West Covina woman gets 2 years in prison for embezzling from PTA, little league, Girl Scouts

WEST COVINA >> A judge sentenced a West Covina woman to two years in state prison Friday for embezzling more than $92,000 from local Girl Scouts, Little League and PTA organizations for which she volunteered, authorities said.
Veronica Monique Paderez, 38, pleaded “no contest” to three felony counts of embezzlement in November.
Between 2013 and 2015, she embezzled more than $52,000 from the Vine Elementary School PTA, $26,000 from the West Covina American Little League and $11,000 from Girl Scout Troop #4754, for a total theft of more than 92,000, according to investigators and prosecutors.
“Paderez was a volunteer with each of the organizations and had access to their accounts and money collections,” Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Upon sentencing Paderez, Judge Victor Martinez also ordered her to repay $92.048.81 to the three organizations she stole from, Ardalani said.
She could have received a lesser sentence had she been able to produce a lump sum restitution payment of $15,000 at Friday’s hearing, officials said.
But she did not have the money at the hearing, according to Ardalani.
Paderez was initially charged with nine counts of theft by embezzlement and could have faced up to four years behind bars if convicted at trial as charged.
Paderez served as treasurer of the Vine Elementary PTA for the 2014-2015 school year. She also served as treasurer and auxiliary vice president for the Little League, and police said she was in charge of the local Girl Scout troop and controlled its accounts.
West Covina Police Officer David Sifling, who took part in the investigation, said Paderez showed no signs of remorse in court.
He commended police investigators, as well as Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Goodrich, for their hard work in unravelling the complicated case.

PHOTO of Veronica Paderez courtesy of the West Covina Police Department

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Police, sleuthing mother recover teen’s stolen snowboard in West Covina; suspect jailed

WEST COVINA >> A cyber-sleuthing mother helped police to get her 13-year-old daughter’s stolen snowboard back and arrest a man on suspicion of the theft, as well as at least three others, officials said.
Tony Jesus Cruz, 20, was booked on suspicion of possession of stolen property on March 8 after police arranged to meet him in West Covina in response to online advertisements he’d posted for stolen snowboards, West Covina police Officer David Sifling said.
Sophia Hert, 13, was snowboarding at the Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood on March 4 when someone snatched her snowboard, along with others, from a rack, the officer said.
Adding insult to injury, Sophia had worked hard to purchase the snowboard herself, Sifling explained.
“She makes homemade dog biscuits and treats,” he said. Selling the pet treats, “She raised enough money to buy her own snowboard,” he said.
The girl’s mother, Jennette Hert, took to the internet and soon found her daughters snowboard, which was recognizable due to distinctive features, being advertised for sale on the online marketplace OfferUp, Sifling said. She posed as a buyer and arranged to meet the seller at a mall in West Covina on March 8 to complete the transaction, and notified police.
Sifling said he then contacted the same seller, later identified as Cruz, posing as a potential buyer interested in another snowboard. An meeting was arranged about the same time and place as the other meeting arranged by the victim’s mother.
Police arrested Cruz when he showed up at the meeting place with the girl’s stolen snowboard, as well as a second stolen board, Sifling said. A search of a Covina home where Cruz had been staying turned up to additional allegedly stolen snowboards.
Police had yet to determine the value of the recovered snowboards, he said, though each was likely worth several hundred dollars.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Cruz was released from jail the same day of his arrest pending his initial court appearance after posting $20,000 bail.

PHOTO: West Covina Police Officer David Sifling, left, poses for a picture with 13-year-old Sophia Hert after police, aided by the girls’ mother, recovered the teen’s stolen snowboard and arrested the alleged thief on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. (Courtesy)

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West Covina man sentenced for DUI crash that killed Walnut father

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)

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West Covina man accused of killing roommate’s pet Chihuahua

WEST COVINA >> A West Covina man accused of killing his roommate’s pet Chihuahua denied an animal cruelty charge on Thursday, officials said.
Mark Rivera Rodriguez is charged with one count of felony animal cruelty in connection with the March 7 death of the animal, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
The incident took place about 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday at a home in the 200 block of North Phillips Avenue, West Covina police Lt. Ron Allen said.
Prosecutors allege Rodriguez had previously threatened to kill his roommate’s dog, named Alvin, according district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
“The defendant was allegedly hanging from a tree in the backyard of the West Covina home when he jumped down and landed on Alvin’s head,” she said. “The dog’s owner immediately took Alvin to the veterinarian, where he was pronounced dead.”
Police arrested Rodriguez later the same day.
Rodriguez remained jailed Friday in lieu of $25,000 bail, records show. He was scheduled to return to the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court on March 27 for a hearing in the case.
If convicted as charged, he faces up to three years in county jail.

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Woman struck, killed by car in West Covina


WEST COVINA >> A woman died after she was struck by a car in West Covina late Wednesday, officials said.
The fatal collision was first reported at 7:55 p.m. on La Puente Road at Sentous Avenue, West Covina police Lt. Pat Benschop said.
Paramedics pronounced the woman dead at the scene, he said. Her identity was not yet known.
The driver of the involved car remained at the scene and cooperated with police, the lieutenant said.
No further details were available as the investigation remained in its early stages.
Anyone with information can reach West Covina police at 626-939-8500.

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Four arrested following West Covina burglary

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WEST COVINA >> Police arrested three men and a teenage boy on Thursday night after a break-in at an occupied home in Covina, officials said.
Arrested were Shawn Keith Castilow, 26, of Compton; Michael Ormahn Davis, 19, of Riverside; Semaj Amantae James, 19, of Los Angeles; and a 16-year-old Los Angeles boy, whose name was not released due to his age, West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez said in a written statement.
A man called 911 about 8:55 p.m. to report he found four people trying to break into his home in the 400 block of North Ellen Drive, Lopez said.
“The victim, who was inside his residence at the time, was able to provide the license plate of the fleeing vehicle containing the four suspects,” according to Lopez. “West Covina Officers responding to the scene located the suspect vehicle on the 10 Freeway as it traveled westbound. The vehicle was stopped and the four suspects were then taken into custody without incident.”
Police recovered items from the suspect’s car, “that may possibly link the suspects to additional burglaries,” Lopez added.
All four suspects were booked on suspicion of burglary, police said. Castilow was additionally accused of violating his parole, stemming from a prior conviction.

PHOTOS: [Left to right] Shawn Keith Castilow, 26, of Compton; Micharl Ormahn Davis, 19, of Riverside; Semag Amantae James, 19, of Los Angeles; and a 16-year-old Los Angeles boy 9not pictured) were arrested on suspicion of burglarizing a home in West Covina on Friday, Jan. 6, 2016. (Courtesy, West Covina Police Department)

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Elderly woman fatally struck by Foothill Transit bus in West Covina


WEST COVINA >> An 82-year-old woman died after she was struck by a Foothill Transit bus in West Covina on Saturday afternoon, police said.
The woman was struck about 4:20 p.m. at Barranca and North Garvey avenues, just east of the Eastland Center shopping mall, West Covina police officials said in a written statement.
Paramedics pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
No further details were available.
The identity of the victim was not released Sunday pending positive identification and notification of her family, coroner’s officials said.
Anyone with information can reach West Covina police at 626-939-8500.

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Police plan checkpoint in West Covina

WEST COVINA >> Police are planning to hold a checkpoint to screen drivers for sobriety and valid licenses next week.
The checkpoint is scheduled to take place from 6 p.m. on Dec. 30 to 2 a.m. on Dec. 31 at an undisclosed location within the city, West Covina police officials said in a written statement.
“DUI Checkpoints like this one are placed in locations based on collision statistics and frequency of DUI arrests, affording the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence,” according to the statement. “Locations are chosen with safety considerations for the officers and the public.”
Funding for the operation is being provided by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, through the California Office of Traffic Safety.

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West Covina police seek missing 77-year-old man

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WEST COVINA >> Police are asking the public’s help in finding a 77-year-old man who went missing in West Covina on Saturday.
Larry Thomas was last seen about 9 p.m. on Saturday at the Cove bar, 146 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina police officials said in a written statement. He disappeared and hasn’t been seen since.
Thomas, who may be suffering from the early stages of dementia, was driving a silver, four-door, 2002 Jaguar SJ with a California license plate of 4XBK749. He was last seen wearing a royal blue Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans.
Anyone with information is urged to contact West Covina police at 626-939-8500, or dial 911.

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UPDATED: Motorcyclist killed in West Covina crash


WEST COVINA >> A man died following a collision between his three-wheeled motorcycle and another vehicle in a West Covina intersection Sunday afternoon, officials said.
The fatal crash took place about 1 p.m. at Azusa and Fairgrove avenues, West Covina police Lt. Ron Allen said.
“Preliminary details suggest the vehicle been travelling north on Azusa Avenue and turned west onto Fairgrove,” West Covina police said in a written statement. “The motorcycle trike had been travelling south on Azusa Avenue.”
Paramedics took the injured motorcyclist to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, police said. His identity was not released Sunday.
Police shut down traffic on southbound Azusa Avenue at Autumn Drive and eastbound Fairgrove Avenue at Nelson Street as they carried out their investigation Sunday afternoon, according to the statement. The cause of the collision was yet to be determined.
No further details were available.

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