‘No Idling’ Regs Coming to Commerce

June 25, 2015 by · 4 Comments 

Diesel burning trucks idling for long periods is a problem in the City of Commerce. On Tuesday, city officials, residents and local environmental groups unveiled the city’s latest effort to try to curtail the practice: 20 new “No Idling” signs to be installed in areas where truck drivers tend to stop off for a while but keep their engines running.

The new signs were created in partnership with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the California Environmental Protection Agency, (CalEPA) and  meet the new regulations set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regarding the idling of commercial vehicles.

The new regulations require “No Idling” signs to be placed at locations where significant numbers of idling trucks have been found.

“We established a policy that protects climate change and to inform mobile sources—trucks, cars, ships, railroads—because they are the primary source of air pollution in south coast basins,” CARB Board Member Judy Mitchell told EGP.

A group of community activists and elected officials unveil the ‘No Idling’ signs that will be placed around Commerce. (EGP photo by Jaqueline Garcia)

A group of community activists and elected officials unveil the ‘No Idling’ signs that will be placed around Commerce. (EGP photo by Jaqueline Garcia)

In 2013, East Yards and their student led group at Bell Gardens High School, Youth in Action, conducted a study to determine how many trucks are on Commerce streets on any given day. “Truck Truthing” study volunteers biked and walked the city’s major corridors of Atlantic, Washington and Slauson Boulevards, and counted the number of trucks on the road.

“We chose those locations because they are closest to the 710 or 5 freeways, and very close to residential areas, homes or churches,” Hugo Lujan of East Yards told EGP.

Noel Pimentel, 14, is a Youth in Action member. He told EGP that volunteers would stand on corners every day for an hour, using a clicker to count how many trucks go by.

“In an hour, close to 1,000 trucks came by,” he said, adding that volunteers wanted to stay longer but couldn’t “because we would start having headaches from all the fumes.”

The study found that approximately 47,000 diesel trucks travel the 710 freeway daily, exposing Commerce residents and workers to large amounts of diesel, increasing their risk of cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Pimentel said one day he approached a truck driver and asked him why he left his engine running. “Because I don’t want the engine to burn out, because it takes forever to turn on,” he responded.

The results of the Truck Truthing exercise were turned over to the city to help inform officials about the importance of placing “No Idle” signs along heavy traffic corridors, the study states.

Commerce has started an outreach campaign to inform truck drivers about the new “No Idling” signage and policy, including enforcement. “The city has been working with local businesses to distribute letters explaining the new policy” before the signs go up, said public works Director Maryam Babaki.

She said the city will not begin enforcing the ordinance until businesses and drivers have had a “sufficient amount of time” to become familiar with the signs and policy chance. Enforcement could include fines, she said.

This new regulations apply to diesel-fueled commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds operating in California, regardless of where they are registered. School buses are prohibited from idling within 100 feet of a school, and drivers may not start engines more than 30 seconds before they start driving.

Mayor Lilia Leon told EGP that the change is a work in progress. “Trucks will have to get used to the signs and what we are trying to do is improve the quality of air in the city of Commerce,” she said.

—-
Twitter @jackieguzman
jgarcia@egpnews.com

Suspects In Street Vendor Murder In Custody

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

 Two suspects were in custody Tuesday in connection with the shooting death of a vendor at a makeshift food stand in the South Park section of South Los Angeles.

Police declined to provide details of the arrests or the names of the suspects. Los Angeles police Officer Norma Eisenman said the suspects have not yet been booked.

According to police and the coroner’s office, 30-year-old Alvaro Mata-Rizo of Bell Gardens was approached by several suspects around 11 p.m. Friday at the intersection of East 51st Street and McKinley Avenue, and one of them fired a single shot.

Investigators believe robbery may have been the motive behind the shooting.

Mata-Rizo was married with a 2-year-old son, and worked six days a week, sometimes giving free food to people who could not pay, ABC7 reported.

Slain Mayor’s Mother Wins Access to Police Reports

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A judge has reversed himself and ruled that an attorney for the mother of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo — whose wife is accused of shooting him — can have access to the police report he says he needs to get his client’s civil case ready for trial.

Otilia Santos’ attorney, James Devitt, filed court papers in Los Angeles Superior Court asking a judge to order the Bell Gardens Police Department to turn over the police report and all documents related to the death of her son, Daniel Crespo.

On April 17, Judge Michael Raphael denied Devitt’s motion, noting that the police investigation was still in progress. But Raphael said June 18 that in light of a grand jury indictment of Lyvette Crespo for voluntary manslaughter and her subsequent plea of not guilty, no legal grounds remain for withholding the information.

“This is precisely the sort of new fact or circumstance that warrants reconsideration,” Raphael wrote in his two-page ruling.

Raphael said he is not requiring the BGPD to turn over photos of the decedent. He also said Devitt cannot disseminate the report to the public unless he also obtains a copy from another source.

In court papers filed before Lyvette Crespo’s indictment, lawyers for the BGPD said they would only turn over the records if ordered by a judge to do so. The department handed over the investigation into Crespo’s death to the Sheriff’s Department shortly after the mayor was killed, according to the BGPD attorneys’ court papers.

Devitt said after the hearing that the Bell Gardens report is five pages long. He said he still has not seen the Sheriff’s Department report and may have to make a similar motion to obtain it.

Santos filed suit last Oct. 20, exactly a month after her 45-year-old son was shot. Sheriff’s investigators said Daniel Crespo and his wife were arguing when their 19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son. Lyvette Crespo allegedly grabbed a gun and shot her husband, who had punched their son in the face.

Santos alleges her son was shot in cold blood. The lawsuit alleges his wife picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

Eber Bayona, the attorney for 43-year-old Lyvette Crespo, contends his client was a longtime victim of domestic violence. Transcripts from the grand jury indictment contend Daniel Crespo had multiple affairs and physically abused his family members for years.

Bayona opposed the release of the Bell Gardens report pending the outcome of his motion to stay the civil case until the criminal proceedings against his client are over. He said his client would not be able to give a deposition in the lawsuit because what she said could be used against her in the criminal case.

Bayona also said in court that Devitt offered to drop the lawsuit if he could obtain the rights from Lyvette Crespo to make a movie about her life.

However, Devitt said he told Bayona that there may be some value in such a film but that he did not offer to drop the suit in exchange for any movie rights.

Bell Gardens ‘Betting’ on Casino’s Hotel

June 11, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

An increase in revenue coming from the opening later this year of a highly anticipated seven-story, 100-room hotel at The Bicycle Casino, could just be the winning hand Bell Gardens needs to keep its budget on the plus side.

On Monday, the city council approved a $27.9 million budget that includes a $211,000 surplus, most of which can be attributed to tax revenue the city receives from the Casino.

Lea este artículo en Español: Bell Gardens ‘Apuesta’ al Hotel del Casino

The Bicycle Casino is a  “major revenue source” for the city, says Finance Director Will Kaholokula.

He said Bell Gardens receives a percentage of the Casino’s take from table games and poker tournaments, which should come to just over $11 million for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year; $1 million more than last year.

The higher revenues in the new budget are based on the “Casino’s strong performance in the 2014-2015 fiscal year and the anticipated completion of the casino’s hotel,” Kaholokula said.

A $47 million hotel expected to generate millions in revenue, is currently under construction at The Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A $47 million hotel expected to generate millions in revenue, is currently under construction at The Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

While the city has for years depended heavily on revenue from the Casino to fund city services like police, parks, and street maintenance, that reliance has been decreasing steadily in recent years, dropping to 40% today compared to 50% in years past.

Bell Gardens Chamber of Commerce Director Mike Salazar, however, told EGP he still thinks the city is “depending on the casino way too much.” He is worried a period of poor performance could put the city’s finances at risk, as it has in the past.

His concern is not with the new hotel’s financial viability, because he does believe it will do well, Salazar clarified  Thursday. He just thinks the city could improve how it supports other Bell Gardens businesses to make them more successful.

Hotel revenues peaked at $13 million in 2008 before bottoming out in 2012, dropping to $9 million during the widespread economic downturn. As a result, the city’s finances also hit rock bottom, forcing Bell Gardens to cut back on services and froze staff positions to deal with its more than $1 million deficit.

City Manager Phil Wagner told EGP he’s not worried about the Casino hotel failing. He said the city’s estimated revenue from the hotel is on the “conservative side.”

Even with construction going on, “people have continued to make their way to the Casino,” Wagner pointed out. Casino revenues are still increasing, he said.

“We can only expect positive results from the hotel.”

The $45 million privately-funded hotel, which will open its doors in the fall, is expected to generate $160,000 of the city’s $470,000 in “Other Revenues.” The money will come from a Transient Occupancy, or bed tax.

Adding in the bed tax puts revenue from the Casino back over 40%, says the Chambers’ Salazar, and to him that’s a concern.

But Wagner defends the city’s reliance on Casino revenue. Bell Gardens is not like its neighbors, he said.

“Other cities have various manufacturers, car dealerships and other sources of revenue, our major source happens to be a casino,” he said.

Salazar says he would like to see the city diversify its general fund revenues and do more to help local small businesses be more successful.

Bell Gardens’ community development director, Abel Avalos, thinks the city is making progress in that direction. He told EGP that 55 new businesses have opened in Bell Gardens this year alone, bringing new revenue with them to the southeast city.

Wagner points out that while their contributions to city coffers might not be as large as the Casino’s, local retailers Toys R Us, Marshall’s and Ross are among “the highest producing [stores] in their chain.”

The city has been renovating shopping centers located near the Bicycle Casino. There are rumors that restaurants and eateries such as Dunkin Donuts will be opening soon in those areas.

Wagner points out that there are no big vacant lots in the 2.4 square mile city. “We’re built out, we don’t have space,” he said. “The only thing we can do is look at what we have and how can we improve them.”

Wagner is confident that the hotel will be an attractive addition to people who normally play at the Casino. He said the city is making the area surrounding the Casino more attractive in hopes of getting Casino guests to spend their dollars or winnings within the city.

The hotel will add 230,000 square-feet to the Casino footprint, creating a resort-like venue conveniently located near the 710 Freeway. Once complete, it will be one of only a few luxury hotel and casino resorts in the southeast area.

The Bicycle Casino remains the city’s largest employer, and the hotel project has added 300 construction jobs and will create 250 full-time, hotel-related jobs when it opens. That’s good news in a city where the unemployment rate stands at 8.2%, two to three points higher than the unemployment rate for all of Los Angeles County.

During the recession, the city’s unemployment rate climbed to nearly 20%.

Overall, revenues in the city are up $2.3 million over last year, but the increase is offset by $2.4 million more in anticipated expenditures, most of which can be attributed to a rise in employee-related costs for CALPERS contributions, salaries, health insurance and liability insurance.

$200,000 will be added to the city’s $2.3 million reserve or “rainy day” fund, money set aside to pay for unexpected expenses like a water main break, Wagner said.

As in years past, the city-owned water utility continues to run a deficit, with fees falling below the actual cost of operating and maintaining the aging water system. The city has not raised customer’s water rates since 1994, and the city council has been reluctant to either increase rates or sell off the city’s water rights as recommended by city staff.

“Some decisions we have brought before the council in the past will have to be addressed soon,” Wagner told the council, referring to the utility’s estimated $1 million dollar deficit.

Public Works Director Chau L Vu said the city has nearly $5 million in proposed capital improvement projects next year. Projects include floor replacements at gyms, roof replacements, citywide traffic safety enhancements and illuminated street signs.

Grants and bonds and other monies not from the general fund will pay for the projects.

“I remember thinking it can only get so bad before it can get better,” said Councilwoman Priscilla Flores. “Now that we’re moving in the right direction I would like to see some things come back,” she said, referring to services and festivals cut during the lean years.

“We are slowly emerging from the recession but we need to be cautiously optimistic because it will take some time before we see the same level of tax revenues that were generated in the past,” Wagner responded. “We’ve achieved some short-term fiscal stability, but we need to remain frugal.”

Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

[Update 3:02 p.m.] Adds information to clarify Bell Gardens Chamber Executive Director Mike Salazar’s statement on Bicycle Casino Hotel.

Bell Gardens Parents ‘Focus Lens’ on Child Nutrition

May 28, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

For years, pan dulce and milk was breakfast in Areli Lopez’s home, but now the Bell Gardens mother makes sure to fill her daughters’ plates with fruits and vegetables.

Lopez said she made the change after learning about the high obesity rate among children, some as young as her daughters.

According to data from the 2010 California Department of Education Physical Fitness Testing report, nearly 36% of the children in Bell Gardens are obese. A 2011 analysis by the Los Angeles Times ranked Bell Gardens number one in Los Angeles County for childhood obesity.

Lopez says parents are to blame for the health crisis.

Areli Lopez talks to her 5-year old daughter about eating fruits and vegetables.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Areli Lopez talks to her 5-year old daughter about eating fruits and vegetables. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“Sometimes parents don’t know how to provide proper nutrition to their children,” says Lopez, admitting she too has been guilty of making bad food choices.

“I always thought I was giving my girls decent food but I didn’t know how bad I was feeding them” until I started to get more information, she said in Spanish.

Lopez says too many mothers will give their children sugary or fatty foods to try and quiet them down when they act up, reinforcing bad behavior.

Others, she said, “think they don’t have time to cook and turn to what’s convenient and cheap.”

A family history of diabetes and concerns for her children’s health led Lopez to the Choose Health LA Kids Parent Collaborative, a nutrition-focused group that meets monthly at Bell Gardens Preschool Academy.

“Parents wanted to learn more about nutrition,” explained Mayra Ramirez, site supervisor at the preschool about why they started the program. Now, “I see more parents who are finding resources and taking advantage of them.”

But Ramirez also points out that in Bell Gardens’ predominately Latino community, home to a large population of immigrants, many parents have costumbres (habits) that involve food and many of those habits are unhealthy.

 

Many of the families Ramirez works with are low-income. “When it costs more to buy a salad at McDonalds, what are you supposed to do?

“They take the easy way out.”

There are currently 15 parents in the collaborative that among other things tries to educate them about the role product marketing has on their food buying decisions. They have been paying special attention to products aimed at children and last November started photographing examples in the city of unhealthy food and beverages marketing targeted at children.

The images captured by their cameras — the large colorful arrays of food and drinks with little nutritional value they are exposed to daily —caught many of the parents by surprise.

Starting June 10, they will display the photos in an exhibit opening at the preschool.

“I realized that marketing is really powerful,” say Lopez, admitting it shocked her to realize how unaware she was before she started taking pictures.

“Unhealthy food is not just found at fast food places, it’s also at the grocery store.”

According to a 2011 Los Angeles County Survey by the Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology, 55 percent of children consume fast food at least once a week and over 40 percent of children consume at least one soda or sweetened beverage every day.

Advertising for food loaded with sugar or with no nutritional value is everywhere our children turn, the group says.

“I never paid attention to all the colorful, loud, attractive marketing used at grocery stores,” said Luz Martinez, mother of three. “The use of mascots to entice my kids really caught my attention.”

Lopez photographed containers of colorful candies located in the produce section at her local grocery store.

“Placing candies or sweets in front of fruits and vegetables is not amusing, rather it is worrisome,” reads the caption on her exhibit photo.

A few parents focused their lenses on displays near cash registers and the mascots that grace the covers of sugary products used to attract the attention of children.

Another photo focuses on pricing gimmicks to spur buying: “Buy two get two free” may sound enticing, but according to the mother who snapped the photo, a low-price doesn’t always add up to quality or value.

For Martinez, getting her family to switch to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and wheat-based products hasn’t been easy.

“My children are still reluctant, they still don’t understand what is good for them,” she said, acknowledging change has been slow, but she’ll keep trying.

For Lopez, however, it’s been a piece of cake, or rather a piece of fruit that her children are reaching for nowadays.

“We all feel healthier, it is no longer forced,” she said. Eating healthy is “our new habit.”

Wednesday, June 10

5:30pm–Parent Photo Exhibit at Bell Gardens Preschool Academy. Exhibit will focus on the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages found throughout the city. The free event will feature food, prizes, raffles and more. Academy is located at 6430 Colmar Ave. For more information, contact Yenni Arias at (562) 806-5400 ext. 251.

 

Congresswoman Recognizes Artists

May 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard honored five young female artists this week during her 22nd Annual Student Art Competition.

“Every year, I eagerly look forward to this Art Competition,” said Roybal-Allard. “It’s such a wonderful way for our local youth to share their creativity and talent with the community. It also reminds us of the positive impact that art and art education can have on students’ academic performance, self-esteem, and confidence.”

(Office of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard)

(Office of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard)

The winners received scholarships and money for art supplies. The first place winner Justine Muñoz will have her artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol.

All submitted entries will be on display to the public through June 5 in the lobby of the Citadel Outlets in Commerce.

Pictured: (Left to right) 1st Place winner Justine Muñoz, People’s Choice Award winner Batoul Akil, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, 3rd Place winner Lelilani Gonzalez, 2nd Place winner Sabrina Claros, and Honorable Mention winner Karla Maria Jacome.

 

Grand Jury Testimony Reveal Sordid Details In Crespo Case

May 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Details emerging from the grand jury probe into the shooting death of Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo tell a disturbing tale of dysfunction, abuse, and alleged serial infidelity in the years leading to the killing last fall.

The grand jury last month indicted the mayor’s wife, Lyvette Crespo, on a charge of voluntary manslaughter with a handgun for the shooting, despite her attorney’s claim that the shooting was justifiable because his client was the victim of years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, and was defending herself and her son when she shot him.

Lyvette Crespo, 43, pleaded not guilty and was released from jail after posting $150,000 bail.

The 1,500 plus pages of grand jury testimony released to the public Monday includes statements from responding officers, the Crespo’s two children – Crystal Crespo and Daniel Crespo Jr. – the mayor’s alleged girlfriend and others, media outlets reported.

According to the transcript, Lyvette knew about her husband’s alleged girlfriends, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Crespo had multiple affairs during his marriage and even took part in a “faux wedding” ceremony in Las Vegas to one mistress in 2013.

That alleged girlfriend testified that the former mayor told her his wife had threatened to shoot and poison him, according to the Times.

The couple had a “very rocky … relationship,” a prosecutor told the grand jury panel.

EGP previously reported that the mayor’s brother William Crespo accused Lyvette of threatening several times before to kill her husband, citing text messages included in the grand jury testimony:

“I’ll find out who … u got flowers for. Has to be a bell gardens whore,” read one of the messages Lyvette is said to have sent her husband a few months before the shooting.

“It better [be the] last time U threaten to shoot me in [the] head!!!” came the reply from Daniel Crespo’s phone.

“People don’t like to be played with or be made a fool,” she responded. “I’ve put up with a lot of …. Don’t play with me. Don’t play with me.”

On the day of the crime, the couple got into a heated argument over the mayor’s alleged affairs, exchanging threatening and profanity laced text messages in the hours before the fatal confrontation.

The fight continued in person at the couple’s home, according to the transcripts.

The couple’s son said he received a text message from his mother telling him “Come home, it’s your father,” Bell Gardens Police Officer Victor Ruiz testified, according to NBC4.

Daniel Jr. heard the arguing and loud thumps coming from his father’s office and tried to intervene, but when he knocked on the door his father told him “Don’t f— with me” and punched him in the face, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs, Ruiz said Daniel Jr. told him following the shooting. Then, trying to protect his mother, Daniel Jr. coaxed his father to follow him down the rest of the stairs: That’s when he looked up and saw his mother appear at the top of the stairs and shoot his father three times. Ruiz told grand jurors.

Daniel Jr. sustained a cut to his face during the altercation.

Both children testified their father had verbally and physically abused their mother over the years, with Crystal saying the abuse had become more physical in the last two years, reported NBC4 . Daniel Jr. said he told a school counselor about the abuse in 2011, reported the Times.

Crystal testified that she also was on the receiving end of some of that abuse. She claimed her father strangled her when she was15.

Prosecutors told grand jurors that Daniel Crespo mistreated his wife, “going out at night … treats her  like she’s his housekeeper.” Lyvette may have had every reason to be extremely angry with him, but according to prosecutors she also repeatedly provoked her husband, showing she was not afraid of him.

If convicted, Lyvette could face 21 years in state prison. She is due back in court for a pretrial hearing May 29.

Grand Jury Testimony Reveals Sordid Details Leading to Fatal Shooting of Bell Gardens Mayor

May 4, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

Details emerging from the grand jury probe into the shooting death of Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo tell a disturbing tale of dysfunction, abuse, and alleged serial infidelity in the years leading to the killing last fall.

The grand jury last month indicted the mayor’s wife, Lyvette Crespo, on a charge of voluntary manslaughter with a handgun for the shooting, despite claims by her attorney that the shooting was justified because his client had suffered years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband and was defending herself and her son at the time of the killing.

Lyvette Crespo, 43, pleaded not guilty and was released from jail after posting $150,000 bail.

The 1,500 plus pages of grand jury testimony released to the public Monday includes statements from responding officers, the Crespo’s two children – Crystal Crespo and Daniel Crespo Jr. – the mayor’s alleged girlfriend and others, media outlets reported.

According to the transcript, Lyvette knew about her husband’s alleged girlfriends, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Crespo had multiple affairs during his marriage and even took part in a “faux wedding” ceremony in Las Vegas to one mistress in 2013.

That alleged girlfriend testified that the former mayor told her his wife had threatened to shoot and poison him, according to the Times.

The couple had a “very rocky … relationship,” a prosecutor told the grand jury.

EGP previously reported that the mayor’s brother William Crespo accused Lyvette of threatening several times before to kill her husband, citing text messages included in the grand jury testimony:

“I’ll find out who … u got flowers for. Has to be a bell gardens whore,” read one of the messages Lyvette is said to have sent her husband a few months before the shooting.

“It better [be the] last time U threaten to shoot me in [the] head!!!” came the reply from Daniel Crespo’s phone.

“People don’t like to be played with or be made a fool,” she responded. “I’ve put up with a lot of …. Don’t play with me. Don’t play with me.”

On the day of the crime, the couple got into a heated argument over the mayor’s alleged affairs, exchanging threatening and profanity laced text messages in the hours before the fatal confrontation.

The fight continued in person at the couple’s home, the Times reported.

The couple’s son said he received a text message from his mother telling him “Come home, it’s your father,” Bell Gardens Police Officer Victor Ruiz testified, according to NBC4 News.

Daniel Jr. heard the arguing and loud thumps coming from his father’s office and tried to intervene, but when he knocked on the door his father told him “Don’t f— with me” and punched him in the face, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs, Ruiz said Daniel Jr. told him following the shooting.  Then, trying to protect his mother, Daniel Jr. coaxed his father to follow him down the rest of the stairs: That’s when he looked up and saw his mother appear at the top of the stairs and shoot his father three times. Ruiz told the grand jury.

Daniel Jr. sustained a cut to his face during the altercation.

Both children testified their father had verbally and physically abused their mother over the years, with Crystal saying the abuse had become more physical in the last two years, according to NBC4 . Daniel Jr. said he told a school counselor about the abuse in 2011, reported the Times.

Crystal testified that she also was on the receiving end of some of that abuse. She claimed her father strangled her when she 15, according to NBC4.

Prosecutors told the grand jury that Daniel Crespo mistreated his wife, “going out at night … treats her  like she’s his housekeeper.” Lyvette  may have had every reason to be extremely angry with him, but she also repeatedly provoked her husband, showing she was not afraid of him.

If convicted, Lyvette could face 21 years in state prison. She is due back in court for a pretrial hearing May 29.

 

 

Official Applauds Herbalife, Special Olympics Partnership

April 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Saying he was speaking on behalf of Southeast communities, Bell Gardens Councilman Pedro Aceituno on Tuesday praised a partnership between nutrition company Herbalife and LA2015, the organizing committee for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

As the game supplier, Herbalife will provide 300,000 nutrition bars to athletes, coaches, staff, volunteers families and honored guests during the games in Los Angeles from July 25 through Aug. 2. Herbalife’s headquarters in Carson will also serve as the uniform distribution and credential center.

“I would like to thank Herbalife…for their commitment and investment in our community,” said Aceituno during Tuesday’s announcement. “Your donation to the Special Olympics is very much appreciated.”

Bell Gardens Councilmember Pedro Aceituno Tuesday thanked Herbalife for partnering with the 2015 Special Olympis World Games.(Courtesy of Michael Dorman, Herbalife.)

Bell Gardens Councilmember Pedro Aceituno Tuesday thanked Herbalife for partnering with the 2015 Special Olympis World Games.(Courtesy of Michael Dorman, Herbalife.)

A mini soccer match between LA Galaxy players Omar Gonzalez and Jaime Penedo and the Special Olympics Southern California players kicked off the partnership.

The world Games will feature 25 Olympic-style sports including basketball, cycling, gymnastics and volleyball. Over 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 177 different countries will take part in the Special Olympics World Games.

“We are proud to be a games supplier and to partner with an organization that embodies the positive impact of living a healthy active life,” said Michael O. Johnson, chairman and CEO of Herbalife.

Bell Gardens Man to Stand Trial for Kidnapping, Rape

April 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A 41-year-old man will stand trial on charges of kidnapping his former live-in girlfriend’s teenage daughter in Santa Ana and sexually assaulting her over 10 years, according to authorites.

Isidro Medrano Garcia of Bell Gardens was ordered held on charges of forcible rape, kidnapping to commit a sex offense and three counts of lewd acts on a minor. He is scheduled to return to court for a post-preliminary hearing arraignment on May 5.

After hearing testimony from Santa Ana police Detective Ricardo Diaz, Orange County Superior Court Robert Fitzgerald ordered Garcia to stand trial.

Garcia’s attorney, Charles Frisco Jr., tried several times to question Diaz about the lives of Garcia and the alleged victim in 2006 and 2007, but Fitzgerald upheld Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokoksy’s objections for relevance. Frisco is expected to make the case that the alleged victim went with Garcia willingly and that they made a life together in which they were married and attempted to have children together.

Bokosky acknowledged to reporters after the hearing that the kidnapping count will be the toughest charge to win a conviction on. It’s a key count in the case but it mandates a life sentence.

The two left together after the defendant had a physical conflict with the alleged victim’s mom. The teen ran to a nearby park and the defendant, who followed her, convinced her she could not return home because the police were there and they would deport her, Bokosky said.

The key will be proving the victim’s “mind set” that she was “moved out of the area because she was fearful she couldn’t go home,” Bokosky said.

Garcia is accused of forcing his captive into marriage in 2007; he had a child with her in 2012. He’s being held on $1 million bail.

Frisco has said in the past that the alleged victim had multiple chances to leave the defendant over the past decade and go to authorities.

The girl, then 15, was reported missing in August 2004 by her mother, who suspected Garcia, her one-time live-in boyfriend, of abducting her daughter, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

The mother also suspected at that time that Garcia had been sexually abusing the teen for about two months, according to investigators.

Garcia met the girl in February 2004 and would buy her gifts and take her side when the teen quarreled with her mother, according to prosecutors.

Garcia is accused of molesting and kissing the girl between June and August of 2004, according to prosecutors. He sexually assaulted the girl three different times and raped her once, prosecutors allege.

The girl was born in Mexico and came to the United States to be reunited with her mother and sister, who lived with Garcia in the 800 block of Fairview Street, Bertagna said.

The alleged victim contacted her sister through Facebook on her birthday in April of last year, marking the first time her family had heard from her in years, Bertagna said.

A domestic dispute involving her and Garcia in Bell Gardens led to the suspect’s arrest, Bertagna said.

 

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