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.
POMONA >> An ex-South El Monte High School volunteer received a one-year jail sentence Friday for taking inappropriate pictures of a 17-year-old boy who passed out at his home during a party, authorities said.
Andres Fernandez, 31, of South El Monte pleaded no contest last month to a count of possession of matter depicting a minor engaging in sexual conduct, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
He was sentenced Friday in Pomona Superior Court to one year in county jail and five years of formal probation, district attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling said. He will also be required to register as a sex offender.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested him March 30 in connection with the Dec. 2, 2013, incident at Fernandez’s home.
Prosecutors alleged he held a party at his home which was attended by several students.
“At the gathering, a male teenager got drunk and passed out,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement. “While the youth was unconscious, Fernandez took inappropriate pictures of the teen.”
The pictures were discovered by a coworker, who notified the school, officials said. School officials, in turn, notified sheriff’s investigators.
Fernandez, who was free on a $20,000 bond pending trial, was remanded into custody following his sentencing, according to county booking records.
SANTA FE SPRINGS — Officials have released the name of a 39-year-old South El Monte man who died in a motorcycle crash in Santa Fe Springs Monday,
Jacob John Valdivia died in the 10:12 p.m. crash at Washington Boulevard and Chatfield Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Valdivia was westbound Washington Boulevard on his 2005 Harley-Davidson motorcycle at an unknown speed when he collided with a 2003 Dodge Ram pickup truck that was making a left turn from eastbound Washington Boulevard to northbound Chatfield Avenue, Officer J. Boyd of the California Highway Patrol’s Santa Fe Springs office said in written statement.
“(Valdivia) failed to stop in time as the front of the Harley-Davidson collided into the right, rear corner of the Dodge Ram,” Boyd said. “This caused major impact damage to the Harley-Davidson. (Valdivia) was ejected from the Harley-Davidson.”
Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene, officials said. The driver of the Dodge, a 27-year-old Fullerton man, was not injured in the collision.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation.
SOUTH EL MONTE — A gunman robbed the lobby of a South El Monte motel Friday afternoon, authorities said.
The crime took place about 3:35 p.m. when the robber walked into the Rodeway Inn, 1228 Durfee Avenue, near Peck Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Ismael Chavez said.
“He asked the price of a room. As the victim began to answer, he produced a handgun and pointed it at him,” the lieutenant said.
The gunman demanded cash, and the clerk turned over $245 from the cash register, he said.
Chavez said the robber then ordered to victim, a 23-year-old man, to turn around and not look back as he fled.
Officials described the robber as a Latino man in his mid-20s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and 190 pounds. He wore a black coat, purple shorts and purple shoes.
Anyone with information can contact the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171.
SOUTH EL MONTE — Two teenage boys suffered injuries in baseball bat attack late Friday, authorities said.
Few details were initially available regarding the 11:59 p.m. incident in the 2000 block of Santa Anita Avenue, near Rush Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Ann Devane said. The teens did not appear to be fully cooperating with investigators.
They were with a group of four or five others when two attackers described only as Latino exited a white, 4-door, older model car and assaulted the two victims with a baseball bat, Devane said.
The teens told deputies the attack was unprovoked, and they had no idea why they were beaten, the sergeant said.
One of the boys was hospitalized with injuries including an apparent broken nose, and the other was bleeding from his head, the sergeant said. The injuries were not believed to be major.
A 30-year-old Chino Hills man died Wednesday after he was thrown from his motorcycle on the 60 Freeway in South El Monte, then struck by a big rig which continued driving, authorities said.
Troy Dean Olson died in the crash, which took place shortly after 6:30 p.m. in the eastbound lanes of the freeway, just east of Cogswell Road, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
Olson was driving a 2013 Honda motorcycle at an unknown speed in the No. 3 lane prior to the crash, Officer M. Gonzales of the California Highway Patrol’s East Los Angeles office said. The motorcyclist applied his brakes due to slowing traffic ahead.
“(Olson) lost control of the motorcycle, causing him to be ejected onto the No. 4 lane,” Gonzales said. A passing big rig then ran over the rider.
Paramedics pronounced Olson dead at the scene, officials said.
Witnesses on-scene stated the driver of the tractor-trailer momentarily stopped and then proceeded to drive away from the scene of the collisions,” Gonzales said.
A description of the driver was not available, however the big rig was described as a dark-colored tractor with a gray or white trailer, he said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the East Los Angeles office of the CHP at 323-980-4600.
- Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
Coroner’s officials asked the public’s help Wednesday in identifying a woman whose partially skeletonized remained were discovered in the San Gabriel riverbed in April.
The remains of the woman, listed at the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner as Jane Doe No. 27, were discovered by county workers about 8:40 a.m. April 2 in the riverbed about 150 yards north of the Whittier Narrows Dam, and 100 yards west of Pico Rivera Bicentennial Park in an unincorporated county area near South El Monte, coroner’s officials said in a written statement.
Due to the condition of the body, which sheriff’s investigators said may have been there for several months, an autopsy was unable to determine how the woman died, coroner’s Lt. Larry Dietz said. The officials cause of death was listed at the coroner’s office as “undetermined.”
In an effort to learn the identity of the woman, and possibly shed light on what happened to her, investigators Wednesday publicly released a sketch of what the woman was believed to have looked like. A sketch of a tattoo of a rising sun with two mushrooms in front of it on the woman’s right calf was also released.
No wallet or identifying papers were found with the body, officials said.
The dead woman was described as 21 to 40 years old. Her eye color could not be determined. She was wearing blue jeans, size 16 petite, and gray size 10 tennis shoes.
“A gray messenger bag containing two body sprays, along with a gray “Amtrak” hooded jacket were found near the decedent,” according to the coroner’s statement.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Investigator Daniel Machian of the Coroner’s Identifications Unit at 323-343-0754, or the Coroner’s Investigations Division at 3230343-0714.
Sketch of victim, tattoo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.
SOUTH EL MONTE — A man made off with an iPhone 5 after brandishing a pair or wire cutters at a cell phone store employee Saturday, officials said.
The robbery took place about 5 p.m. at a T-Mobile store in the 1800 block of Durfee Avenue, Sgt. Bensahile of the sheriff’s Temple Station said. He declined to give his first name.
A store employee noticed a man using wire cutters to open up a case containing cell phones, the sergeant said.
When confronted by a store employee, “He raised the wire cutters in a threatening manner,” Bensahile said. The thief then ran off with an iPhone 5 valued at $650.
He was described as a Latino man between 20 and 25 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches tall and 140 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes, Bensahile added. He wore a red shirt and blue pants.
SOUTH EL MONTE — Authorities and concerned family members are asking the public’s help in tracking down two 16-year-old girls believed to have run away from home more than a week ago.
Cynthia Gaytan and Dacia Ramos were last seen June 12 at South El Monte High School, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Loy McBride said.
The girls were believed to have run away of their own accord, and foul play was not suspected, McBride said. At least one sighting of the girls has been reported at a Long Beach restaurant where Gaytan and Ramos were eating, and they did not appear to be an any distrss.
Nonetheless, after more than a week passed since the girls vanished, family members are growing increasingly concerned and asked anyone who spots the girls to contact deputies immediately.
The girls’ online communications indicated they planned to first go to Long Beach to work and save up some money before heading to Northern California to meet someone they’d met over the Internet.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171.
SOUTH EL MONTE — A gunman dressed in black and wearing a blue baseball cap got away with cash after robbing a liquor store Tuesday night.
Deputies didn’t say how much money the culprit took.
Mike’s Liquor at 2003 Rosemead Boulevard was robbed around 8:45 p.m.
Lt. Ignacio Somoano of the sheriff’s Temple station said the suspect approached a store employee, displayed a gun and demanded money.
He left with the money and was last seen in a white vehicle, Somoano said.
The suspect was described as a Latino. 25 to 30, and 5 feet 6 inches tall.
- Ruby Gonzales