La Mirada doctor faces up to 157 years in prison after drug dealing conviction

LOS ANGELES >> A doctor from La Mirada has been convicted of federal drug trafficking charges for the improper and illegal distribution of powerful painkillers, officials announced Friday.
A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Dr. Andrew Sun, 78, of 14 counts of distributing controlled substances and three counts of money laundering for concealing the proceeds of his crimes, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. The conviction came after three days of trial.
Sun, who ran clinics in San Gabriel and East Los Angeles, faces up to 157 years in prison when he returns to court for sentencing Nov. 10, officials said.
His medical license was already probationary after he was targeted in a similar investigation in 2004. His license was suspended in late 2013.
Sun was ordered to appear at an Aug. 25 hearing in which the court will determine whether Sun must forfeit almost $350,000 in drug proceeds, officials said.
Sun turned himself in to authorities in April after being indicted by a indicted by a grand jury.
He was convicted of prescribing powerful drugs such as hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin, alprazolam, also known as Xanax, carisprodol, also known as Soma, and promethezine with codeine, which is used to make the street drug known as “purple drank” or “sizzurp.”
Through an undercover sting operation, investigators determined Sun “profited by prescribing addictive painkillers and other controlled substances to persons whom he believed were drug addicts, and thus that the defendant acted without lawful medical purpose,” according to court documents.
The doctor issues more than 24,000 for controlled substances, netting $1 million in cash between 2009 and 2012, according to the DOJ.
When undercover agents visited Sun seeking drugs, “Sun failed to conduct any physical examination and he sold prescriptions for $150 in cash — even when he believed he was writing the prescriptions for drug addicts,” Mrozek said.
The investigation was carried out by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the IRS, the California Department of Health Care Services and the Monterey Park Police Department.

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Rosemead man killed in San Gabriel solo-car crash identified

SAN GABRIEL >> Officials have released the name of a 51-year-old Rosemead man who died in a solo-car crash in San Gabriel a week ago.
Louis Richard Valdez died at a hospital shortly after his 2013 Hyundai struck a palm tree in the 8600 block of East Broadway about 8:40 p.m. Aug. 3, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Larry Dietz said. He died from multiple traumatic injuries, and the death was ruled accidental.
For reasons that remained under investigation, Valdez’s car suddenly veered to the left side of the road and struck a large palm tree as he was westbound Broadway, CHP officials said.

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Chino man convicted of follow-home robbery spree targeting women in the western San Gabriel Valley

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ALHAMBRA >> A Chino man is expected to face more than two-and-a-half centuries in prison after a jury convicted him Wednesday of a string of robberies targeting women arriving home throughout the western San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
An Alhambra Superior Court jury found Jose Lewis Avila, 32, guilty of all counts he was charged with, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
They included nine counts of robbery, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of dissuading a witness and one count of child abuse, Ardalani said. The jury also found true the special allegations that Avila used a dangerous weapon during the crimes, which was ultimately determined to be a BB gun following Avila’s arrest, and that one of his victims, an Arcadia woman was shot with the BB gun, suffered great bodily injury. An Alhambra woman was pistol whipped during one of the robberies.
The robbery spree took place in March and April of 2011 in Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park and Arcadia, Ayvazian said.
“All of these are basically follow home robberies,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Ayvazian, who prosecuted the case along with Deputy District Attorney Gabriel Kim.
He targeted women outside their homes as they arrived home alone, investigators said. In the first robbery in Alhambra, a husband and wife were robbed as they arrived home together.
All of the victims targeted by Avila were Asian, Ayvazian said.
Avila was ordered back to court Sept. 26 for sentencing, Ardalani said.
Prior to receiving his sentenced, a judge will review Avila’s criminal history to confirm his status ass a third-strike offender, Ayvazian said.
He’s expected to receive a minimum sentence of 250 years to life in state prison, officials said. The maximum sentence Avila faces is 259 years behind bars.
The 12 charges stemmed from eight incidents, the prosecutor explained. Three robberies, one which involved two victims, occurred in Alhambra. Another three took place in San Gabriel, while one occurred in Arcadia and one took place in Monterey Park.
One of his victims was holding a child in her arms when robbed, resulting in the child abuse charge, officials said.
Avila threatened another of his victims and told her not to contact the police, resulting in a charge of dissuading a witness, Ayvazian said.
The assault with a deadly weapon charge stemmed from the Arcadia robbery, Ayvazian said. When the victim’s daughter overheard the commotion and came out so check on her mother, Avila shot her with the BB gun.
0724_NWS_PSN-L-AVILA2As the spree was ongoing, Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park police banded together and formed a task force to identify and capture the serial robber.
He was arrested April 20, 2011, after an officer spotted a man and vehicle matching the suspect description driving on Valley Boulevard in Alhambra and stopped it for a broken tail light, Ayvazian said. After learning the driver, later identified as Avila, was on parole, officers searched his car.
Investigators found a realistic-looking BB gun, bandanas, latex gloves and other items that indicated he was searching for new victims when stopped by police, Ayvazian said. A wealth of evidence including eyewitness statement, credit card records, cell phone records and surveillance camera footage also linked Avila to the crimes, officials said.
Additionally, even though Avila covered his face during his crimes, several witness were able to identify him due to his “very unique” eyes and eyebrows, Ayvazian said.
At the time of his arrest, Avila was already on parole in connection with a similar robbery spree that took place in the same area in 2005, Ayvazian said.
He had been arrested and charged with 19 criminal counts, but ultimately admitted two of the robberies under a plea agreement, the prosecutor said. As in the more recent case, some victims identified the masked robber based on his eyes and eyebrows.
While Avila was charged with robbing nine people in the 2011 spree, the police task force assembled to investigate the case capture the serial robber had also looked at Avila in connection with more than ten additional robberies, reaching into Pasadena and South Pasadena, officials said shortly after Avila’s arrest. No charges have been filed in connection with those robberies.
The prosecution presented 22 witness during Avila’s three-and-a-half-day trial, Ayvazian said.
Jurors deliberated for less than four hours before finding Avila guilty an all charges.
“The evidence was on out side,” Ayvazian said. “The jury obviously, in our opinion, did the right thing by bringing justice for our community.

PHOTOS:(Above)  Photo of Jose Avila courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department. (Below) Sketch of serial robber released to the public prior to Avila’s arrest in connection with a follow-home robbery spree continued in the western San Gabriel Valley in April of 2011, courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department.

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Doctor from La Mirada pleads guilty to prescribing painkillers illegally, money laundering

LOS ANGELES — A doctor from La Mirada who ran clinics in San Gabriel and East Los Angeles pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally prescribing painkillers and money laundering, officials announced.
Andrew Sun, 78, agreed to plead guilty to one count of distribution of hydrocodone and one count of money laundering, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. The powerful painkiller hydrocodone is better known by it’s brand name, Vicodin.
He surrendered to authorities April 10 after being indicted on 24 charges related to drug distribution and money laundering.
Though he pleaded guilty only to money laundering and illegally prescribing hydrocodone, “(Sun) admits in his plea agreement that he also illegally prescribed and distributed other drugs, including those best known by the brand names Xanax and Soma,” Mrozek said.
The improper prescriptions issued to undercover investigators between 2011 and 2012, “outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose,” he said.
The doctor further admitted accepting $554,070 in cash payments for the drugs, which he deposited into a personal bank account, “for the purpose of disguising the source and nature of the funds,” according to Mrozek.
Under the plea arrangement, Sun agreed to forfeit $342,000 that was seized from his bank account in July of 2012, officials added. He also agreed to pay nearly $87,000 in restitution to the California Medical Board, which participated in the investigation along with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the IRS, the California Department of Health Services and the Monterey Park Police Department.
Sun’s medical license was suspended in 2013, according to a California Department of Consumer Affairs database.

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San Gabriel Valley police, firefighters to square off on basketball court in Arcadia to help the Special Olympics

2014 Battle of the Badges

San Gabriel Valley police officers will take on their fire department counterparts on the basketball court in Arcadia this weekend as the annual Battle of the Badges tournament returns bigger than ever to raise money for the Special Olympics.
The series of games will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday in the gymnasium of Arcadia High School, 180 Campus Drive in Arcadia, organizers said in a written statement. The cost of admission will be a “donation of your choosing,” and proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics Southern California.
In addition to the action on the court, there will be jumpers for children, refreshments, a SWAT demonstration, historical vehicles, a fire truck and gaming booths set up by Dave & Buster’s, Arcadia police Detective Walter Ashby said. An iPad Air will also be raffled off.
“One-hundred percent of the proceeds are donated directly to the Special Olympics,” he said.
San Gabriel police officers will take on San Gabriel firefighters at 10 a.m.; Alhambra police will play Alhambra firefighters at noon; El Monte police will take on Upland firefighters at 2 p.m.; Pasadena police will play Pasadena firefighters at 4 p.m.; and Arcadia police officers and firefighters will face off on the court at 6 p.m.
For more information, contact Detective Ashby at 626-821-2654, or email washby@ci.arcadia.ca.us.

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UPDATED: Two firefighters hurt, three business destroyed in massive San Gabriel fire

 

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SAN GABRIEL >> A massive, three-alarm fire destroyed three business Thursday night and injured two firefighters, authorities said.
The fire caused an estimated $2 million worth of damage, San Gabriel Fire Department Division Chief Bryan Frieders. The damage to the building was estimated at $1.5 million, and the damage to the contents was valued at $500,000.
The heat and intensity of the flames forced firefighters to take a defensive stance around the blaze, dousing it with water from the perimeter, Frieders said.
“The fire was burning so hot, it wasn’t worth risking lives,” he said.
At one point during the lengthy fire, the roof of the building collapsed, Frieders said. Fortunately, no firefighters were on top of it.
Division Chief Derrick Doehler said investigators don’t believe the fire was arson, but the cause of the fire hasn’t been determined.
The fire broke out at 7:22 p.m. either behind or inside a cell phone store in the 200 block of South San Gabriel Boulevard, he said.
The wireless store was in a building that also had a gift shop-bookstore and a third business.
In addition to the building, one car parked nearby was destroyed and at least one other was damaged, Frieders said.
Doehler said two firefighters sustained moderate injuries while fighting the flames but didn’t say what kind of injuries. Both firefighters were treated at a hospital and released, he added.
“One came back on duty at his request. One went home,” Doehler said.
No other injuries were reported, authorities said.
About 80 fire personnel fought the fire which was knocked down a little more than three hours after it ignited.
Fire departments from Pasadena, Los Angeles County, Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Marino, Arcadia and Glendale assisted San Gabriel Fire Department with the incident.
On Friday morning, Doehler said city employees were at the scene clearing the street.

- By Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

PHOTO – Courtesy

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Man convicted of two counts of murder in violent 2004 robbery spree spanning San Gabriel Valley, Whittier

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LOS ANGELES >> The last of five defendants in a violent 2004 robbery spree in Whittier and the San Gabriel Valley that left two men dead could face the death penalty after a jury convicted him Wednesday of 21 charges, including two counts of murder with special circumstances.
Leonardo Cisneros, 29, of Montebello could face the death penalty for the spree which spanned Los Angeles County cities including Whittier, San Gabriel, El Monte, Alhambra, South Pasadena and San Marino, according to prosecutors and investigators.
“The jury deliberated about two hours today before finding Leonardo Cisneros guilty of all 21 counts, including two counts of first degree murder, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
The other charges include 18 counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery, she said.
The jury also found true the special circumstances of multiple murders, murders during the course of robberies and personal use of a gun in the vast majority of the crimes. The special circumstances make him eligible for the death penalty.
“They come back on Monday to begin the penalty phase, because we are seeking death in this case,” Robison said.
Pasadena City College student Joseph Molina was working at a Whittier Subway sandwich shop on Dec. 10, 2004 when it was robbed. The 22-year-old Whittier resident was fatally shot by Cisneros.
MOLINAMolina was shot after he failed to remove money from a cash register fast enough for the robbers who had stormed into the restaurant at Beverly and Norwalk boulevards, investigators said.
The other victim slain during the spree was businessman Dianqui Wu, 50, of Rowland Heights, who was fatally shot during an Aug. 4, 2004 robbery in a San Gabriel parking lot.
Cisneros and Jose Resendez, 36, robbed Wu and a friend late at night as they arrived at the friend’s business in the 1800 block of South Del Mar Avenue in San Gabriel to use the facility’s Internet, Robison said. Cisneros robbed Wu as Resendez robbed the friend.
“Wu got scared and started running away,” Robison said. “Cisneros chased him about 40 feet, pushed him to the ground and executed him basically, shot him once in the torso.”
Cisneros grabbed Wu’s wallet before fleeing, Robison said.
Wu died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center less than an hour later, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The jury found that Cisneros pulled the trigger in both slayings, court officials said.
Four other defendants in the case took plea deals.
Resendez has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the slaying of Wu; Bernadette Corvera, 32, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and robbery in Molina’s slaying; and Mitzie Ann Oso, 35, has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the killings of Wu and Molina. All three were due to be sentenced June 2.
Resendez and Corvera were expected to receive sentences of 15 years to life in prison, while Oso was expected to receive an eight-year prison term. They could have faced life sentences if convicted at trial, rather than accepting plea bargains.
When entering their pleas in recent years, the three defendants agreed to testify truthfully if called as witnesses in Cisneros’ trial, Robison said.
They were called as witnesses, and all three testified about their involvement in the crimes, as well as Cisneros’, Robison said.
Another defendant, 30-year-old Sara Lopez, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in Wu’s slaying and was sentenced to three years of probation.
— Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.

FILE PHOTOS: Top: Murder and robbery spree convict Leonardo Cisneros; Below: Slaying victim Joseph Molina, 22, of Whittier.

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San Gabriel Valley men sentenced for running ‘black market peso exchange’

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge sentenced two San Gabriel Valley man to prison and fined their South El Monte-based import-export company $75,000 for illegally moving millions of dollars from the U.S. to Mexico as part of a “black market peso exchange,” officials said.
Chaur Hwan “Kenny” Lin, 67, of Temple City and Antonio Pareja, 54, of San Gabriel were each sentenced to a year in federal prison by Judge John A. Kronstadt, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. Lin was also ordered to pay a $6,000 fine, and their company, Peace & Rich Import, Inc. — a wholesale distribute of goods including silk flowers — was fined $75,000 and placed on probation for four years.
“Judge Kronstadt also ordered Peace & Rich and Lin to forfeit more than $2 million of funds related to the crime,” Mrozek said.
Lin is the president and co-owner of Peace & Rich, while Pareja serves as manager, authorities said.
They worked with Mexican businesses and “peso brokers” to help send millions of dollars south of the border while circumventing conventional financial institutions, officials said.
“An investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles determined that Lin and Pareja used Peace & Rich to receive large amounts of cash derived from illegal activity,” according to the DOJ statement. “The cash – as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars – was typically delivered by couriers working in conjunction with a peso broker in Mexico.”
The cash was often hidden in duffel bags when transferred.
Under a black market peso scheme, peso brokers worth with people such as drug traffickers who have dollars in the United States which they want to send to Mexico and convert to pesos, Mrozek explained.
“The peso broker finds business owners in Mexico who buy goods from vendors in the United States, such as Peace & Rich, and need dollars to pay for those goods,” according to the statement. “The peso broker arranges for the illegally obtained dollars in the United States to be delivered to the United States-based vendors, such as Peace & Rich, where they are used to pay for the goods purchased by the Mexico based customers. Once the goods are shipped to Mexico and sold by the Mexico based business owner for pesos, the pesos are turned over to the peso broker, who then pays the drug trafficker in Mexico.”
Additionally, prosecutors said Lin circumvented cash reporting requirements when depositing large amounts of money into banks.

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Man with dementia goes missing in North San Gabriel

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NORTH SAN GABRIEL — Officials and worried family members sought the public’s help Thursday in finding a missing 61-year-old man with dementia.
Harold Rakowiecki was last seen walking in the 6800 block of Oak Avenue in an unincorporated county area north of San Gabriel about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Sgt. Ann Devane of the sheriff’s Temple Station said in a written statement.
Rakowiecki is white, 6 feet 1 inch tall, 160 pounds, with gray hair, blue eyes and a mustache. He was last seen wearing a beige shirt and blue shorts.
“Mr. Rakowiecki’s family is concerned because he suffers from dementia,” Devane said. “If you think you have seen or know of Mr. Rakowiecki’s whereabouts, please contact Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Missing Persons Unit Detective Abraham at 323-890-5500.”

PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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San Gabriel man accused of trying to kidnap boy in Rosemead

ROSEMEAD — Deputies jailed a San Gabriel man Sunday on suspicion of trying to kidnap an 11-year-old boy from a Rosemead sidewalk last month, officials said.
Bin Zhang, 44, was booked on suspicion of attempted kidnapping following his arrest, which took place about 10 a.m. in the 2700 block of Del Mar Avenue in Rosemead, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Phillip Marquez said in a written statement.
The alleged kidnapping attempt took place in January, but went unreported until after sheriff’s officials issued a public alert Feb. 12 regarding a separate Jan. 30 incident in which a man grabbed onto a young girl on the campus of Arlene Bitely Elementary School, on Fern Avenue just west of Jackson Street.
“As a result of the press release, Temple Sheriff’s Station investigators learned that in early January, an 11-year-old male was accosted near Del Mar Avenue and Emerson Place, Rosemead, and the incident went unreported. An investigation was launched,” Marquez said. “It is alleged the suspect attempted to kidnap the 11-year-old male from a public sidewalk in January of 2014.”
Deputies Sunday morning spotted a man matching the description of the man who tried to kidnap the boy and arrested him without a struggle, Marquez said.
According to county booking records, Zhang was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled for Wednesday in El Monte Superior Court.
The investigation was ongoing, Marquez said, and it was not clear Sunday if the suspect arrested for attempting to kidnap the boy was the same man who accosted the young girl.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Detective S. Gibson of the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171.

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