The owner of a South El Monte import-export company and the company’s manager were charged with using the business to move millions linked to illegal activity from the United States to Mexico.
Authorities didn’t say if the money came from drug traffickers.
Peace & Rich Import, Inc. on Weaver Avenue in South El Monte, the company’s co-owner and president Chaur Hwan “Kenny” Lin, 66, of San Marino and company manager Antonio Pareja, 53, of San Gabriel were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that include conspiracy, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, 63 counts of failure to file currency transaction reports and 28 counts of structuring financial transactions.
The indictment was filed in federal court on Feb. 13. It wasn’t clear if the defendants were arraigned Tuesday in a Los Angeles federal court.
The defendants received large sums and worked with peso brokers in Mexico to illegally convert the dollars to pesos, according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Peace & Rich Import, Inc. was described by federal officials as a wholesale distributor of silk flowers and other goods. But authorities allege Lin and Pareja ran the business as an informal money transfer system.
Couriers working in conjunction with a peso broker in Mexico delivered tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, to the business, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleged that the South El Monte company took in cash and did transactions without being registered as a money transmitting business and without filing reports which are required when a business accepts cash payments of more than $10,000.
Lin and Pareja allegedly disbursed the money as directed by a broker in Mexico to couriers for delivery to other businesses in America on behalf of their Mexico-based customers.
Lin also allegedly made a series of deposits that were less than $10,000 to avoid the filing of reports by the financial institutions where the deposits were made.
The scam is called a black market peso exchange scheme and is used to illegally bypass paying the fees banks charge for transferring money from one country to another, according to the indictment.
The court documents outline how such a scheme works.
A peso broker works with someone engaged in illegal activity, such as a drug trafficker, who has dollars that he needs to bring to Mexico and convert to pesos.
The 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.
The broker then arranges for the illegally obtained dollars to be delivered to the American vendors where they are used to pay for the goods bought by the customers from Mexico.
Once the merchandise is shipped to Mexico and sold by the business owners there for pesos, the money is turned over to the broker.
The broker then pays the drug trafficker in Mexico.
- Ruby Gonzales
Deputies are looking for three men who allegedly tried to kidnap a woman on her way to a restaurant Tuesday night.
The attempted kidnapping happened around 8:30 p.m. but was reported to deputies at about 11 p.m.
SOUTH EL MONTE — A 44-year-old woman from Los Angeles was walking to a restaurant in the 2300 block of Rosemead Boulevard when an older model Pontiac with three men pulled up next to her, according to Sgt. Lynette O’Brien of the sheriff’s Temple Station.
“They’re saying things to her in Spanish,” O’Brien said.
She said one of the passengers got out and tried to pull the woman into the car. The woman fought back.
A second man stepped out of the Pontiac and also tried to grab her. O’Brien said the woman bit one of suspects.
The suspects left.
The driver was only described as a Latino. One of his passengers was described as a Latino, 30 to 35, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 180 pounds.
The second passenger was described as a Latino, 30 to 35, stands 5 feet 10 inches and weighs 190 pounds.
They used a 2-door white older model Pontiac.
- Ruby Gonzales
SOUTH EL MONTE — Officials Wednesday identified a 75-year-old South El Monte woman who was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing a street.
Ofelia Herrera died at a hospital about two hours after being struck by a Chevrolet Tahoe about 9 a.m. Tuesday on Klingerman at Santa Anita Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
No crime was initially suspected in connection with the collision, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Jim Dexter said. The man who was driving the Chevrolet SUV, “immediately stopped and reported the collision,” he added.
Herrera was crossing north across Klingerman, within a crosswalk, when she was hit by the the SUV as it made a left turn onto eastbound Klingerman, according to Sgt. Michael Martinez.
The SUV driver made his turn after waiting for traffic to clear, Dexter said, but apparently failed to see the pedestrian.
The driver was not cited or arrested at the scene, Dexter said. The incident remained under investigation by deputies from the sheriff’s Temple Station.
SOUTH EL MONTE — Two South El Monte High School seniors who lost fingers in a tug-of-war mishap during a pep rally continued recovering from surgery Wednesday, officials said.
The students, football player Pablo Ocegueda and soccer player Edith Rodriguez, each had several fingers ripped off when the rope snapped during a game of tug-of-war. The accident took place during the lunch period Monday.
“The last I heard, surgeries went into the early evening (Monday),” El Monte Union High School District Superintendent Nick Salerno said.
“The report we got is that the surgeries went well,” Salerno said. But it was unclear if surgeons were able to reattach some or all of the severed digits.
Due to medical privacy laws, information on the conditions of the students was limited, Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center spokeswoman Rosa Saca said Wednesday.
“They’re stable right now,” she said. “They’re awake, alert; they’re recovering from the operation.”
The exact circumstances of the accident remained unclear Wednesday, as well as the type of rope that was being used in the tug-of-war.
There were conflicting reports regarding exactly how many fingers each student lost in the mishap, or from which hands, though officials reported both students had at least four fingers severed in the incident.
The tug-of-war was done as part of the school’s Spirit Week, which traditionally pits the campus’ junior and senior classes against each other in competition, Salerno said.
Meanwhile, school psychologists and counselors, along with outside counselors, were on-hand at South El Monte High School this week to address the concerns of other students.
“We’ve had a lot of kids coming in for counseling and support and wanting to talk,” Salerno said.
In addition to the injured senior, students affected by the incident included those who witnessed it and friends of the injured students, he said.
SOUTH EL MONTE — An allegedly intoxicated wrong-way driver caused a crash early Sunday on the Pomona (60) Freeway, authorities said.
The crash, which resulted in the closure of all but the right-hand lane of the westbound freeway for about an hour, was first reported at 6:58 a.m. on the 60 Freeway near Rosemead Boulevard, according to California Highway Patrol logs.
A white hatchback was heading the the wrong way in traffic lanes at about 50 mph prior to the collision, logs indicate.
It struck an SUV just east of Rosemead Boulevard, CHP Sgt. Tariq Johnson said.
The collision sheared of a portion of the side of the SUV and send it tipping onto its side, the sergeant said.
A 33-year-old Hacienda Heights woman who was driving the SUV was treated for apparently minor injuries, Johnson said. The alleged intoxicated driver, initially described as a 26-year-old La Puente woman, was unhurt.
Had the vehicles collided head-on, the incident could have been far worse, Johnson added.
The suspect’s name was not available pending the booking process, he said.
The crash was under investigation by officers from the CHP’s East Los Angeles office.
A task force based out of the sheriff’s Industry Station recovered more than $115,000 worth of stolen plastic goods late Wednesday from a South El Monte recycling business and a Lynwood home, officials said.
Eight people were arrested during the bust, which was carried out at Broadway Plastics in the 2000 block of Lee Avenue in South El Monte, as well as at a home in the 3500 block of Virginia Street in Lynwood, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Arrested were: Carlos Torres, 41, who is accused of masterminding the operation; Torres’ wife, Cecilia Torres, 38; their daughter, Carmen Torres, 18; Broadway Plastics owner Jason Wang, 46; Jesus Martinez, 23; Jose Gomez, 42; Joshua Barragan, 19; and Alex Merino, Sgt. Nabeel Mitry said. Their cities of residence were not available early Thursday.
Five of those arrested are family members, and two of them worked at Broadway Plastics, in addition to the business owner, Mitry added.
Officials described them as five family members, as well as two employees and the owner of the South El Monte recycling business. They were booked on suspicion of receiving stolen property.
The allegedly stolen plastics include items such as pallets and crates used to transport products.
At the South El Monte location, “Stolen trademarked plastic products were being stowed, ground and primed to be sold,” according to the sheriff’s statement. “Some of the products were still intact, while some had already been ground.”
The investigation and arrests were the result of an investigation by the sheriff’s Industrial Plastic Theft Task Force, based out of the sheriff’s Industry Station.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, the eight suspects were being held in lieu of $20,000 bail each pending their scheduled arraignment Friday in El Monte Superior Court.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
LOS ANGELES — A South El Monte received a sentence of 40 years to life in prison Monday for shooting a former girlfriend to death more than two years ago, court officials said.
Toan Phan, 40, was convicted in July in Los Angeles Superior Court of the July 17, 2010 murder of 34-year-old Hong Nguyen.
Both Phan and Nguyen were found suffering from gunshot wounds when deputies responded to a report of a shooting shortly before 5 a.m. at Phan’s home in the 11400 block Thienes Avenue, officials said.
Phan was found wounded in the the doorway of the home and hospitalized prior to his arrest. Nguyen, an Orange County resident, was pronounced dead inside the home.
Phan and Nguyen had dated in the past, but the relationship had ended, authorities said. Phan had married someone else.
But following what Deputy District Attorney Terrie Tengelsen described as a botched murder-suicide, a suicide note from Phan was found indicating he still loved Nguyen and hoped they could be together in the next life.
Phan went to Greater El Monte Community Hospital complaining of chest pains in the hours prior to the shooting, the prosector said.
Either the hospital or Phan called Nguyen to pick him up, officials said. She drove Phan home before he shot her to death.
- Staff report
SOUTH EL MONTE — A South El Monte woman attacked and bound as she arrived home Friday evening in a violent home-invasion robbery, authorities said.
The woman, who is in her 40s, arrived at her home in the 10400 block of Thienes Avenue about 6:50 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Ignacio Somoano said.
The robber was hiding outside the home, apparently waiting for someone to arrive, Sgt. Ann Devane said.
“He attacked her and forced his way in,” the sergeant said.
The robber punched the woman in the face several times and bound her hands, officials said. He then stole various small items from the home and fled.
Her hands still bound, the victim tried to chase after her attacker, Devane said.
The woman’s husband arrived home just after the attack, she said, and neighbors also came to the woman’s aid after noticing a commotion.
Officials took the woman to a hospital for treatment of her injuries, which were not believed to be major.
Deputies described the robber as a Latino man between 25 and 30 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall and about 170 pounds. He had black hair and brown eyes, and wore a black hooded sweatshirt and dark blue jeans.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171.
- Staff report
A man was found fatally shot near a local museum Wednesday night, deputies said.
The man’s identity was not released Thursday pending confirmation that his family had been notified, according to coroner’s officials. He was initially described as being 27 years old.
At 6:42 p.m., the sheriff’s Temple station received calls about gunshots and cars on Rosemead Boulevard, according to Lt. Ignacio Somoano.
He said someone then called to report a “person down” by the ditch in front of the American Society of Military History Museum in the 1900 block of Rosemead Boulevard, south of Rush Street.
Deputies discovered the victim dead at the scene, and homicide detectives were called in.
Initial investigation revealed that two cars were stopped next to one another when one person exited each car, Dolson said.
The victim was shot mutliple times before both cars sped away, he said.
A motive or suspect description was not available, though the shooting was not believed to be gang-related, the lietenant said.
Rosemead Boulevard between Rush Street and the 60 Freeway were closed remained closed as of 8:28 p.m.
The California Highway Patrol assisted deputies in diverting traffic around the area.
SOUTH EL MONTE — The California Highway Patrol issued a Sig Alert on the eastbound 60 Freeway near Peck Road Wednesday after a crash involving a Caltrans truck and an unmarked sheriff’s car, authorities said.
CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos said there were no reports of injuries in connection with the crash, which was reported about 10:15 a.m.
The circumstances of the crash and the extent of the damage to the vehicles were not immediately available.
Officials declared a Sig Alert for the right-hand lane of the eastbound 60 Freeway, as well well as the Peck Road onramp to the eastbound 60 Freeway, as they cleared the damaged Caltrans truck from the roadway, Villalobos said.
The crash was being investigated by the East Los Angeles office of the CHP.