Investigators in the San Gabriel Valley jailed a Fontana man Thursday on suspicion of carrying out an “elaborate scheme” to steal the homes of the elderly and families of recently deceased people, authorities said.
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’ Department’s Fraud and Cyber Crimes Detail, Real Estate Fraud Unit, arrested Vo Hoang Ho, 38, about 6:30 a.m., according to sheriff’s officials and booking records. Officials described Ho as a Fontana resident, though public records also indicate a recent address in West Covina.
The arrest stems from a warrant issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Sept. 1, Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the sheriff’s Information Bureau sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Ho carried out the fraud over the past three months, at least, officials said.
“The scheme was perpetrated by way of the suspect committing identity theft on either the deceased owners of the property or living elderly victims, forging the victims’ names on various fraudulent real estate documents, and having those documents recorded at the Los Angeles County Recorder’s office,” Rouzan said. He offered the properties for sale to victim investors who had no idea about the fraud.
It was unclear Thursday how many alleged victims were involved,or how much property Ho is alleged to have swindled in the alleged con, which Rouzan described as “elaborate.”
Fraud investigators advised homeowners to periodically check their properties’ history for accuracy. “If discrepancies are noticed in the title chain, contact a real estate professional for advice,” according to Rouzan. If something suspicious is seen, homeowners are advised to contact their local law enforcement agencies.
“Los Angeles County residents should also be aware that every time a real estate document gets recorded with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s office a notice gets sent to the property owner advising them of such,” Rouzan added. “This service is provided to make home owners aware that activity is taking place with their property.”
According to booking records, Ho was being held in lieu of $1.15 million bail pending his initial court appearance.
Anyone with information can reach Sgt. Alex Gilinets of the Real Estate Fraud Unit at 562-946-8250. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A driver killed after her car crashed in to a disabled big rig on the 60 Freeway in South El Monte on Thursday has been identified as a 49-year-old Walnut woman, authorities said.
Tiffany Chiali Yi Ching died in the 1:40 p.m. crash along the westbound 60 Freeway, just east of Santa Anita Avenue, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
She was at the wheel of a 2018 BMW heading west on the 60 Freeway at an unknown speed just prior to the crash, Officer J. Calder of the CHP’s East Los Angeles-area office said in a written statement.
Ahead of her was a tractor-trailer stopped along the right shoulder of the freeway, near the Santa Anita Avenue offramp, due to a mechanical breakdown, the officer said.
“(The BMW driver) made a turning movement to the right toward the Santa Anita Avenue offramp,” he said. “The BMW struck the right, rear corner of the stopped commercial trailer, continued in a westerly direction, collided a second time into the commercial trailer and the redirected to the north and came to rest on the right shoulder of the offramp.”
Paramedics pronounced Ching dead at the scene at 1:54 p.m., Winter said.
An autopsy determined Ching died from “traumatic injuries” and the death was ruled accidental, he said.
The big rig driver suffered no injuries, according to Calder.
Any witnesses, or anyone with information, can reach the CHP’s East Los Angeles-area office at 323-980-4600.
PHOTO by Keith Durflinger
WALNUT >> A West Covina man received a 4-year prison sentence on Thursday for fatally striking a Walnut man while intoxicated, authorities said.
Haissam Massalkhy, 37, pleaded “no contest” in February to a count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence for the Feb. 15, 2016, collision at La Puente Road and Barnard Avenue that claimed the life of 59-year-old father of three Chi “Jason” Shao, 59, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani and Los Angeles County Superior Court records.
An additional charge of murder was dismissed at his sentencing on Thursday, records show. Prosecutors initially alleged Massalkhy ran down Shao intentionally, though no possible motive was released. The men did not know one another prior to the incident, officials said.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles handed down a sentence of four years in state prison when Massalkhy appeared in court on Friday.
Shao was jogging when he was struck from behind by Massalkhy’s Toyota Camry, according to Lt. Steve Jauch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau, which handled the investigation. Shao was carried on the hood of the car for several yards before the Camry crashed into a wall. Paramedics pronounced Shao dead at the scene.
Shao’s son, Jeff Shao, described his father as “friendly” and an “easy-going guy.”
His daughter, Cindy Shao, said his life centered around his family and his job at Cheertie Display Fixtures in El Monte. He had quit smoking and taken up jogging in an effort to live a long and healthful life.
If he had been convicted of murder, rather than vehicular manslaughter, Massalkhy could have faced more than 25 years to life in state prison.
*NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the charge the defendant pleaded “no contest” to was vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence.
PHOTO: Chi “Jason” Shao, 59, of Walnut. (Courtesy)
EL MONTE >> Police jailed a convicted felon from Walnut early Friday after recovering 3,300 marijuana plants, 308 pounds of finished pot, an ounce of methamphetamine and a loaded gun from a warehouse in El Monte, authorities said.
Brian Lee Skipper, 46, was arrested during the 7 a.m. raid at a commercial building at 2645 Merced Ave., according to El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna. Investigators showed up with a search warrant, seeking an illicit marijuana-growing operation.
“Upon entry, police personnel located (Skipper) and numerous pieces of equipment and devices used for the cultivation of marijuana and concentrated cannabis,” Luna said in a written statement, “In addition, detectives located methamphetamine, a loaded firearm and surveillance and security equipment.”
Police also found “numerous types of hazardous chemicals” used in the production of concentrated cannabis, also known as “wax” or “honey oil.”
“As a result, the location was vacated and additional investigators from the L.A. Impact Narcotics Team and Los Angeles County Hazardous Materials responded,” Luna said. “An additional investigation was completed as well as a cleanup which rendered the property safe.”
Police also allege the grow operation was wired to bypass the electric meter and steal power from the grid.
Skipper was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sales, operating a chemical drug lab, possession of methamphetamine for sale, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and theft of utility services.
The seized marijuana and methamphetamine carry an estimated street value of $750,000, Luna said.
Skipper, a convicted felon who was on active probation, was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Skipper just pleaded guilty in January of Possession of methamphetamine for sale and theft of utlities in a case first filed in 2014, according to San Bernardino Superior Court records. He also admitted a prior drug offense. Additional charges of cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sales were dismissed.
He was also convicted in San Bernardino County of domestic abuse in June of 2006, and of making criminal threats in 2001, records show.
In Los Angeles County, Skipper’s criminal history stretches from 1989 to 2011 and includes convictions for drug possession, assault and battery, an illegal weapon violation and driving on a suspended or revoked license.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact El Monte police at 626-580-2100, or by email at email@example.com.
PHOTO of Brian Lee Skipper, 46, of Walnut courtesy of the El Monte Police Department
WALNUT >> Sheriff’s deputies, including a SWAT team, descended on a Walnut neighborhood Thursday afternoon after reports of gunfire, ultimately arresting a man on suspicion of negligently firing a rifle, officials said.
The incident began about 1:30 p.m. in the 400 block of Camino de Gloria, north of Valley Boulevard, when deputies received reports of gunfire heard in the neighborhood, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. David Buckner said.
“Upon their arrival, they heard two additional volleys of shots,” he said.
Deputies cordoned off the neighborhood and summoned a Special Enforcement Bureau team to the scene.
Officials ultimately determined the shots were fired from a nearby backyard, and did not appear to target anyone or anything in particular, according to the lieutenant.
Deputies found the suspected shooter walking in the neighborhood and took him into custody without a struggle about 4:15 p.m., Buckner said.
A .22-caliber rifle was recovered from his property, he added.
The suspect, a man of about 60 years old, was booked on suspicion of negligently discharging a firearm, Buckner said.
His identity was not available Thursday evening.
WALNUT >> Homicide detectives are investigating the fatal shooting of a man and woman inside a Walnut home Thursday as a murder-suicide, authorities said.
Yusheng Zhuang, 68, fatally shot his 50-year-old wife, Guizhi Zhang, before turning the gun on himself, according to Deputy Guillermina Saldaña of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau.
A report of a “family disturbance” shortly before 11:30 a.m. first drew deputies to the home in the 100 block of Avenida Grulla, sheriff’s officials said.
While responding to the call, which came from someone outside of the home, deputies received information that there may be firearms inside the house, Sgt. Bill Cotter of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
After receiving no answer at the door of the home, deputies surrounded the two-story house and called for a sheriff’s SWAT team to take over the scene, officials said.
Members of the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau made entry into the house about 4:30 p.m., Cotter said.
They discovered the bodies near one another on the first floor of the home, the sergeant said.
“A firearm was recovered at the scene and after the initial investigation, it was determined that a possible murder-suicide had occurred,” Saldaña said in a written statement.
Officials had no contact with anyone inside the home prior to the discovery of the bodies, according to Cotter.
No neighbors or deputies reported hearing gunshots at any point Thursday, he said.
While the shooting appeared to be a murder-suicide, detectives were still investigating who the shooter was, Cotter said.
Anyone with information is asked 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.
WALNUT >> Reports of a family disturbance led deputies to discover a man and woman shot to death inside a Walnut home on Thursday afternoon, officials said.
The deaths were first discovered about 5 p.m. when deputies from the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar station forced their way into the home in the 100 block of Avenida Grulla, Deputy Trina Schrader of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
Once inside, they found the bodies of two people, described only as a man and woman, who had been shot to death, she said.
Deputies first received a call from the home about 11:30 a.m. reporting a “family disturbance” at the home, Schrader said.
But no one answered the door at the home, she said.
As the afternoon went on, deputies obtained a warrant to enter the home before discovering the bodies, she said.
No suspects were in custody, and there was no information regarding any possible suspect or suspects, Schrader said.
No further details were released. Officials at the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station deferred all inquiries to their counterparts in the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Anyone with information is asked 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.
LA PUENTE >> For the third year running, La Puente has been named one of the 50 safest cities in California by security organization Safe Wise.
The city earned the 48th spot on the SafeWise Report’s 50 Safest Cities in California list for 2016.
“Besides its enviably low crime rate, what caught our attention about La Puente is the way it cares for its children,” SafeWise said in a written statement.
“ La Puente’s Self-Esteem Through Activities Recreation and Sports program provides elementary school children with a diverse assortment of after-school activities. La Puente’s Teen V.O.I.C.E. program is a volunteer-based program for teens ages 13 to 18, and its Tiny Tot program helps build the self-esteem of children ages three to five.”
City Manager David Carmany said the designation “validated we are on the right track,” but said the majority of credit belongs to the city’s partners at the Los Angels County Sheriff’s Department, as well as city staff.
Six other San Gabriel Valley cities made the list of California’s top 50 safest cities.
Sierra Madre ranked 9th safest city in California, Walnut ranked 20th, Temple City ranked 38th, Diamond Bar ranked 42nd, Chino Hills ranked 47th and La Mirada ranked 49th.
POMONA >> Deputies and police arrested an alleged drunken driver who led a deputy on a chase from Walnut to Pomona before crashing his pickup truck into another car and fleeing the scene, authorities said.
The incident began about 6:20 p.m. when a deputy tried to pull over a suspected drunken driver in a Dodge pickup truck in the area of Temple and Bonita avenues, near Mt. San Antonio College, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Joseph Badali said.
The driver refused to pull over, leading the deputy on a short chase before colliding with another car along Temple Avenue, just west of Valley Boulevard, just across the city border in Pomona, the lieutenant said.
Deputies called of the pursuit following the collision, he said. At least one person inside the car struck by the fleeing suspect was hurt, though the injuries were not believed to be serious.
Badali said the drunken driver then continued driving and parked his truck at a nearby gas station. The suspect was apprehended nearby on foot.
He was booked on suspicion of drunken driving, evading police and hit-and-run, Badali said.
Investigators at the crash scene took measurements around a sedan spun the wrong way in eastbound lanes of Temple Avenue with significant damage toward the rear end.
The suspect’s name was not available Wednesday as he was taken to a hospital for examination prior to booking, he said.
LOS ANGELES >> A jury Friday convicted a Rowland Heights doctor of three counts of murder for the deaths of three patients who overdosed on drugs she prescribed following a two-month trial.
The case is the first time a medical doctor has been convicted of murder in the United States for overprescribing drugs, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
Hsiu-Ying “Lisa’ Tseng, a 45-year-old doctor of osteopathic medicine and Walnut resident, operated the Advanced Care AAA Medical clinic in Rowland Heights along with her husband.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court jury also convicted her of 20 counts of unlawfully prescribing prescription drugs, but acquitted her on a single charge of prescribing drugs fraudulently, Los Angels County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
“This verdict sends a strong message to individuals in the medical community who put patients at risk for their own financial gain,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “In this case, the doctor stole the lives of three young people in her misguided effort to get rich quick.”
The verdict followed more than a week of jury deliberation.
Investigators arrested Tseng in March of 2012. She has remained in custody in lieu of $3 million throughout the legal process.
The second-degree murder charges stemmed from the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 29, of Lake Forest, on March 2, 2009; Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert, on April 9, 2009; and Joseph Rovero III, 21, of San Ramon, on Dec. 18, 2009.
Prosecutors, who described Tseng as a “Dr. Feelgood,” argued she prescribed the three young men powerful drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and Xanax, without valid medical reasons.
She has a sentencing hearing on Dec. 14, where she faces up to 45 years to life in state prison.
“This is the most severe penalty we have ever gotten ona doctor who illegally overprescribed drugs to patients,” Lacey said.
Tseng’s defense attorney, Tracy Green of Los Angeles-based Green & Associates, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
The ground-breaking case was prosecuted by deputy district attorneys John Niederman and Grace Rai of the D.A.’s Major Narcotics Division.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration began looking into Tseng and her practice in 2008 after pharmacies noted high numbers of Tseng’s patients showing up to fill prescriptions for painkillers, prosecutors said. Investigators made undercover visits to the office, and conducted a search of it, in 2010.
Prior to the criminal case, Tseng had already settled civil lawsuits with the families of five other men who overdosed on drugs she proscribed. Testimony revealed at least 12 of Tseng’s patients in all have died of prescription drug overdoses.
Tseng denied the charges, and her trial began in late August.
Tseng received her medical license in 1997, according to Osteopathic Medical Board of California records.
She opened her Rowland Heights clinic in 2005, officials said.
“During the time-frame when nine of her patients died in less than three years, Tseng took in $5 million from her clinic and continued dispensing potent and addictive drugs unabated,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Tseng often no medical records while prescribing the drugs, officials said.
“In many instances, she faked medical records when authorities began investigating,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Tseng surrendered her license in March of 2012 and is not permitted to practice medicine, records show. Her DEA registration was revoked in 2010 amid the ongoing investigation.