Former Pico Rivera nightclub owner sentenced for laundering drug money

"The Pico Rivera nightclub owner Edgar Fragoso, right, 38, leaving Edward Roybal Federal Building after his arraignment where he pleaded not guilty to eight counts federal indictments in downtown Los Angeles Friday, March 13, 2015. The Pico Rivera nightclub owner is accused of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of a drug trafficking ring operating in the U.S. and Mexico (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)"

“Pico Rivera nightclub owner Edgar Fragoso, right, 38, leaving Edward Roybal Federal Building after his arraignment in downtown Los Angeles Friday, March 13, 2015.  (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)”

LOS ANGELES >> The owner of nightclubs in Pico Rivera and Moreno Valley who admitted laundering drug money for foreign drug traffickers through his businesses received a two-year prison sentence on Thursday, officials said.
Edgar Fragoso, 39, of Hacienda Heights was sentenced to 24 months in custody, with one year to be served behind bars, and another year of home detention, U.S. DOJ spokesman Thom Mrozek said. U.S. District Judge George Wu also ordered Fragoso to pay a $14,000 fine and agreed to give up his liquor license.
Fragoso owned the El Rodeo nightclubs, formerly at 8825 Washington Blvd., as well as another location in Moreno Valley.
Fragoso agreed to plead guilty in August of 2015 to a single count of money laundering.
Prosecutors allege Fragoso laundered more than $35,000 from methamphetamine sales for a drug dealer operating out of Mexico, and also collected $200,000 in payments from undercover federal agents posing as members of a drug-trafficking organization, according to the indictment.
Prior to reaching a plea deal, Fragoso was initially indicted on one count of conspiracy to launder money and seven counts of money laundering. He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges at his arraignment in March of 2015.
All but the single count of money laundering was dismissed under the plea arrangement.
If convicted as charged, Fragoso could have faced up to 20 years in federal prison for each of the eight counts on which he was indicted.
The two-year sentence handed down Thursday was only a fraction of the 25 years in prison Fragoso could have faced as a maximum penalty.
The reasoning behind the sentence was unclear Friday, as the sentencing memorandum in the case had been filed under seal, Mrozek said.
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Deputies investigate gunfire in Pico Rivera; no ‘active shooter,’ as initially feared


PICO RIVERA >> Deputies swarmed to a Pico Rivera neighborhood following reports of a possible active shooter on Friday afternoon, but no victims or suspects were found in what was ultimately determined not to be an active shooter situation, authorities said.
Multiple 911 callers reported hearing gunshots shortly after 4 p.m. in the 4900 block of Passons Boulevard, just north of Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Sheriff’s dispatchers heard gunfire in the background of some of the calls, causing authorities to initially treat the incident as a potential active shooter, Sgt. Irys Alvarez said.
Deputies, including a sheriff’s SWAT team, cordoned off the area as they went through the neighborhood looking for any possible victims or suspects, but found none, she said. And the gunfire ceased following the initial 911 calls, she said.
Deputies ultimately treated the incident as a simple case of “shots fired,” she said.
Officials called of their search a little more than an hour after it began.

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Man wounded, woman sought in Pico Rivera riverbed stabbing


PICO RIVERA >> Deputies are seeking a woman who stabbed a 20-year-old man in a Pico Rivera riverbed on Wednesday afternoon.
A passer-by called 911 about 3 p.m. after noticing a man lying bleeding in the San Gabriel riverbed near Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
Deputies found the victim suffering from a stab wound to his abdomen, the lieutenant said. Paramedics took the man to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
The victim, a homeless man, told deputies he was stabbed by a white woman in her mid-30s who also appeared to be homeless, Garcia said.
The man declined to provide investigators with further details. The motive in the stabbing was unclear.
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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Death of man along Rosemead Boulevard in Pico Rivera ruled a suicide


PICO RIVERA >> The death of a 26-year-old Pico Rivera man found fatally shot along Rosemead Boulevard and Pico Rivera has been formally ruled a suicide, coroner’s officials said.
The body of the man was discovered about 7:15 a.m. Saturday along an access trail along Rosemead Boulevard, just north of Gallatin Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said.
Detectives from the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau responded and investigated the scene, which initially appeared to be a suicide, sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said at the time.
An autopsy determined that the man died from a gunshot wound to the head, and the death was ruled a suicide, according to coroner’s records.

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Man found fatally shot in Pico Rivera, suicide suspected


PICO RIVERA >> Detectives are investigating the shooting death of a man whose body was discovered along Rosemead Boulevard on Saturday morning.
The unidentified man’s body was discovered about 7:15 a.m. on a pathway alongside Rosemead Boulevard, just north of Gallatin Road near Streamland Park, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said.
The death was initially being investigated as a suicide, however sheriff’s homicide detectives were summoned to investigate had yet to rule out any possibilities, Lt. Noe Garcia said.
No further details were available.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips ma also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man wounded in Pico Rivera shooting


PICO RIVERA >> A man clung to life after being shot multiple times in a residential neighborhood in Pico Rivera late Friday, authorities said.
The shooting was reported about 9 p.m. in the 9400 block of Bert Street, just east of Passons Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Deputies received multiple calls reporting gunshots heard in the area before they found the victim, initially described only as a man, suffering from several gunshot wounds, sheriff’s Sgt. Andrew Serrano said.
The man was taken to a trauma center in critical-but-stable condition, he said.
No suspect description or further details were available.
“It’s still very early in the investigation,” Serrano said.
A car was seen driving out of the area at the time of the shooting, but investigators had yet to determine whether it was involved.
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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Pico Rivera woman killed in West Whittier head-on crash


WEST WHITTIER >> A 22-year-old Pico Rivera woman died after the car she was riding in as a passenger collided head-on with another car on Mines Boulevard in West Whittier early Saturday, authorities said.
Cassandra Marie Arango died in the 4:40 a.m. crash at Mines Boulevard and Duchess Drive in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
The driver of the 1995 Honda Civic in which Arango was riding suffered “major” injuries in the crash, CHP Officer Tim Zaspal said in a written statement. He was described as a 24-year-old Whittier man.
A young man and woman riding in the other involved vehicle, a 2015 Dodge Charger, were treated for minor injuries, Zaspal said.
The Honda was westbound on Mines Boulevard and the Dodge was eastbound just prior to the crash.
“The Honda and the Dodge were involved in a head-on collision and came to rest blocking lanes at the intersection of Mines Boulevard and Duchess Drive,” Zaspal said.
It was not yet clear which vehicle crossed over into opposing traffic lanes.
Paramedics pronounced Arango Honda dead at the scene, Zaspal said.
Neither she nor the driver of the Honda were wearing seat belts, he said.
No arrests were made as the investigation continued.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Officer Renteria of the CHP’s Santa Fe Springs-area office at 562-868-0503.

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Victim’s teenage son, friend guilty of murder in fatal Pico Rivera home-invasion robbery

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PICO RIVERA >> Two Pico Rivera teens could face life in prison at their sentencing later this month after being convicted of murder and other charges for fatally stabbing and strangling one of the teen’s father during a home-invasion robbery nearly two years ago, authorities said Friday.
A Norwalk jury convicted Sergio Anthony Gutierrez, 19, and friend Angel Emilio Estrello, 17, of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of home-invasion robbery each in connection with the Sept. 20, 2014, slaying of 50-year-old Sergio Gutierrez at his home, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. Emilio was additionally convicted of burglary.
“Gutierrez and Estrello were found guilty all counts and the special circumstance found to be true,” Risling said.
Prosecutors alleged that the murder was committed during the course of a robbery, Risling said. But because both killers were juveniles at the time of the killing — Gutierrez was 17 and Estrello was 15 — they cannot receive the death penalty under California Law.
Gutierrez and Estrello each face a maximum sentence of life behind bars when they return to the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles County Superior court for sentencing on Sept. 19 and Sept. 23, respectively.
In addition to stealing money, Sergio Anthony Gutierrez took part in the attack and robbery of his father because he was angry with his father for “disrespecting” him, Risling said.
“It was not just one argument, but a history of conduct that he felt disrespected by,” he said. “Such as: the decedent (removed) the door of his bedroom (and) made him sleep outside if he got home late.”
0921_nws_wdn-l-stab1-241x300The two teens were tried in one trial, but by two separate juries.
A third defendant in the case, 20-year-old Jesus Rafael Adame, declared in July that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial, according to Risling. A mental competency hearing is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Prosecutors have elected not to seek capital punishment in Adame’s case, Risling said.
All three suspects were friends who attended El Rancho High School together.
Deputies, and ultimately homicide detectives, responded to the Gutierrez family’s home in a gated community in the 3700 block of Oaklawn Lane about 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 20.
Video: Homicide detectives discusses fatal Pico Rivera home-invasion robbery
They discovered the elder Sergio Gutierrez suffering from stab wounds to his torso, officials said at the time. He was rushed to Beverly Hospital in Montebello where he succumbed to his injuries.
An autopsy later determined the victim died from sharp force trauma and neck compression, and the death was ruled a homicide, said Ed Winter, Assistant Chief of Operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
The victim’s son wielded the knife in the attack, Risling said.
“However, the stab wounds were superficial and were not the cause of death,” he said. “The stranglehold employed by defendant Angel Estrello was the main cause of death.”
Cash, credit cards and the family’s 2000 Infiniti sedan were missing from the home.
Lt. Holly Francisco of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau initially stopped short of labeling the younger Gutierrez a suspect in the killing, but pointed out that he was believed to have been present during the deadly home-invasion robbery, and could not be found in the hours following the killing.
Deputies arrested Gutierrez and Adame in connection with slaying the following day, and Estrello turned himself in to authorities the same afternoon.

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Teenage girl fatally stabbed inside her Pico Rivera home; ex-boyfriend sought

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PICO RIVERA >> A 16-year-old girl died after being stabbed in her Pico River home early Friday, and homicide detectives are seeking her ex-boyfriend as a possible suspect in the slaying, authorities said.
• PHOTOS: Deputies descend on Pico Rivera home where teen girl was stabbed to death
Elene Lillian Moore died at the scene of the 3:15 a.m. stabbing in the 9800 block of Shade Lane, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
“Detectives learned that the victim’s mother was suddenly awoken by her daughter’s screams that she had been stabbed as she staggered into her bedroom and collapsed,” Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
“(The mother) believed she had been stabbed by her ex-boyfriend,” Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
• VIDEO: Sheriff’s deputy talks about teen’s stabbing death in Pico Rivera, neighbor recalls victim

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies investigate the early morning stabbing death of a 16-year-old girl on the 9800-block of Shade Lane in Pico Rivera on Friday August 12, 2016. Investigators are looking for the former boyfriend of the girl. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies investigate the early morning stabbing death of a 16-year-old girl on the 9800-block of Shade Lane in Pico Rivera on Friday August 12, 2016. Investigators are looking for the former boyfriend of the girl. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)

The attacker had fled the home before deputies arrived and remained at-large Friday afternoon.
“Based on the victim’s statements to her mother prior to her collapse, the victim’s ex-boyfriend is being sought to determine f he was involved in the attack,” Saldana said.
Detectives identified the “person of interest” as 17-year-old Rory Murga.
Moore and Murga had dated for about a year, Hernandez said. “They broke up recently, about two weeks ago.”
The circumstances of the fatal stabbing remained unclear, officials said. The stabbing took place on the first floor of the home, while the mother’s room was upstairs.
“At this point, we’re not sure if he forced his way in or was let in by the victim,” Hernandez said. “We’re not sure if there was an argument that precipitated that stabbing.”
Moore had been stabbed multiple times, Winter said.
Both Moore and Murga attended Ruben Salazar High School in Pico Rivera, neighbor Jaime Lugo said.
“She was a really nice girl,” he said. “She was always really friendly. She was always really open with people.”
“Just shocking. I think that’s like really the only word that can describe it,” Lugo said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS/VIDEO by Keith Durflinger

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Bomb threat briefly shuts down Pico Rivera Walmart store


PICO RIVERA >> Deputies briefly evacuated a Pico Rivera Walmart store Wednesday evening after the business received a phone call claiming there was a bomb inside, officials said.
The phone call was received shortly after 8 p.m. at the store, 8500 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
Officials evacuated the store and deputies searched it, Garcia said. Officials found nothing unusual, and the store was reopened about half an hour later, he said.
An investigation into who placed the anonymous, threatening phone call was ongoing.

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