El Monte police chase ends in crash

EL MONTE — A man led El Monte police on a brief chase in a stolen car before crashing Sunday, seriously injuring one of his passenger and causing minor injuries to three other people, authorities said.
An officer spotted a car that had been reported stolen just after 2:10 p.m. driving in the area of Garvey Avenue and Mountain View Road, El Monte police Lt. Michael Goodwin said.
The driver led police on a chase for about two minutes before crashing into another car with two people inside at Maxson Road and Ramona Boulevard, the lieutenant said.
The driver continued to flee on foot but was soon captured hiding in a nearby condominium complex, Goodwin said.
Two passengers of the stolen car were hurt in the crash, he said. One was hospitalized with major injuries, while the other suffered apparently minor injuries.
Two people inside the car that was struck by the fleeing car suffered minor injuries, Goodwin said.
No further details were available as the investigation continued late Sunday afternoon.

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Pico Rivera man sentenced for wild pursuit in El Monte

EL MONTE >> A Pico Rivera man who led police on a chase through the streets of El Monte last month has been sentenced to three years in state prison, officials said Wednesday.
Parolee Gregory Patrick Flexen, 22, received the sentence Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court after pleading “no contest” to a felony charge of evading police with willful disregard for public safety, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
El Monte police arrested Flexen Sept. 8 after he led police on a pursuit during which he drove on the wrong side of the road, and at times, at excessive speeds, officials said.
He also garnered a crowd of onlookers as he drove around city streets at slow speed, flashing hand gestures that appeared to be gang signs.
The chase began at Ranchito Street and Cypress Avenue, EL Monte police Sgt. Eric Sanchez said at the time. Flexen continued driving after his tires were punctured by police spike strips, but ultimately pulled over and surrendered at Peck Road and Elliot Avenue.

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Riverside man fatally shot in El Monte identified

EL MONTE >> Coroner’s officials have released the name of a 21-year-old Riverside man who was fatally shot when two gunman opened fire on a parked car he was sitting in on an El Monte Street earlier this week.
Jose Manuel Valenzuela died at hospital shortly after Monday’s shooting, which also left another man critically wounded, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The shooting took place shortly after midnight in a residential cul-de-sac in the 2600 block of Sastre Avenue, just north of Fern Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Lt. David Coleman of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said Valenzuela and the surviving victim, a 29-year-old El Monte man, were rear passengers in a parked car with two other occupants when the attackers approached in another car.
Two gunmen exited the approaching car and immediately began shooting into the rear of the victims’ car, Coleman said.
No description of the shooters was available, nor was a description of their car, which investigators said was last seen speeding south on Sastre Avenue.
The victims’ companions drove them to Greater Community Hospital in South El Monte, Coleman said.
Valenzuela succumbed to his injuries about 12:30 p.m., Winter said. The other wounded man was hospitalized in critical condition. An update on his condition was not available.
No further details were released.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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Police plan checkpoint in El Monte Wednesday

EL MONTE — Police plan to check drivers for sobriety and valid licenses during a checkpoint late Wednesday, officials said.
The checkpoint will be held from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. at an undisclosed location within El Monte, El Monte police Officer Bryan Tromp said in a written statement.
Funding for the operation is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

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Man convicted of forcing teen to work as prostitute throughout Southland, pimping woman in El Monte

WEST COVINA >> A jury convicted an Oakland man Thursday of luring a teenage girl from home and forcing her to work as a prostitute throughout Southern California last year, as well as pimping a woman in El Monte in 2012, authorities said.
Rufus McNeely, 37, faces up to 30 years to life in prison when he returned to West Covina Superior Court for sentencing Sept. 17, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
He will also be required to registers as a sex offender for the rest of his life, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding McNeely guilty of human trafficking of a minor for a sex act, pandering by procuring a minor over the age of 16 and pimping, officials said.
“In September 2013, the defendant met a 16-year-old girl and lured her from her home in Oakland,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement. “As they drove through California, McNeely made the teenage girl prostitute in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura County.”
The girl eventually called authorities, and a multi-agency law enforcement task force arrested McNeely Oct. 2, 2013, in Claremont, according to district attorney’s officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
When McNeely was arrested, he was already the subject of an El Monte Police Department investigation for pimping a woman in that city in 2012, district attorney’s officials said.
“Based on McNeely’s involvement with the teen and new evidence, officials had enough to also charge him in connection with the previous crime,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Prior to his conviction, McNeely had been held in lieu of $325,000 bail, records show.
The Claremont and El Monte police departments took part in the investigation, along with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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El Monte Flores gang members indicted on conspiracy, drug trafficking, other charges

LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities Wednesday arrested 18 El Monte Flores gang members and associates who used the former offices of the Boys & Girls Club as their hangout.
The 18 were among 41 people indicted by a federal grand jury last week on charges that include conspiracy, murder, drug trafficking, money laundering, and weapons violations.
Federal officials said the gang conducted illegal activities out of the Boys & Girls Club of America/San Gabriel Valley Club facilities on Mountain View Road.
“They used the club as a place where they would openly sell drugs and collect taxes,” said Vijay Rathi, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The gang also used the club, which recently held community meetings and hosted a car wash fundraiser for a Flores member who was murdered.
“It is very disturbing that a facility that is supposed to give boys and girls protection and a safe place could be used for that,” Mayor Andrew Quintero said.
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Pilot and passenger walk away from hard landing at El Monte Airport

EL MONTE — A pilot and passenger walked away unscathed Thursday after making an emergency landing without a landing gear at El Monte Airport, authorities said.
Officials received word just before 7 p.m. that a small Cessna airplane with two people on board was in trouble as it approached El monte Airport, 4233 Santa Anita Ave., Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Ed Pickett said.
“Their landing gear failed, so they called an emergency,” Pickett said.
Firefighters rushed to the airport and prepared for the worst. But the plane touched down without injury to the pilot or passenger, despite the lack of a landing gear.
“It skidded off the runway. Everybody walked away,” Pickett said. The aircraft was damaged, but the extent of the damage was not clear.

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More than 100 citations issued at El Monte car enthusiasts’ meet

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EL MONTE >> A task force targeting auto theft and street racing issued more than 100 citations late Wednesday at a meeting of car enthusiasts along Valley Boulevard in El Monte, officials said.
Dozens of police officers, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and other law enforcement officials took part in the enforcement operation, which took place Wednesday night at a shopping center parking lot along Valley Boulevard, just south of the 10 Freeway, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said.
‘At least 115 vehicle citations were issued,” Luna said. “There were over 135 vehicle inspections done.”
The majority of tickets were issued for illegal vehicle modifications, such as exhaust systems, improper lighting and nitrous oxide boosters, Luna said.
A man was arrested after officials discovered the engine in his car was stolen, he said.
The operation was carried out in response to complaints emanating from the parking lot, which police said has recently become popular with car enthusiasts. It was spearheaded by the multi-agency Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Prevention.
“For the past several weeks, groups of people have congregated there on Wednesday nights,” Luna said. “The vehicles are modified and have several changes to them for the purpose of racing.”
Complaints include revving engines, as well as drinking and drug use, the sergeant said.

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El Monte woman, Pico Rivera woman accused of defrauding immigrants

Federal authorities arrested an El Monte woman and Pico Rivera woman Thursday on suspicion of filing fraudulent green card applications on behalf of immigrants, bilking some of them out of their life savings, officials said.
Claudia Arreola, 35, of El Monte, who own Los Angeles-based California Immigration Services, and her employee, 35-year-old Leticia Gutierrez of Pico Rivera, were taken into custody by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations division, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
A federal grand jury Tuesday indicted the women on six fraud-related counts, officials said.
Six victims are named in the indictment, however investigators suspect there are likely dozens more.
The defendants charged undocumented immigrants who were married to U.S. citizens as much as $24,000, claiming to be able to help them secure legal immigration status, Mrozek said. But they went on to submit fraudulent documents, such as fraudulent I-94 cards stating the clients, who came to the U.S. illegally, were in the country legally on visitors’ visas.
“Subsequently, investigators say when several of the foreign nationals sought refunds after they failed to receive ‘green cards,’ the defendants allegedly threatened to contact authorities and have the aliens deported,” according to Mrozek.
“Fraud scams run by so-called notarios threaten the integrity of the immigration process and offer false hope to desperate people,’ U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said. “The two women in this case victimized immigrants for years by giving the false impression that they could fix immigration problems.”
Additionally, “at least some of the victims in this case could have obtained green cards legally,” Special Agent in Charge for HSI in Los Angeles Clause Arnold said. “Instead, they placed their trust and, in many cases, their life savings, in the hands of individuals who were focused on enriching themselves rather than helping hopeful immigrants realize the American dream.”
The similarity between the acronym for Arreola’s business, CIS, and that of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, “was no coincidence,” Mrozek added. Investigators found that money orders and cashiers checks issued to USCIS had been deposited into a bank account controlled by Arreola and Gutierrez.
The two defendants, among others, previously came under federal scrutiny in 2003 when they were sued by the government for allegedly providing immigration services in violation of California law, officials said. Under a settlement, they agreed not to engage in any illegal immigration consulting services.
They opened California Immigration Services in 2006.
If convicted as charged, Arreola and Gutierrez could each face up to 60 years in federal prison. They were scheduled to be arraigned Monday in federal court in Los Angeles.

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UPDATED: Whittier man killed in El Monte motorcycle crash

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EL MONTE — A motorcyclist from Whittier died Friday after a collision with a minivan in El Monte Friday afternoon, officials said.
The crash took place just after 2:30 p.m. at Lower Azusa Road and La Madera Avenue, El Monte police Lt. Michael Goodwin said.
The motorcyclist, 48, suffered major injuries in the crash, he said.
Coroner’s officials withheld the man’s name Saturday pending positive identification and notification of family members, officials said.
Paramedics took the man to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead about 11 p.m., El Monte police lt. Ben Lowry said.
The cause and circumstance of the crash remained under investigation.
Officials said the driver of the minivan appeared uninjured.

PHOTO by Phillip Casteneda

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