LOS ANGELES >> A doctor from Covina pleaded not guilty to last week in a 31-count federal drug trafficking case that could land him more than 300 years in prison, authorities said.
Dr. Daniel Cham, 47, entered his plea Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a written statement. He posted a $140,000 bond and was ordered to serve home detention pending trial, scheduled for Dec. 16. He is prohibited from practicing medicine in the meantime.
Federal agents arrested Cham Wednesday at his Covina home, officials said. The doctor operated medical offices in La Puente and Artesia.
A federal grand jury returned a 31-count indictment against the doctor in October, however it remained sealed until Cham was arrested.
The indictment alleges Cham distributed powerful painkillers and other drugs to patients, including an undercover investigator, who had no legitimate medical need for them.
Anthony Williams, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Los Angeles Field Office, said federal authorities take a tough stance against doctors who cross into drug dealing.
“Along with our law enforcement partners, we continue to aggressively target medical professionals who act as drug traffickers cloaked in a white lab coat,” Williams said.
If convicted of all 31 counts — which included drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud and making false statements to federal authorities — Cham faces up to 339 years behind bars, according to the DOJ.
“Unscrupulous doctors who prescribe controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose are simply fueling a black market of narcotics,” Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said. “These doctors are the same as street dealers who face lengthy sentences in federal prison.”
The primary drugs illegally distributed by Cham include oxycodone, also known as OxyContin; hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin or Norco; alprazolam, also known as Xanax; and carisprodol, also known as Soma, officials said.
Cham often saw patients in the middle of the night on weekends, but post-dated prescriptions to make it appear they had been written during the week, according to the DOJ statement.
“In the year that ended in March 2014, Chan issued more than 5,500 prescriptions for controlled substances,” the statement said. “…and he issued more than 42,000 such prescriptions since July 2010.”
An undercover investigator visited Cham’s La Puente office three times and obtained prescriptions for powerful drugs in exchange for $200 to $300 in cash or money orders, prosecutors allege.
Cham issued the prescriptions even though the undercover agent told him he had been, “drunk and high while receiving controlled substance prescriptions,” according to the DOJ statement.
“On another occasion, Cham prescribed oxycodone even though the undercover law enforcement officer presented, in lieu of photo identification, a written notice that his license had been suspended for driving under the influence,” the statement continued.
DIAMOND BAR >> A fiery crash blamed on a drunken driver sent five people to the hospital early Sunday, including a woman and a boy who suffered major injuries, authorities said.
The California Highway Patrol received reports of a crash between a 2003 Toyota Camry and a 2010 Kia Forte about 3:10 a.m. on the northbound 57 Freeway just north of Diamond Bar Boulevard, CHP Sgt. Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh said in a written statement.
The Kia was stopped along the right shoulder of the freeway prior the crash, she said. A 29-year-old woman was at the wheel, along with a 24-year-old woman, a boy of unknown age and a man of unknown age riding as passengers. All four occupants of the Kia were Apple Valley residents, however the relationship among them was unclear.
The boy and a man who were passengers in the Kia suffered major injuries and were flown to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment, Van Valkenburgh said. Paramedics took the woman who was driving the Kia, as well as the second woman riding as a passenger, to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center with injuries described as minor to moderate.
Edgar Rodriguez, 26, of Covina, is suspected of being drunk as he drove his Toyota Camry up the 57 Freeway approaching the stopped Kia, Van Valkenburgh said.
“His vehicle drifted onto the right shoulder and rear-ended the Kia,” she said.
The impact sent the Kia spinning, and it ultimately came to a rest blocking the two right-hand lanes, officials said.
The Toyota continued forward along the sound wall along the right side of the freeway before coming to a rest.
“Shortly after (Rodriguez) escaped from his vehicle, is caught fire and became engulfed in flames,” Van Valkenburgh said. He was treated for “moderate” injuries including a broken wrist and was expected to be booked on suspicion of felony drunken driving.
Officials shut down all northbound lanes of the freeway until about 4:10 a.m., at which time the HOV lane was opened for traffic, according to the CHP. All traffic lanes were cleared shortly before 5 a.m.
Any witnesses to the crash were asked to contact Officer Dockweiler of the Baldwin Park office of the CHP at 626-338-1164.
COVINA >> Covina police officers arrested a man early Friday after he was found in possession of a check issued to a Covina police officer who died in an on-duty motorcycle crash last week, officials said.
Officers were on patrol shortly before 1:30 a.m. in the area of Citrus Avenue and Puente Street when they encountered William Michael Pruitt, 36, of Huntington Beach, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
He was walking near the intersection where Covina police Officer Jordan Corder, 28, was killed Sept. 30 when his motorcycle collided with an SUV.
Pruitt consented to a search, during which officers found he was carrying a check written to someone else, Peterson said.
It was a reimbursement check issued last month by the city of Covina to Officer Corder, the sergeant said.
It was unclear exactly how he came to possess the check, which was in the amount of a little more than $200.
Pruitt initially told police the check belonged to a friend of his who lives in Hollywood, according to Peterson.
After being detained and questioned further, “He admitted he didn’t know the person,” Peterson said.
Pruitt then told officers he found the check along Azusa Avenue.
“We really don’t know at this point where it came from,” Peterson said.
Officers arrested Pruitt on suspicion of possession of a completed check with intent to defraud, Peterson said.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Pruitt was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail at the Covina Police Department jail pending arraignment, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
COVINA >> The funeral procession for a fallen Covina police officer will detour through Downtown Covina Tuesday to give community members a chance bid farewell to the officer, and to give Jordan Corder one last visit through the town where he grew up, officials said.
Corder, 28, of Fontana, died Sept. 30 when his patrol motorcycle collided with a civilian SUV on Citrus Avenue at Puente Street, Covina police officials said. The seven-year department veteran grew up in Covina, where his father served as a police officer for three decades, ultimately retiring with the rank of captain.
Following a viewing scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at Custer Christiansen Mortuary in Citrus Avenue, the a funeral for the 28-year-old Fontana resident will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Pomona First Baptist Church, Covina police officials said.
Immediately afterward, a massive procession expected to include hundreds of emergency vehicles will take part in a procession heading to the burial site at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Covina.
Since Corder’s death, businesses throughout Downtown Covina have begin displaying blue ribbons in solidarity with the department.
Corder’s funeral procession will pass through Downtown Covina, and residents are invited to pay their respects along the route, Covina police Lt. Tim Doonan said.
The procession is expected to make it’s way east on Badillo Street, from Azusa Avenue to Grand Avenue, between noon and 1 p.m. Tuesday, Doonan said.
COVINA >> Services have been scheduled for a Covina police officer killed in an on-duty motorcycle crash earlier this week.
Officer Jordan Corder, 28, of Fontana died Tuesday afternoon after his motorcycle collided with an SUV at Citrus Avenue and Puente Street, Covina police officials said.
Following an outpouring of support from the community since the fatal crash, fellow officers escorted Corder’s body from the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner to a Glendora mortuary in advance of services, Covina police Sgt. Greg Peterson.
A viewing will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at Custer Christiansen Mortuary, 124 S. Citrus Ave. in Covina, police officials said.
Corder’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Pomona First Baptist Church, 601 N. Garey Ave. in Pomona. Immediately following, a procession will head to Forest Lawn Memorial Park, 21300 E. Via Verde Street in Covina for a graveside service with full police honors. A reception will follow.
Corder was heading south on Citrus Avenue when he collided with an SUV that was making a left turn from northbound Citrus Avenue onto Puente Street, officials said.
The driver of the SUV, a 75-year-old Covina woman, remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators, police said.
The cause and circumstances of the crash remained under investigation. Officials were initially unable to recover any data from a camera mounted on the motorcycle.
PHOTO courtesy of the Covina Police Department
COVINA >> An Azusa man was allegedly drunk when he struck two pedestrians, then another car, in two separate hit-and-run crashes late Saturday.
Police booked Maximo Miguel Sarco, 37, on suspicion of felony drunken driving, felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor hit-and-run after he was ultimately arrested about following the series of crashes, which began about 9:45 p.m., Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
A 17-year-old West Covina girl and 19-year-old Covina woman were crossing Citrus Street at Puente Street, within a crosswalk, when they were struck by a Ford Mustang that had run a red light on southbound Citrus Street, the sergeant said.
The young women were hospitalized with injuries not believed to be life-threatening, Peterson said. Their exact conditions were unclear.
But the driver of the Mustang, later identified as Sarco, continued driving after striking the pedestrians, he said.
Minutes later, Sarco rear-ended a car being driven by a Hacienda Heights man at Citrus Street and Garvey Avenue South in West Covina, Peterson said. Again, Sarco fled the scene, but the driver of the car he crashed into followed him and called the police.
The Hacienda Heights man followed the Mustang to the 500 block of South Montezuma Way in West Covina, where he parked in a driveway and went inside a house.
Police found Sarco inside the home, which was determined to be that of his in-laws, Peterson said. Officers arrested him without a struggle, and he was treated for minor injuries suffered in the second crash prior to booking.
Sarco was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
WEST COVINA >> Dozens of San Gabriel Valley first responders took part in a large-scale active shooter training scenario simulating a terrorist attack on a West Covina shopping mall Sunday.
Six local law enforcement agencies, federal officials and firefighters took part in the mock terror attack at the Plaza West Covina shopping mall, which was held early in the morning, before mall business opened for the day.
“We take the safety of our visitors and our residents very seriously,” West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said. “There have been several incidents that have happened on the east coast — one happened last week — that certainly have raised our awareness that we need to be prepared. And in my view, we need to be ready for something and hope it never happens, (rather) than to respond to something we weren’t prepared for.”
A blast from a flash-bang grenade intended to simulate a bomb detonation signalled the beginning of the intensive drill at the mall, where three West Covina police officers played the role of heavily armed gunmen bent on creating carnage. Within minutes, the sounds of simulated gunshots echoed through the mall as police engaged the mock terrorists in a gunfight.
Two of the pseudo suspects carried assault rifles, while the third carried a shotgun.
Participating first responders were not told ahead of time what they would be facing in the drill, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez explained.
“Each officer involved in this has to determine how to best handle the situation,” he said.
Police simultaneously hunted for the gunmen and rescued mock victims who wore makeup to simulate injuries. Some officers carried their standard duty sidearms, while others were armed with rifles.
Patrol officers called in a SWAT team after the attack turned into a hostage situation.
Practicing a technique known as “fast-roping,” West Covina police SWAT members slid down a rope from a hovering Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter to join in the operation.
The West Covina Police Department’s recently acquired rescue vehicle, a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle acquired from the U.S. Department of Defense, was used to evacuate victims.
After a scenario that lasted about an hour, the three suspects had been killed in shoot-outs with officers. Three civilians had also been killed during the scenario, and many more wounded.
Police officers from West Covina, Covina, Baldwin Park and Irwindale police departments were joined by California Highway Patrol officers, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials, FBI agents, West Covina firefighters and mall security officials in responding to the mock attack, Lopez said. While West Covina has hosted similar training scenarios in the past, Sunday’s training session was their biggest.
About 75 law enforcement officers participated, along with about 60 volunteers playing the part of victims or bystanders, officials said. The volunteers were primarily police Explorers from the West Covina, Glendora and Ontario police departments.
“Whether this incident happens in West Covina, or happens in Irwindale or Covina, we’re familiar with working with each others’ team,” the chief said. “We might be in different uniforms, but in the end, we’re all in one uniform when it comes time to deal with a critical incident.”
After watching the exercise unfold at the mall, West Covina City Councilman Fred Sykes said he approved.
“A place this large, it’s unfathomable for us not to look at what to do in this type of situation,” he said.
The costs and planning associated with massive drill is a wise investment, as it may help save lives down the road, Sykes said.
“This is extremely important for our community,” the councilman said.
Just like in sports, he added, “The battles are won in practice.”
COVINA >> A missing, possibly suicidal Covina man being sought by police and worried family members was found safe Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The 50-year-old man disappeared about 6 p.m. Friday after he was seen walking in the 700 block of North Fenimore Avenue, Covina police Sgt. Rob Bobkiewicz said.
Friends and family members contacted police after the man failed to show up for a meeting Saturday morning, the sergeant said.
The man’s car was found parked in his driveway, Bobkiewicz said. And inside his home, a family member found what appeared to a suicide note spelling out his last wishes.
The man returned home Saturday afternoon, unharmed, as detectives were there conducting an investigation.
PASADENA >> Two weeks before a Pasadena man was set to begin his annual 450-mile charity bike ride to raise money for substance abuse recovery, his valuable elliptical bike was stolen from his garage.
And while the theft was a disappointment, 50-year-old Robin McGeough is not letting the costly setback take the air out of his tires. The 2014 Run 4 Recovery, from San Francisco to Pasadena and benefitting the Puente House sober living center in Covina, will begin as planned Oct. 1, McGeough said. He has obtained a new elliptical bicycle to complete the scheduled ride from San Francisco to Pasadena.
McGeough discovered the $2,600 black ElliptiGO bike missing from his garage in an alley between Plymouth Drive and Robinson Road Tuesday, according to McGeough and Pasadena police Lt. John Luna. It was believed to have been taken some time overnight.
No suspect information was available, Luna said. The following day, McGeough began circulating fliers in his neighborhood, explaining the bike’s purpose and asking neighbors if they had seen the stolen bike. But he also said he hoped the thief may see the flier.
“I want whoever stole my bike to be able to know that it meant something,” McGeough said. “I was a vehicle for more than just exercise.”
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COVINA >> An observant tipster helped police arrest two auto theft suspects and recover two stolen cars at a Covina parking lot Friday, officials said.
Ricardo Garcia, 41, of Azusa and Mark Joseph Munoz, 35, of Glendora, were booked on suspicion of auto theft and receiving stolen property following their arrests, which took place about 5:20 p.m. in a commercial parking lot at the corner of Azusa Avenue and San Bernardino Road, Covina police Lt. Tim Doonan said.
The incident began when a man noticed the suspects “tinkering” with a 1992 Acura Integra in the parking lot, Doonan said. When the witness noticed the men were trying to start the car using a screwdriver, he became suspicious and called police.
Both suspects fled as officers approached, the lieutenant said.
Garcia was immediately captured, Doonan said. Munoz ran into a nearby auto parts store, where he was found and arrested without a struggle.
The Acura was determined to have been stolen earlier in the day in West Covina, Doonan said.
Garcia and Munoz were found to have credit cards and other documents in the names of other people, he said. They also had documents connected to a 1994 Nissan pickup truck found parked about 50 feet away from the Acura in the parking lot.
Police soon determined the truck had been reported stolen Thursday in Covina.
Garcia and Munoz were being held in lieu of $25,000 bail at the Covina Police Department’s jail pending their initial court appearances, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.