LOS ANGELES >> A Walnut man and “shotcaller” of a South Los Angeles street gang faces 27 years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to federal racketeering and dug trafficking charges for helping the gang’s incarcerated leader continue managing the gang from behind bars, authorities said.
Manuel Valencia, 38, pleaded guilty to violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and “engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise connected to drug trafficking,” U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
Valencia, who could have faced life in prison if convicted at trial, is expected to receive 27 years in prison when he returns to federal court in Los Angeles for sentencing Sept. 8, officials said. He admitted to being a shotcaller for the Harpys street gang, one of more than a dozen Latino gangs in the South Los Angeles Area controlled by imprisoned Mexican Mafia member Danny Roman.
Acting on the orders of Roman, who is serving a life sentence at Pelican State Prison, Valencia, “admitted that he oversaw and participated in gang activities, which included collecting ‘taxes’ from drug dealers who were allowed to operate in gang territory, retaliating against people who ran afoul of the gang and engaging in drug trafficking,” Mrozek said.
Valencia’s plea comes a week after Roman’s daughter, 37-year-old Vianna Roman of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to racketeering, drug and weapons offenses for “acting as a conduit for her father’s orders as he exercised control of the Harpys gang,” Mrozek added.
Vianna Roman is expected to receive 20 years in prison when she returns to court for sentencing July 28, Mrozek said, though additional prison time is possible if deemed appropriate by U.S. District Judge R. Hary Klausner.
The guilty pleas come as a result of a 2-year-old indictment against 29 defendants, officials said. Of those originally charged in the indictment, 24 have pleaded guilty, one is awaiting trial, three are fugitives and one had charges dismissed after being convicted of murder in an unrelated case.
ROSEMEAD >> A 23-year-old man died early Saturday after a big rig struck his disabled car on the 60 Freeway following a previous collision, authorities said.
Jose Estrada Jr. of Los Angeles died in the 5:08 a.m. crash on the eastbound 60 Freeway, just west of Rosemead Boulevard, in an unincorporated county area between South El Monte and Rosemead, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner officials said.
He was driving a 2001 Toyota sedan when he became involved in a collision with a 1986 Nissan being driven by a 58-year-old Inglewood man, California Highway Patrol officials said in a written statement. The cause and circumstances of the two-car crash remained under investigation Saturday afternoon.
The Nissan ended up veering off the side of the freeway, striking an overhead light pole, overturning and coming to a rest back on its wheels along a dirt and brush embankment, CHP officials said. The driver suffered minor injuries.
Estrada’s Toyota came to a stop in the No. 3 lane of traffic.
A big rig then approached the crash scene, “and for unknown reasons, was unable to avoid the stopped vehicle,” according to the CHP statement.
The big rig slammed into the Toyota, causing major injuries to Estrada, officials said. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene at 5:26 a.m.
The truck driver, a 36-year-old Los Angeles man, was not injured, according to the CHP.
“The exact cause of this collision is still under investigation by the California Highway Patrol – East Los Angeles area office,” the statement said.
LOS ANGELES >> The American Red Cross closed it’s Orland shelter Saturday and established a 24-hour hotline Saturday to help families affected by Thursday’s tour bus crash in Orland, which claimed 10 lives and injured more than 30 others, offiials said.
The Red Cross shelter set up in Orland to accommodate those affected by the crash closed early Saturday as it was no longer needed, Red Cross Los Angeles Region spokeswoman Terri Corigliano said. No one stayed overnight at the shelter late Friday into early Saturday.
But the relief organization’s efforts to comfort the afflicted continued.
“The American Red Cross would like to express our condolences to those who have lost loved ones in this tragedy,” Red Cross Los Angeles Region officials said in a written statement. “Our thoughts are also with those who were injured and their families.
“Beginning immediately, families affected by this tragedy can call the Red Cross hotline for assistance,” the statement said. The number is 800-540-2000.
“It doesn’t matter where you live in California,” Corigliano said. “We will help you by connecting you with the Red Cross nearest you, so we will meet you where you are.”
Red Cross caseworkers will be on-hand to meet with families needing additional mental health support, help with travel, and other expenses associated with the tragedy,” Corigliano sad. Services are available in both English and Spanish.
Mental health services appeared to be the most in-demand Saturday, Corigliano said.
“Right now, in general, I would say both in the Orland area and here, (the need) is for counseling,” she said.
“As we proceed in the coming days, we’ll be able to see what people need assistance with, so well be able too render that assistance.”
The Red Cross is working with school districts affected by the crash, as well as other community organizations, officials said.
As schools affected by the crash begin holding memorials, Corigliano said, “We will certainly be available should we be needed in any of those circumstances.
LOS ANGELES >> Investigators Thursday announced the arrest of a hospital worker accused of sexually assaulting a patient at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center and reached out to the public to seek any additional potential victims.
Detectives arrested Terance Bobga Tekoh, 25, about 10:20 p.m. Wednesday on suspicion of sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
The alleged attack took place earlier in the day in an examination room while a patient was waiting to undergo a medical procedure, Lt. Steve Katz of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said in a written statement.
Tekoh, a certified nursing attendant employed by Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center contractor Cross Country Per Diem, was assigned to the hospital’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging Department, officials said.
“The suspect has been terminated from hospital employment,” Katz said.
The 600-bed hospital is one of the largest public hospitals in the nation and a hub of the county healthcare system and treats patients from throughout the region.
As detectives and prosecutors prepared their case against Tekoh, they also sought to hear from anyone else who may have had a suspicious encounter with him.
“Detectives are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying any other potential victims who may have been harmed by suspect Tekoh’s conduct,” the lieutenant said.
Tekoh was released from custody Thursday morning on $100,000 bail, booking records show.
He was scheduled to be arraigned April 10 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
WALNUT — A woman escaped a parolee who carjacked and kidnapped her from the parking lot of a Walnut store late Thursday, though his ultimate intentions remained a mystery, authorities said.
The strange and brazen crime took place about 2 p.m. as Walnut woman was carjacked and abducted in the parking lot of T.J. Maxx at Grand Avenue and Valley Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Saleeby said.
The woman, a Walnut resident in her late-30s who was a stranger to the suspect, left the store and was getting into her car when she was confronted by a man holding what was later found to be a realistic-looking BB gun, Detective Joseph Sanchez said. The man blocked her from closing her car door once she got in, Detective Joseph Sanchez said.
“He forced himself into her car,” the detective said. “He climbed over her, got into the passenger seat and told her to just drive.”
The woman resisted at first, but ultimately relented to the man’s demand, he said.
“He had her basically drive around aimlessly for an hour and a half,” Sanchez said.
As the suspect forced the woman to drive through South Los Angeles, she spotted a police car along Wall Street in South Los Angeles and saw an opportunity to escape, officials said.
“She saw a black-and-white and decided to get out of the car and run and ask for help,” Sanchez said.
Los Angeles police detained the suspect without a struggle and turned him over to sheriff’s deputies, he added. A BB gun that resembled a Beretta 9mm handgun was seized from the suspect during his arrest.
Deputies first responded to the Walnut T.J. Maxx store after witnesses reported seeing the alleged abduction, Lt. John Saleeby said.
“A woman was heard saying she needed help and witnesses said her and a male drove off in a car,” Saleeby said. “The impression was he forced her to drive off.”
Investigators withheld the alleged kidnapper’s name Friday as they continued seeking witnesses, as well as any other potential victims who may have had suspicious encounter with the suspect, Lt. Anthony Tachias said. He was described as a San Gabriel Valley man in his mid-30s.
The suspect was already on parole for carjacking and was being held without bail pending a scheduled arraignment Monday in Pomona Superior Court, officials said.
The motive in the kidnapping and carjacking, as well as the suspect’s ultimate intentions, were unclear, investigators said. Nothing was stolen from the woman, and she was not assaulted while in the suspect’s custody
“That’s an unknown factor here,” Tachias said. “He won’t talk to us. He never any indication to the victim as to what his intentions were.”
“He committed this act with no rhyme or reason,” the lieutenant added. “I’m just glad we got her back safely.”
LOS ANGELES — Two women and a 12-year-old girl died early Saturday in a solo-vehicle crash on a connector road between the 110 and 5 freeways, authorities said.
Two other men, a 13-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl also suffered minor-to-moderate injuries in the crash, which took place about 12:15 a.m. on the northbound 110 Freeway transition road to the northbound 5 Freeway, California Highway Patrol officials said in a written statement. All seven people involved in the crash were described as Lancaster residents, however their relationship to one another was not clear.
Killed were Katie Davila, 12, Abigail Romero, 19, and Abigail Estrella, 37, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner officials said.
All three were passengers in the SUV, which was being driven by a 55-year-old man, officials said.
First responders received a report of a solo-car crash when they encountered a 2000 GMC SUV overturned onto its side, CHP officials said. Four occupants had been thrown from the SUV, and three of them were pronounced dead at the scene.
“Initial information obtained at the scene indicated the vehicle veered to the right, off the roadway, for an undetermined reason and collided with the raised concrete wall,” according to the CHP statement. “This action caused the vehicle to overturn and skid on its right side until coming to a rest in the No. 2 lane.”
The survivors were taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment, officials said.
It was not clear Saturday afternoon whether those who were thrown from the SUV had been wearing seat belts, investigators added.
The cause of the crash was under investigation by officers from the Central Los Angeles office of the CHP.
Authorities evacuated Cal State University, Los Angeles Thursday following telephone bomb threats that were ultimately determined to be unfounded, authorities said.
The threat came in the form of two phone calls received by El Monte police between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., El Monte police Sgt. Roger Cobian said.
CSULA officials began evacuating the campus about noon, CSULA Paul Browning said.
In addition the college’s own Department of Public Safety, Los Angeles police, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s bomb squad officials and Los Angeles County firefighters responded to the scene, officials said.
Detective Mike Cofield of the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said bomb squad members swept the campus with explosive-sniffing dogs.
But the search was called off about 2:30 p.m., LAPD Officer Christopher No said.
“Nothing was found.”
But school administrators still decided to cancel classes for the remainder of the day, CSULA spokesman Paul Browning said, adding that students were notified of the situation via social media and text alerts.
“It was a very calm and successful evacuation,” Browning said, adding that the evacuation was also announced over the school’s loud speaker.
Students first gathered in the quad, but then were asked to leave campus, Browning added. Many stood in groups on the outskirts of campus waiting for the “all clear.” The student dormitories were the first areas to be declared safe at about 1:45 p.m.
Sophomore Amy Gonzalez, 19, said she was in her dorm room when campus safety officers knocked at her door and told her she needed to evacuate.
“At first I just though it was a drill, but then when I saw the bomb squad and all the helicopters, I knew it was real,” she said.
“It was shocking,” Gonzalez said. “We are just college students, why would someone want to bomb us?”
Both threats were phoned in from pay phones within El Monte, Cobian said. One was in the 11200 block of Garvey Avenue, while the other was made from the 3800 block of Peck Road, he added.
Officers searched the area but found no possible suspects, police said.
Both calls were made by a person with what sounded like a male voice, Cobian said.
But whether the calls were made by the same person, “It can only be assumed, because of the closeness in timing and proximity.”
The first call stated that a bomb had been placed at CSULA, as well as “Cal Berkeley” – a reference to the University of California, Berkeley, Cobian said.
Police notified officials at the northern California school as well, he added.
The investigation was being spearheaded by the LAPD, officials said.
After moving about 10 feet in her car in a 30-minute time span as she tried to leave the campus, CSULA student Veronica Arroyo left her vehicle in the parking lot to exit the school on foot.
“I thought it was the safest and most intelligent thing to do,” she said.
Arroyo described the scene as “chaotic.”
Just after noon, academic adviser Jimmy Solis, of Whittier, heard a fire alarm as he worked in the campus library.
He and fellow staff proceeded to their designated areas as practiced in fire drills.
“We waited about 15 minutes in our specific location until campus police told us to evacuate the area because the campus was closed,” Solis said.
He returned to the library to gather his belongings, along the way telling people what campus police had told him.
Solis was able to leave the grounds in his car because he always parks near an exit.
– Brian Day, Lauren Gold, Sandra Molina
PASADENA — Police arrested a carjacking suspect after spotting him driving in the allegedly stolen car Thursday afternoon, officials said.
Mark Bravo, 29, of Glendale was booked on suspicion of carjacking following his 3:45 p.m. arrest at Parke Street and Marengo Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
Officers were on patrol when they saw a car being driven by Bravo and also occupied by a passenger and realized the vehicle had been reported stolen in Los Angeles, the lieutenant said.
The officers stopped the car and arrested Bravo without a struggle, he said. A passenger fled on foot and was not found, though police believed they knew his identity.
Pasadena police turned Bravo over to Los Angeles police for booking, according to officials and county booking records. He was being held in lieu of $90,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.
The Twin Towers Correctional Facility and adjacent Central Arraignment Court in Los Angeles went on lockdown, and an area search launched, after a civilian employee reported to her supervisor about 8:45 a.m. that she saw “somebody outside who resembled suspect Dorner,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Steve Whitmore said.
“Out of a preponderance of caution, we locked down the facility as well as the streets in front,” Whitmore said.
The search was called off about 11:30 a.m. after investigators determined, “It was a false alarm,” Whitmore said.
This from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department via press release:
Union Station has been evacuated and closed due to a suspicious package left on the Red Line platform.
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and Metro public information officers are available to speak to media at 530 Ramirez Street (the corner of Ramirez Street and Vignes Street), Los Angeles.