A former Pico Rivera businessman was sentenced Monday to prison and home detention for carrying out a stolen identity refund-fraud scheme in which he conspired to use stolen identities to file phony tax returns that generated about $550,000 in unearned refunds.
Frank Ruben Candelaria, 55, of Los Angeles, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, which will include six months of home detention, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
He was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald to pay about $550,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
According to the plea agreement filed in the case, beginning in December 2008 and continuing through September 2009, Candelaria and co-conspirator Edgar Rene Nunez, 62, caused at least 143 fraudulent income tax returns to be filed with the IRS.
As a result of fraudulent tax returns that sought well over $1 million in refunds, the IRS issued more than $550,000 in tax refund checks.
Prosecutors said Nunez and others obtained the names and Social Security numbers of individuals without their knowledge. The co-conspirators created bogus W-2 forms in the names of the identity theft victims that reported false employment and income information, as well as false tax withholding amounts, according to prosecutors.
Using the bogus information reported on the W-2 forms, fraudulent individual income tax returns were prepared and filed claiming false tax refunds without the knowledge or consent of the identity theft victims. The fraudulent tax refunds were then either mailed to addresses that Candelaria and Nunez, as well as others, controlled or directly deposited to bank accounts, prosecutors said.’
Candelaria pleaded guilty in November 2015 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of making false claims against the United States by filing fraudulent tax returns in his own name, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Candelaria also filed phony tax returns in his own name for the 2006 and 2007 tax years, claiming false refunds of $9,955 and $9,720, respectively, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Nunez was sentenced in September to four months behind bars after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to submit false claims, nine counts of submitting false claims against the United States government, two counts of mail fraud and one count of identity theft.
A 41-year-old man pleaded no contest Tuesday to fatally stabbing an AAA driver who was helping the defendant’s mother in Pico Rivera last year.
Tobias Ruben Cabrera is facing 15 years to life in state prison when he is sentenced Jan. 31 for the June 2, 2015 killing of Raymond Zabala, who was attacked in the 8400 block of Buhman Avenue after replacing the battery on the woman’s car.
Cabrera also admitted that he had a prior conviction for corporal injury with great bodily injury to a spouse/cohabitant/child’s parent in 2001, which will result in an additional five-year prison term.
Cabrera walked up to the 35-year-old AAA driver and asked what was going on before attacking him, then rode away on a bike after the stabbing, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Authorities have not determined a motive for the attack.
Zabala went to a neighboring home to seek help, but died near the crime scene, authorities said.
Cabrera was arrested three days later by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies. He has remained in jail since then.
PICO RIVERA – Authorities Tuesday arrested the ex-boyfriend of a 16-year-old girl who was fatally stabbed in her Pico Rivera home last Friday.
Rory Murga, 17, was taken into custody about 7:35 this morning in Pico Rivera and was booked on suspicion of murder in the death of Elena Moore, said Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Patrolling deputies spotted Murga under a railroad underpass at Rosemead Boulevard and Slauson Avenue, Navarro-Suarez said. He was taken to Pico Rivera Station for booking, and will be taken to a juvenile detention facility where he will be held without bail, she said.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department would like to thank the public for the several tips received, which prompted deputies to search the surrounding Rosemead Boulevard and Slauson Avenue area,” Navarro-Suarez said.
On Friday about 3:15 a.m., deputies were dispatched to the victim’s home in the 9800 block of Shade Lane on a 911 call of a stabbing. She died at the scene.
“Detectives learned that the victim’s mother was suddenly (awakened) by her daughter’s screams that she had been stabbed as she staggered into her bedroom and collapsed,” Deputy Guillermina Saldana said.
“The victim was downstairs in her home when the suspect entered the residence through the back door,” Saldana said. “The stabbing occurred, and she ran upstairs to her mother’s bedroom.”
The suspect apparently entered the home through the back door, Saldana said.
“It is unknown if the suspect was allowed into the residence by the victim or if he forced his way in,” Saldana said.
Information from the girl’s mother pointed to the teen’s former boyfriend as the suspect, and sheriff’s investigators announced later that day that they were looking for Murga.
The pair broke up about two weeks before the killing, after dating for about a year, according to the sheriff’s department.
Southern California Gas Co. Wednesday marked the opening of a compressed natural gas station in Pico Rivera’s warehouse and distribution district.
The public station will help improve air quality by providing a more convenient location for CNG fueling and by helping to meet growing demand from commercial fleets for clean-burning and affordable fuel, according to SoCalGas.
Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Norwalk, whose congressional district includes Pico Rivera, said Southern California “is leading the nation’s clean energy revolution.”
“This new fueling station will improve public transportation for the region, grow our economy and help our community fight air pollution,” she said. “As a strong proponent of clean energy alternatives, I am excited to see more clean vehicles on our roads and freeways.”
The Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee provided $150,000 in funding to SoCalGas to help cover equipment, installation and other costs to build the CNG station, said Greg Pettis, chair of MSRC and mayor pro-tem of Cathedral City.
“This is the second SoCalGas station this year for which the MSRC has provided funding, so we are excited to help contribute to the continually expanding network of CNG fueling stations across the Southland,” Pettis said.
The station was designed for the needs of heavy-duty trucks, with wide driveways for easy turning, 16-foot-high canopies with LED lighting and robust compressors for quick, reliable fueling, according to SoCalGas.
Every Sunday for the past year Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia has recognized acts of kindness by an individual or positive impacts by a group in her district that often go unnoticed. Now, the assemblywoman will pay an extra tribute to the “best of the best” in the 58th District.
From a man who picks up trash along the riverbed to an environmental justice group fighting a toxic polluter, every week constituents in her east/southeast area district — encompassing the cities of Artesia, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Downey, Montebello, Norwalk and Pico Rivera —vote online for the nominee to be recognized by Garcia’s #Pride58 Community Recognition Program.
“It was really important for us to tell our own story, not what was drawn out by the negative publicity in our area,” Garcia told EGP, referring to the corruption scandals in southeast communities that at times dominated news headlines.
The assemblywoman hopes to end the year honoring the community’s favorites. A special dinner gala will be held in mid January at the Bell Gardens Bicycle Casino Hotel to announce and recognize the #Pride58 “Best of the Best” award recipients.
Constituents were allowed to vote once a day until Tuesday for a recipient in in each of the following categories: Helping Hand, Outstanding Community Impact Award, Leaders of Tomorrow, Honor Roll and Partner of Progress.
“We are looking to recognize the positive work being done in our community often behind the scene that is improving the lives and the conditions of our neighbors and fellow citizens,” Garcia said.
#Pride58 awardees in the running include Daisy Gomez, 25, of Montebello who opened an outlet store and often provided her extra sweaters and blankets to the homeless. Robert Lopez of Montebello was also honored earlier this year when he was nominated by a neighbor who saw Lopez walk along Bluff Road every Saturday picking up trash and mowing down weeds.
“I’ve lived on Bluff Road most of my life, and I can honestly say, Robert Lopez is the only person I have ever seen who cares enough about our neighborhood,” said his neighbor De Anne Susino.
Pastor Richard Jarman of TouchPoint Church was recognized for his work at the Bell Gardens faith-based council. Jarman has been providing food, clothing and beds for needy families and children in foster care. He also worked with the Southeast Community Development Corporation to coordinate and establish a computer lab at the church.
Commerce-based East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice, an organization that advocates for a safe and healthy environment was one group recognized earlier this year. EYCEJ brought environmental and air quality issues to the forefront in Commerce, Bell Gardens and the Eastside.
Mark Lopez, Director of EYCEJ, told EGP the award demonstrates the local assemblywoman is in in touch with what is happening on the ground. He considered the recognition an important part of relationship building and an invitation to work together, he added.
“A lot of times we don’t get recognized,” Lopez explained. “Corruption in the area will get attention but the good community building taking place often does not.”
A decomposed body was found in a flood control channel frequneted by homeless people in Montebello, a police lieutenant said Saturday.
Officers were dispatched at 4:19 p.m. Saturday to the bed of the Rio Hondo channel, a block south of the Whittier Boulevard bridge on the Montebello- Pico Rivera city limits. Someone had discovered a dead person, said Lt. Ricardo Rojas of the Montebello Police Department.
Rojas said the area is frequented by transients and the homeless. Officers located the body of an unidentified adult on the embankment, he said.
The body as in advanced stages of decomposition and appeared to have been at the location for an extended period of time, Rojas told City News Service. Due to the current stage of decomposition, the cause of death, gender, and race were not known at first.
Montebello police detectives asked anyone with any information regarding the decomposed body to call them at (323) 887-1200, ext. 248.
If you like the Beatles, you will love the Tribute to the Beatles Festival 2015, coming to Pico Rivera’s Strawberry Fields in September.
“You can come and sing karaoke on stage, listen to great talent, learn more about the Beatles and watch some great live artists paint your favorite Beatles in action,” said Fred Zermeno, a 30 year photojournalist and organizer of the festival.
Zermeno said the Beatles Festival — scheduled for Sept. 26 — is a great event for the entire family, complete with live musical performances by tribute bands like “Britain’s Finest” and “Beatles Now,” with special guests Johnny Vatos, John Avila, Steve Bartek (Oingo Boingo), Mike Albert (Megadeth), Shenkar, Bianca, Christina, Juliette, Steve Perkins, Billy Bob Thornton and many others.
Other festival highlights include displays of Beatle memorabilia, book signings, original Beatles photographs, and a kids zone for the younger set, not to mention a movie premier like screening of the ”Beatles” and photo ops with 10’x10’ Beatle photos, Zermeno said.
Zermeno, who describes the Beatles as his all time favorite group, said this year’s event is a follow up to past popular Beatle events at the Santa Monica Pier and the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Moving the festival to Pico Rivera’s 18-acre Strawberry Fields on Rooks Road, gives organizers more room for exhibits, food booths and beer gardens.
The new location is also centrally located in Los Angeles County near the 60 and 605 freeways, making it more convenient for many Beatle’s fans, he said.
Zermeno said organizers are still accepting sponsors for the event. He said they have put together a package of promotional opportunities for companies to get their name and products in front of thousands of people, in a family-friendly and fun setting.
“People love the Beatles, they can’t get enough of them,” Zermano told EGP, explaining why people continue to flock to Beatle’s themed events.
All children under 10 years old are free. Tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster.com and Ticketon.com.
For more information on sponsorship opportunities, call (213) 219-1060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pico Rivera Walmart will be temporarily closed due to ongoing plumbing problems that will require extensive repairs, the company announced today.
The store at 8500 Washington Blvd. closed at 2 p.m., said Sgt. Raymond Cardenas of the Pico Rivera Police Department.
Walmart intends to “reopen the store as soon as all of the plumbing issues are resolved,” according to a company statement.
“Deciding to close a store is not a decision we make lightly, but after careful consideration, we felt it was necessary to make these repairs so we can better serve our customers and the community in the long run,” the statement said.
For nearly three decades, legislators across the state of California have been recognizing women who have made a difference in their district.
Last Friday, Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia recognized nine women from the 58th district, which spans through the cities of Artesia, Bellflower, Bell Gardens, Cerritos, Commerce, Downey, Norwalk and Pico Rivera.
Celebrated in the month of March as part of Women’s History Month, the tradition dates back to 1987 when the California Legislative Women’s Caucus presented the first Women of the Year awards. All state legislators now take part in highlighting the accomplishments of women from a variety of backgrounds, from teachers and pharmacist, to city employees and business owners.
“We should be celebrating” women all year, said Garcia during the event held at the Southern California Edison headquarters in Downey.
Among the nine honorees were three local women: Marilyn Thompson from Bell Gardens, Carmen Marquez of Commerce and Shushma Patel of Montebello.
Thompson is a teacher at Bell Gardens Intermediate, Garcia’s alma mater. She was recognized for her work in the classroom and coordinating efforts to organize leadership camps and trips to the state capital for her students.
Thomson said humbly she considers what she does a part of the job.
Marquez, a retired teacher with over 35 years working for the Montebello Unified School District, was recognized for her past work on various committees in the city of Commerce and with groups such as the California Association of Bilingual Educators.
“We don’t do everything alone, we are all connected,” said Marquez at the event. “I brought my village with me,” she added, before recognizing the people who have helped her feel confident about what she does.
Patel owns an independent community pharmacy and serves as the chairperson for the Indian Pharmacists Association of California Advisory, serves on the board of the Montebello Rotary Club and routinely provides free counseling to the community. After receiving the award, she told the audience she enjoys giving back.
Other honorees included: Veronica Bloomfield (a historian) of Artesia; Sandra Espinoza-Perry (owner of a child care center) of Bellflower; Mae Lovgren (president of PTA) of Cerritos; Alison Elaine Kirby (English teacher) of Downey; Dr. Linda Lacy (president of Cerritos College) of Norwalk; and Lizet Olmos (city employee) of Pico Rivera.