Final suspect in La Mirada-based bank fraud ring captured

The last of 13 defendants charged in connection with an alleged La Mirada-based credit card skimming and drug trafficking ring has been captured in Orange County, authorities announced Friday.
Lloyd Luis Leyh, of Huntington Beach, was apprehended Thursday in Orange, FBI officials announced via Twitter. Details of his arrest were not available.
He joined a dozen other suspects already in custody in connection with the federal 27-count indictment announced last month.
The suspects —  many of which have ties to La Mirada- and Norwalk-area street gangs, such as the La Mirada Punks, the Carmelas and the Nazi Low Riders — are accused of using credit card skimming machines to steal the information from more than 500 credit cards, according to U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek. Many of the credit card numbers were obtained at a Huntington Beach restaurant.
Prosecutors allege the ring then made expensive purchases, then returned to items to stores for cash, netting more than $500,000.
Three of the defendants are also accused of methamphetamine trafficking, and one is charged with weapons violations.
Federal officials said the investigation has been ongoing for more than two years.

PHOTO courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice

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Duarte, Monrovia community rallies for peace in wake of shootings

Dozens of community members, including several families who have lost loved ones to violence, marched through the streets of Duarte and Monrovia on Saturday to respond to recent shootings in the area with a message of peace.
The Duarte-Monrovia Peace March, organized by the Community Mediation Team, drew demonstrators of all ages to Duarte City Hall before they made a 1.5-mile trek to the Mary Wilcox the Mary Youth Center in Monrovia. Marchers wore white clothing and carried signs reading, “Peace & Unity,” and “Love Conquers Hate.”
Monrovia police Chaplain Steve Martinez had a message for the family members of slain loved ones who took part in the event
“I know it’s been difficult for you. It could have weeks ago, months ago, years ago, but you’re here today, and we are here to support you, and show love to your family and to honor the memory of the person that you lost and that you still love,” he said.
“And this is also a sign to show people in the community that we want to do something. We want to make a change.”
The Monrovia-Duarte community has seen four people killed and four others wounded in a space of at least eight shootings reported since January.
Among them was 39-year-old Kirinda Morehead of Duarte, who was shot to death on Feb. 18 as he arrived home with his fiancee and two young children in the 2300 block of Bashor Street.
“As he got out of his truck, someone shot him 12 times,” said Diane Myrick, the mother of Morehead’s fiancee. Though the couple was not yet married, she said she already thought of Morehead as her son-in-law.
“He was a hard-working, loving, family-loving, Christian man who did not deserve to be gunned down in the street like that in front of his children and his fiancee,” she said.
“All we can do now is just hope and pray that the person who perpetrated this act this act upon this family (is caught),” Myrick said.
“And we just want to thank the city of Duarte for all that you’re doing to ensure that the these streets are safe,” she said. In 25 years living in the area, “I’ve never experienced anything like we have in the past few months.”
“It’s a struggle day-by-day,” Myrick said. “These shooters just pull up, and they have no clue what they’re leaving behind. No clue. But God is able, and we’ll get through this together.”
The family of 18-year-old Oscar Garcia, who was shot to death in his hometown of Monrovia on April 22, carried pictures of the slain Canyon Oaks High School as they marched.
Garcia was visiting with friends in a residential garage in the 100 block of West Cypress Street while visiting friends when an attacker opened fire on the group of teens. Garcia was mortally wounded and another teenage boy was seriously injured in the shooting, but survived. Investigators suspect the shooter was looking someone else when he encountered and shot the teens.
“Without any though, he just went ahead and shot my brother,” David Garcia said. “He was a good kid.”
Garcia was an avid skateboarder who loved spending time at the Monrovia Skate Park, family members said.
To honor Garcia’s memory, loved ones have begun circulating a petition to formally rename the park after him. The petition is available online at www.change.org/p/the-community-of-monrovia-naming-the-skatepark-after-oscar-garcia.
The family of 18-year-old Malcolm Mency of Duarte also added their voices to the march.
Mency, who had just become a father, was shot to death at Broderick and Felberg avenues, in an unincorporated county area between Duarte and Monrovia, as he walked home from work on Dec. 22.
“I have in my heart a long list of families impacted that have not made the headlines,” said CMT Co-Chair and former Duarte Mayor Lois Gaston, who hosted the event.
Representatives from numerous local churches, organizations and government agencies took part in the assembly.
Capt. David Flores of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Temple Station, which patrols Duarte and nearby unincorporated county areas, said he was glad to see the strong show of community involvement.
“My heart goes out to all of you who have lost someone or know someone who was lost,” he said.
“It’s good that we’re here,” the captain added. “This comes down to citizenship and making a stand for what’s right and coming together for the community, so I’m so happy to see everyone here. When the community comes together and we partner together, good work can be done. And truly this a great step in that direction.”

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Gang members get life in prison for Christmas Day murder of Pasadena youth coach

PASADENA >> Two gang members will spend the rest of their lives in prison cells for fatally shooting a Pasadena community coach and sheriff’s department employee on Christmas Day, 2012, a judge declared Friday.
At their sentencing in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Jerron Donald Harris, 29, of Pasadena and Larry Darnell Bishop, 24, of Chino each received sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Dec. 25, 2012, murder of 49-year-old Victor J. McClinton of Pasadena, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said in a written statement.
McClinton was walking with a friend in the 1900 block of Newport Avenue about a 11 a.m. when he became caught in gang crossfire.
The killers opened fire on a rival gang member, who was wounded in the shooting, according to Pasadena police officials and prosecutors. McClinton, who was struck by an errant bullet from the gang-related attack, succumbed to his injuries at a hospital.
McClinton was a father of two who worked as a law enforcement technician for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and founded the Brotherhood Community Youth Sports League in Pasadena.
Following a mistrial in 2015, and a 15-day jury deliberation process at the conclusion of their second trial in 2015, a jury convicted Harris and Bishop of first-degree murder, according to district attorney’s office spokesman Ricardo Santiago.
The jury also found true the special circumstances that the killing was gang related and that the shots were fired from a moving vehicle, he said. The jury also found true the allegation that Harris personally used a firearm in the crime, but did not find true the allegation that Bishop also fired a gun in the shooting.
Jurors also convicted Harris of two counts of shooting at an inhabited dwelling and one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, Risling said.
The special allegations made the defendants eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors did not seek capital punishment in the case.

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Police release suspect sketch in Pasadena double-fatal shooting targeting previous victim’s vigil

PASADENA >> Police released a composite sketch of one of four men sought in connection with a January shooting that left two men dead and two other victims wounded during a vigil for a previous homicide victim in Pasadena.
Antoine Dewayne Sutphen Jr. and Ormani Dajan Duncan, both 24 and from Pasadena, died in the barrage of gunfire that erupted just before midnight on Jan. 6 at Fair Oaks Avenue and Claremont Street, according to Pasadena police and Los Angeles County coroner’s officials.
The victims had gathered for a vigil in memory of 25-year-old Brandon Douglas of Pasadena, who was gunned down on the same corner on Dec. 22.
The shooting involved four attackers, according to Pasadena police Lt. Jesse Carrillo. Investigators received conflicting reports of whether the men fired from inside a passing vehicle or exited their car before opening fire.
Police released descriptions of the suspect earlier this week in hopes of generating tips from the public, the lieutenant said. The plan worked.
“Since our most recent request for assistance, witnesses have come forward and provided further information, resulting in a composite sketch of one suspect,” Carrillo said.
Witnesses have described the killers as four black men. One was 20 to 25 years old, of dark complexion, 6 feet to 6 feet 2 inches tall, between 210 and 220 pounds, police said.
The other three suspects were all described as 25 to 30 years old. One was 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall and 240 to 250 pounds and of dark complexion. The third was 5 feet 9 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighing 210 to 220 pounds and of medium complexion. The final suspect was 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 1 inch tall, 180 to 190 pounds and of light complexion.
No description of the attackers’ car was available.
Investigators hoped more witnesses are yet to come forward with vital information that may help them solve the double-slaying, Carrillo said.
In addition to the two Pasadena man who lost their lives in the Jan. 6 shooting, a 24-year-old woman was critically injured and a 25-year-old man suffered non-life-threatening wounds.
The bloodshed continued the following afternoon, when another shooting erupted at the same street corner, police said. A 25-year-old man was shot in the thigh.
Investigators have said it appears the shooting, as well as others in the region since, are the result of an escalating rivalry between gangs in the Pasadena, Monrovia, Duarte and Pomona areas.
Anyone with information can reach Pasadena police homicide detectives at 626-744-4511. The department can be reached 24 hours a day at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

SKETCH courtesy of the Pasadena Police Department/Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. PHOTO: Outside Kings Villages in Pasadena a candle is lit on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017 by friends of Ormoni Duncan who was fatally shot along with Antoine Sutphen, Jr., in a shooting that also left two other victims wounded on Friday night. The victims were headed to a vigil for Brandon Douglas who was killed on Dec. 22, 2016. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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Altadena man recaptured after mistaken jail release sentenced for 2011 Pasadena murder

PASADENA >> A man who fatally shot another man in Pasadena in 2011, and then was mistakenly released from jail while awaiting trial before being recaptured in Nevada, received a sentence of more than seven decades in prison this week, officials said.
Steven Lawrence Wright, 38, began serving his 75-year-to-life state prison term Monday following his sentencing in the Burbank Branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago.
A jury convicted him in November of murder for the Jan 19, 2011, fatal shooting of Donnell Taylor of Pasadena in the 1700 block of Summit Avenue. He was also convicted of attempted murder in December of 2015 for another attack that took place on March 15, 2011, according to court records.
Co-defendant Vernon Fisher, 44, of Altadena, pleaded “no contest” in November to a manslaughter charge for Taylor’s slaying, court records show. He was subsequently sentenced to 82 years to life in state prison.
Police alleged both Wright and Fisher were members of the Altadena Blocc Crips, though Taylor was not believed to be a gang member.
Officials at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not return requests for information on the case.
As Wright was awaiting trial for Taylor’s murder when he was mistakenly set free on Jan. 30, 2016, due to a paperwork error, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and court officials.
After refusing to cooperate as a witness in another trial, a judge held Wright in contempt and sent him to jail for five days.
But paperwork submitted by the court indicated Wright was to be released outright once he’d served his time for contempt of court, sheriff’s Commander Keith Swensson said at the time. Sheriff’s officials failed to catch the error and released Wright from custody, despite the pending murder case.
He remained a fugitive for nine days until he was found and recaptured at a motel in Boulder City, Nevada, on Feb. 8, 2016.
Wright’s case was unusual, but not entirely unique.
Another killer was also mistakenly released from Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles, administered by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department just over three years earlier.
Johnny Mata of El Monte was awaiting trial for the murder for the Christmas Eve 2010 fatal shooting of David Anthony Deanda, 34, of Baldwin Park, on Christmas Eve, 2010, as well as a second nonfatal shooting in Baldwin Park 2012, when he was mistakenly released from custody.
Mata was recaptured a little over a year later in Mexico. He has since been sentenced to life, plus 111 years, in state prison.

PHOTO: Steven L. Wright (Courtesy)

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Gang member charged in slaying of Whittier police officer, cousin

WHITTIER >> Prosecutors filed capital murder and other charges Wednesday against a gang member and probationer accused of killing one Whittier police officer and wounding another last month after gunning down his cousin in East Los Angeles, authorities said.
Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles faces two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of carjacking and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the shootings, which took place on the morning of Feb. 20 in East Los Angeles and in Whittier, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling.
Mejia could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer, the murder of his cousin, Roy Torres, the wounding of Whittier officer Patrick Hazell, as well as the carjacking of his cousin and the alleged weapons violation, officials said.
“A decision on whether to seek capital punishment will me made at a later date,” Risling said in a written statement.
Mejia, who was shot and wounded himself by police before being apprehended, was scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing Thursday in the Bellflower branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Risling said. But it was unclear if his medical condition would force the hearing to be postponed.
Mejia has remained hospitalized in a jail ward since the shooting, records show. He was immediately sentenced to a 10-day “flash incarceration” for violating the terms of his probation under the terms of AB 109 pending the filing of charges in connection with the deadly shootings. The 10-day, automatic sentence is set to expire Thursday.
Mejia first shot and killed Torres inside the converted garage he was using as a bedroom at his home in East Los Angeles, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. Mejia then stole his slain cousin’s car and made his way to Whittier.
A little under three hours later, Mejia was involved in a minor traffic collision with two other motorists at Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, investigators said.
“Police responded to the crash and when they ordered Mejia to get out of his car the defendant is accused of pulling out a semi-automatic handgun and firing at two officers,” Risling said. Boyer was killed and Hazell was also wounded. Hazell has since been released from the hospital and is continuing his recovery at home.
Mejia has prior felony convictions for robbery in 2010 and auto theft in 2014, Risling said.
Since being released from custody for the auto theft conviction in April of 2016, Mejia was arrested five times for probation violations, records show. Each time, he received a 9- or 10-day “flash incarceration” before being turned loose again.
The case has prompted outrage from law enforcement and questions from politicians and community members over recent efforts to empty California’s overpopulated prisons, such as AB 109, also knows as the Public Safety Realignment of 2011, and Proposition 47 of 2014, which reduced some felony crimes to misdemeanors.
Memorial services for Boyer are scheduled Thursday evening and Friday morning.
Boyer, who was 53, was a a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department. He is the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty since 1979.
A public viewing will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Whittier Area Community Church, 8100 Colima Road in Whittier.
The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Calvary Chapel Downey, 12808 Woodruff Ave. in Downey, followed immediately by a procession and graveside ceremony as Rose Hills Memorial Park, 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier.

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Suspect in deadly Whittier police shootout still in ICU, surviving officer released from hospital

Members of the community place flowers in memory of slain Whittier Police officer Keith Boyer at the Whittier Police Department’s Police Officer Memorial in Whittier, Calif. on Tuesday February 21, 2017. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News/SCNG)

WHITTIER >> The gang member accused of killing a Whittier police officer and another man on Monday, as well as wounding another police officer, remained hospitalized in a intensive care unit Wednesday as detectives continued gathering evidence and the community continued mourning and seeking answers.
Investigators were yet to interview Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles, as he continued receiving treatment for a gunshot wound to the back sustained in Monday morning’s gunfight with the Whittier, Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau said. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.
The tight-knit Whittier community has rallied around the family of Officer Keith Boyer, a 53-year-old Whittier resident, 28-year lawman, father, grandfather and classic rock drummer.
Officer Patrick Hazell, who was wounded in the abdomen in the shootout, was released from the hospital and continuing his recovery at home, Corina said. His father said the wounded officer did not wish to comment at this time.
Mejia, a documented gang member who was on felony probation, or “Post-Release Community Supervision,” under the terms of AB 109, is also accused of gunning down his cousin about 5:30 a.m. in the 1400 block of Volney Drive in East Los Angeles, less than three hours before the violent encounter with police in Whittier.
Family members said Mejia showed up the Torres home and confronted Torres inside the converted garage the victim used as his bedroom.
The men possibly became involved in an argument prior to the shooting, relatives said. Following the shooting, Mejia allegedly fled in Torres car, which he soon crashed in Whittier.
An autopsy determined Torres died from a single gunshot wound to the head, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said. The death was ruled a homicide.
No further details of the East Los Angeles slaying, including a motive, have not been released.Mejia was driving a stolen car when became involved in a minor crash with two other vehicles at Colima Road and Mar Vista Avenue about 8 a.m., Corina said.
Police arrive at the scene after the other drivers had helped Mejia push the car he was driving to the side of the road.
“They asked him to get out of the car. That’s when the shooting occurred,” Corina said.
Mejia suddenly drew a semi-automatic handgun and opened fire, striking both officers.
One of the officer managed to return fire and wound Mejia, who was taken into custody at the scene by fellow officers, officials said.
It was unclear which of the officers wounded the suspect. Corina declined to discuss whether one, or both, of the officers fired their weapons.
Mejia’s gun was recovered at the scene, Corina said.
The involved officers were not wearing body camera, and Corina said he was not aware of any video recordings of the deadly encounter between Mejia and Whittier police.
Mejia was expected to be charged in connection with the case once he’s out of the hospital, the lieutenant said.
Mejia had prior convictions for robbery, and most recently, auto theft, officials said.
He as been re-arrested for probation violations five times since being released from prison for the auto theft conviction, each time resulting in 9- or 10-day “flash incarcerations,” under the terms of AB 109, also known as the “California Public Safety Realignment” of 2011, records show.
Details regarding the circumstances of each arrest were not available, however none resulted in the filing of a new criminal case.
At least one of the arrests was for possession of methamphetamine, Corina said.
Possession of methamphetamine had traditionally been a felony in California, punishable by a year or more in prison, but was reduced to a misdemeanor by Proposition 47, passed by California voters in 2014.
Mejia’s criminal record has raised concerns of law enforcement officers, politicians and others, who are questioning whether Mejia should have been behind bars, rather than out on the street, on Monday.
A documented gang member, and an apparently proud one, Mejia bears the letters “W” and “G” tattooed prominently across his face in capital letters. The same abbreviation, which stands for an East Los Angeles street gang, is also tattooed on Mejia’s neck in lower-case letters.
Services for Boyer have not been announced.
The Whittier Police Department is accepting donations to benefit Boyer’s family. He’s survived by a fiancee, four children and two grandchildren.
Checks can be made out to “WPOA Benevolent Fund,” and reference account No. 488879. Contributions can be dropped off in person at the Whittier Police Department, 13200 Penn Street, in person at the Credit Union of Southern California at 8028 Greenleaf Ave. or mailed to the Credit Union of Southern California, WPOA Benevolent Fund, attention David Valencia, PO Box 200, Whittier, CA 90608.
Any witnesses, or anyone with information, regarding Monday’s incident is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

PHOTO of Michael C. Mejia courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departement

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Man wounded in Pico Rivera drive-by shooting


PICO RIVERA >> A man showed up at a hospital with gunshot wounds after a drive-by shooting outside a Pico Rivera liquor store on Sunday afternoon, officials said.
The shooting took place about 4:45 p.m. at Whittier Boulevard and Orange Street, in front of the Pico Market, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
“The suspects pulled up in the intersection and shot north into the liquor store parking lot,” he said.
Deputies did not immediately find any victims at the scene, and potential witnesses appeared uncooperative.
As the investigation continued, a known gang member in his 40s arrived at a Montebello emergency room with a gunshot wound to his leg, the lieutenant said. The injury was not considered life-threatening.
The attackers were described only as two Latino men in a blue Volkswagen, which was last seen heading west on Whittier Boulevard.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station at 562-949-2421. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Azusa gang member, woman arrested in Covina with stockpile of drugs

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COVINA >> Police jailed an Azusa gang member late Friday after he ran from a traffic stop with large amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine and concentrated cannabis, as well as other people identifying documents, officials said.
Steven Anthony Quintana, 42, of Azusa, who was already on felony probation for previous robbery conviction under the terms of AB 109, was ultimately booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales, possession of identity theft-related materials and resisting arrest, according to Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Quintana’s passenger, 37-year-old Darlene Denise Martinez, whose hometown was unclear, was booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales and possession of identity-theft related materials.
An officer first tried to pull Quintana over for a traffic violation about 6:30 p.m., Covina police Sgt. Antonio Zavala said.
After a delay, Quintana pulled over in the 5300 block of Cedarglen Drive, where he ran from the car, the sergeant said.
A police helicopter which was already overhead directed officers on the ground to Quintana, who was found in the area and arrested without a struggle, Zavala said.
Quintana ditched his jacket while running from police, he said. Inside the jacket, police found 46 grams of methamphetamine, seven grams of cocaine and 32 grams of concentrated cannabis. Inside the car, police also found identifying documents in the names of other people.
Quintana and Martinez were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail each pending their initial court appearances, records show.

BOOKING PHOTOS of Steven Quintana and Darlene Martinez courtesy of the Covina Police Department.

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Two men fatally shot at Pasadena vigil identified

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PASADENA >> Authorities have identified two Pasadena men who were shot to death while gathered at a vigil for another recent homicide victim in a suspected gang-related attack that also left two other people wounded late Friday.
Antoine Dewayne Sutphen Jr. and Ormani Dajan Duncan, both 24 and from Pasadena, died following the late-night shooting near Fair Oaks Avenue and Claremont Street, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
They were gathered at a vigil for another Pasadena man gunned down on the same spot on Dec. 22 when gunfire erupted from a passing car, Pasadena police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
A woman was also critically wounded in the shooting, and a man suffered a non-life-threatening injuries.
Hours later, gunfire again rang out on near the same corner about 5 p.m. Saturday, where a 25-year-old Pasadena man suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh, Goodman said.
A lack of cooperative witnesses in all of the shootings left investigators with no solid suspect description, police said.
The spate of violence was believed to be gang-related, Lt. Vasken Gourdikian said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Pasadena police at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO by James Carbone

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