave the following day, “but she called in sick,” Sinclair said.
When she returned to work Thursday, she was immediately placed on administrative leave, “pending the investigation,” he added.
Once police arrested Cortez Wednesday evening, “Then we moved in full force to inform the entire school community as to what’s going on,” Sinclair said.
Parents received recorded phone calls regarding the arrest in both English and Spanish, he said, and students were sent home with bilingual letters Thursday afternoon.
A parent meeting will be held later this week, Sinclair said.
“All of the students from her classes have been pulled out and talked to,” Sinclair said. Counseling was offered as well, he said.
She has taught at Roosevelt High School since 1994, Sinclair said, and began her teaching career with the LAUSD in 1988 at Soto Street Elementary School.
According to county booking records, Cortez was released from jail Wednesday night after posting $140,000 bail.
She could not be reached for comment Thursday.
She was scheduled to appear March 22 for an arraignment in East Los Angeles Superior Court, officials added.
There was no indication that other victims were involved, Lopez said, “However, it’s always a possibility.” 
Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to call Montebello police Detective Andrade at 323-887-1255.
PHOTO of Gabriela Cortez courtesy of the Montebello Police Department.
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Shots fired during carjacking in East Valinda

EAST VALINDA – A robber fired several times into the air to force a driver to hand over his car keys Wednesday night.
Sheriff’s Lt. Raymond Enriquez said the driver wasn’t injured during the carjacking in the 400 block of Vidalia Avenue.
It was around 6 p.m when a man walked up to the driver and demanded the keys to his dark gray Toyota Camry, according to Enriquez.
When the driver refused, he said the suspect then shot into the air. The robber drove off with the Camry which has the license plate number 5TPN136.
The suspect was described as between 20 to 25, 5 feet 7 to 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 150 to 160 pounds.
- Ruby Gonzales
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