Officials from schools in Alhambra, Los Angeles accused of ‘pay-to-stay’ immigration fraud scheme

LOS ANGELES >> Federal officials on Wednesday arrested the owner and two manager of a chain of four schools, including one in Alhambra, on charges of running a “pay-to-stay” scheme officials allege helped hundreds of foreign nationals remain in the U.S. as foreign students without attending classes.
A federal grand jury returned a 21-count indictment against the three defendants Tuesday, U.S. Department of Justice spokesoman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. The involved schools are the Likie Fashion and Technology College in Alhambra, Prodee University/Neo American Language School in Los Angeles; Walter Jay M.D. Institute, and Educational Center in Los Angeles; and the American College of Forensic Studies in Los Angeles.
“Given the implications for national security and public safety, we will move aggressively to target individuals who compromise the integrity of our nation’s immigration system out of greed and self-interest,” HSI in in Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Claude Arnold said. “Simply put, those who exploit the benefits of the student visa program can expect to get a lesson in criminal justice.”
The schools were authorized by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations to sue Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for academic and languages students, Mrozek said. The school-issued forms, known as form I-20, made students eligible to obtain F-1 student visas allowing them to remain in the United States.
The schools’ enrollees paid up to $1,800 “tuition” for six months of enrollment, Mrozek said. The schools collected as much as $6 million per year in purported tuition payments.
But HSI officials who made an unannounced visit to Prodee University’s main campus in 2011 investigators to Prodee University’s main campus found only three students attending a single English class, although records indicated more than 900 students were enrolled at the university’s two campuses, Mrozek said. Another inspection the same day as the American College of Forensic Studies turned up a single student sitting in one religion class, officials said. Federal records reflected that the school should have had more than 300 active students.
His investigators also found dozens of purported foreign students, primarily from South Korea and China, who originally entered the U.S. to attend other schools, but transferred to the Prodee Network, Mrozek said. “These students lived across the nation, indicating that they were not actually attending classes at Prodee or the other schools,” he said.
School network owner Hee Sun Shim, 51, of Beverly Hills, who is also known as Leonard Shim and Leo Shim, is charged in the indictment along with alleged co-conspirators Hyung Cham Moon, 39, of Los Angeles, also known as Steve Moon, and Eun Young Choi, 35, of Los Angeles, also known as Jamie Choi, according to the DOJ.
All three are charged with conspiring to commit immigration fraud, Mrozek said. Shim is also charged with 13 counts of use or possession of an immigration document procured by fraud, three counts of encouraging illegal residence and two counts of money laundering.
Moon and Choi are each accused of one count of use or possession of an immigration document procured by fraud.
HSI officials planned to immediately seek withdrawal of the schools’ Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification, Mrozek added.
Any students enrolled at the involved schools were advised to contact SEVP representatives at 703-603-3400 for further instructions, officials said. Information is also available online at the SEVP page of ICE’s website at www.ice.gov/sevis/whats-new.

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Off-duty Whittier police officer shoots at intruder in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES >> An off-duty Whittier police officer fired a shotgun at an intruder at his Los Angeles home late Thursday, though it was unclear if the suspect, who fled, was struck, authorities said.
The officer-involved shooting took place in the 3200 block of Military Avenue about 10 p.m. Thursday, said Sgt. John Marquez of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific Station.
“The officer was in his home, sitting in the living room when he saw a male black about 20 years old wearing dark clothing standing in his kitchen,” Marquez said.
The officer ran to another room and armed himself with a shotgun, LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery said.
“Once he was armed, he exited the side door of his residence,” the sergeant said.
The officer encountered the intruder behind the house, near the back door, he said.
“It was at that point that am officer-involved shooting occurred,” Montgomery said. It was unclear exactly what promted the officer to open fire.
The suspect ran off, officials said.
Police searched the area but were unable to find the suspect, Montgomery said.
It was unclear if the suspect was struck by the gunfire.
“No one has turned up at a hospital or medical facility with a gunshot wound as far we know,” Marquez said. “So we have no idea where the suspect is at this point.”
Immediately following the shooting, the officer checked to make sure his two roommates were okay, then dialed 9-1-1, Montgomery said.
Whittier police officials deferred comment to the LAPD.

- Staff and wire report

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UPDATED: Missing Pasadena woman found safe in Los Angeles

PASADENA >> A missing autistic woman with bipolar disorder and high blood pressure who went missing Wednesday turned up safe and sound at a Los Angeles bus stop Saturday, police said.
Authorities sought the public’s help in finding Gena Richardson, 46, after she disappeared from her home Pasadena home Wednesday afternoon. She had possibly been spotted at the Memorial Park Gold Line Station the same day.
A woman who recognized Richardson from media coverage saw her Saturday morning at a bus stop at the corner of Adams Boulevard and Figueora Street, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said. The good Samaritan flagged down a Los Angeles police officer.
Luna said Richardson was unharmed and was being reunited with her family.

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Woman hurt in alleged DUI, hit-and-run crash in West Covina dies from injuries

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WEST COVINA >> A 31-year-old Los Angeles woman who was severely injured in an alleged DUI, hit-and-run crash in west Covina last week succumbed to her injuries Thursday, authorities said.
Sherry Yu has been hospitalized in critical condition since Dec. 30, when accused drunken driver Raymond Simon Alvarado, 21, of San Bernardino ran a red light while drunk, slamming into a car Yu was riding as a passenger in, according to West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez.
Yu died from her injuries Thursday at a hospital.
Police said Alvarado blew through a red light at Azusa Avenue while speeding west on Rowland Avenue about 9:15 p.m. His Honda Civic struck the Acura Integra Yu was riding in, which was making a left turn from eastbound Rowland Avenue onto northbound Azusa Avenue.
Yu’s boyfriend, who was driving the Acura suffered non-life-threatening injuries, officials and friends said.
0101_NWS_SGT-L-DUICRASHAlvarado then tried to flee the scene on foot, but was pointed out by a witness and arrested, Lopez said.
He appeared in Pomona Superior Court Monday and pleaded not guilty to charges of DUI causing great bodily injury, driving with a blood-alcohol level greater than .08 percent causing great bodily injury, felony hit-and-run and driving without a license, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said. He was ordered back to court for a hearing Jan. 28.
Police notified prosecutors of Yu’s death for consideration of additional charges, such as vehicular manslaughter, authorities said.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Alvarado remained behind bars Thursday in lieu of $210,000 bail at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic.
West Covina police traffic investigators returned to the scene of the crash Thursday evening to take measurements and photographs as part of the ongoing investigation, Lt. Pat Cirrito said. The intersections was closed to traffic overnight.
Family and friends have set up an online fund to help cover medical and burial expenses at http://www.gofundme.com/SherryinComa.

PHOTOS: Top – Sherry Yu, 31, of Los Angeles. (courtesy) Below – Raymond Simon Alvarado, 21, of San Bernardino. (courtesy)

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UPDATED: Suspect killed in Hollywood officer-involved shooting

HOLLYWOOD >> Police shot and killed a knife-wielding suspect at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue late Friday, officials said.
Few details were initially available regarding the officer-involved shooting, which took place about 7 p.m., Los Angeles police Officer Jane Kim said.
“Officers were responding to a radio call for an assault with a deadly weapon in progress,” Kim said. “Upon their arrival, they found the suspect was armed with a weapon. That’s when the officer-involved shooting occurred.”
The suspect was taken to an area hospital in critical condition and later succumbed to his injuries, Kim said. No officers were hurt in the incident.
No further details were available.

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6 arrested during Friday’s Ferguson protests in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES >> The fourth day of Los Angeles protests over developments in Ferguson, Missouri ended with six arrests, including one for battery on a peace officer, authorities said.
Two groups of several dozen protesters each took to the streets of Los Angeles Friday afternoon and evening, one marching through Los Angeles’ Westlake District, and the other marching in Downtown Los Angeles.
No arrests took place in Downtown Los Angeles Friday, however officers arrested six people near Alvarado Street and Beverly Boulevard, LAPD Officer Jane Kim said.
One person was arrested on suspicion of committing battery on a peace officer, Kim said. Further details of the incident that led to the arrest were not available.
Five others were arrested for failing to comply with lawful police orders, she said.
The groups demonstrating Friday were signiciantly smaller than those seen earlier in the week, during which police made more than 350 arrests.

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Man accused of kidnapping, raping Monterey Park woman; victim escaped by jumping from moving car on freeway in El Monte

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MONTEREY PARK >> A task force arrested a man Tuesday in East Los Angeles whom Monterey Park police had been seeking for kidnapping, raping and assaulting his ex-girlfriend last week, authorities said.
The terrified victim may have saved her own life by jumping from a moving car on the 60 Freeway in El Monte on Oct. 28, the day after she was kidnapped at gunpoint by ex-boyfriend Benny Torres, 29, Monterey Park police Lt. Bill Cuevas said. Torres’ last listed address was in Montebello, though he was believed to have most recently been transient.
The woman, a Monterey Park resident in her 20s, was treated for serious but non-life-threatening injuries she suffered at the hands of her captor, as well as in her escape, Cuevas said.
“She bravely, by her actions, basically saved her own life.”
Prosecutors Wednesday filed 11 felony charges against Torres, according to a felony complaint filed in Alhambra Superior Court.
The charges include kidnapping, two counts of rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by a foreign object, two counts of making criminal threats, assault with a deadly weapons, assault with a firearm, burglary and false imprisonment.
The victim had recently broken up with Torres amid allegations that he had assaulted her in an incident of domestic violence in Montebello, Cuevas said.
Torres arranged to meet his ex-girlfriend on the afternoon of Oct. 27 in Los Angeles, Cuevas said.
But when she arrived, Torres pulled a handgun, got into her car and ordered her to start driving, officials said.
The attacker eventually took the wheel of the woman’s car himself and drove her to a motel in El Monte, where he held her captive overnight, the lieutenant said.
“The victim was both sexually and physically abused,” Cuevas said.
Torres ordered the woman back into her car the following morning and began driving her somewhere, police said. The woman did not know where Torres was taking her.
“The victim was in fear for her life,” Cuevas said.
As the car travelled down the 60 Freeway, near the 605 Freeway in El Monte, the woman saw an opportunity to escape.
“At one point, while they were driving, she was able to jump out of the vehicle,” Cuevas said.
It was unclear how fast the car was driving when she leapt.
A good Samaritan found the woman wandering in the area and took her to a hospital, officials said. The hospital notified authorities once they determined the woman had been the victim of an attack.
The woman suffered injuries both at the hands of Torres, as well as when she jumped from the moving car, Cuevas said. She had since been treated and released from an area hospital.
Detectives began hunting for Torres with help from the West San Gabriel Anti Crime Task Force, which is made up of officers from the Monterey Park, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Arcadia, Monrovia, El Monte police departments, as well as officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Probation, task force coordinator and Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said.
Task force members found and arrested Torres about 1:40 p.m. Tuesday at a relative’s home in the 4000 block of E. 2nd Street in East Los Angeles, according to officials and booking records. Officers arrested him without a struggle.
Torres entered no plea at an appearance Wednesday in Alhambra Superior Court, court officials said. His arraignment hearing was postponed to Nov. 24.
If convicted as charged, Torres could face life in state prison, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Torres remained behind bars Wednesday at the Monterey Park Police Department’s jail in lieu of $2.35 million bail, officials said.

PHOTO of Benny Torres, 29, courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department.

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Boy fatally struck by ice cream truck in South Los Angeles

SOUTH LOS ANGELES >> A young boy died after being struck by an ice cream truck late Wednesday, and bystanders attacked the driver at the scene, police said.
The collision took place about 7:15 p.m. in the 200 block of east 97th Street, near Wall Street, Los Angeles police Officer Muria Vanegas said.
“An ice cream truck struck the little boy, who was on a bicycle,” Vanegas said. “He was transported to a hospital in serious condition, and unfortunately, he passed away.”
The boy’s exact age was not available.
Neighbors at the scene assaulted the ice cream truck driver, who suffered apparently minor injuries, Vanegas said.
There were no initial signs of any crime on the part of the driver, she added.
Detectives from the LAPD’s South Traffic Division were handling the investigation.

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Van Nuys woman, 22, fatally struck by alleged DUI driver on Sepulveda Blvd. sidewalk

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VAN NUYS — A 22-year-old Van Nuys woman died early Sunday after an alleged drunken driver struck her as she walked along a Sepulveda Boulevard sidewalk, authorities said.
Haley Dawn Coreas died in the 12:45 a.m. crash in the 6300 block of Sepulveda Boulevard, just south if Victory Boulevard, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Betsy Magdaleno said.
The woman was walking on a sidewalk in front of a recreational vehicle rental business when she was struck by a Toyota 4Runner SUV.
“A suspected DUI vehicle traveling southbound Sepulveda, south of Victory, went off the roadway (and) collided with a pedestrian on the sidewalk,” Los Angeles police Officer Sally Madera said.
Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics pronounced Coreas dead at the scene at 1:05 a.m., Magdaleno said.
“The driver of the vehicle was taken into custody,” Madera said.
The identity of the suspected DUI driver was not available Sunday. It was unclear whether the driver was injured the crash.
The investigation was be handled by the LAPD’s Valley Traffic Division.

PHOTO by Rick McClure

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Tourist carjacked in Pasadena after meeting woman at L.A. bar

PASADENA >> A first date turned into a carjacking early Saturday after an Argentina man visiting Southern California had his rental car stolen by a woman he had just met and an accomplice, police said.
The carjacking took place just after 3 a.m. at Allen Avenue and Corson Street, Pasadena police Lt. Ed Calatayud said.
But the incident began earlier in the night, when the 31-year-old victim met a woman at a Los Angeles bar, the lieutenant said.
The man was drunk when he agreed to go for a ride with the woman, Calatayud said. She drove, due to the man’s intoxication.
The woman pulled over in Pasadena and the two began talking when a carjacker approached the car from the passenger side, police said. The carjacker pulled the victim from the car and struck him in the head before climbing in to the passenger seat of the rented car.
Calatayud said the woman then drove off with her accomplice. In addition to the car, the carjackers also made off with the victim’s luggage.
The victim was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for moderate injuries and released later Saturday morning.
Police described the carjackers as a black woman, between 20 and 30 years old and of thin build, along with a heavyset black man between 20 and 30. The 2013 Toyota Corolla they were last seen in had a California license plate number of 6ZTK556. The color was not available.

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