Archive for the ‘District Attorney’ Category

Contra Costa DA: price gouging is illegal during state of emergency

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Violators can face one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County District Attorney

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office wants to remind all residents that price gouging is illegal while our community is under a State of Emergency from the emergence of the novel coronavirus/COVID-19.

Price gouging is when a retailer or seller is attempting to take unfair advantage of the public during an emergency by increasing prices in an unreasonable manner for essential consumer goods and services. California’s anti-price gouging statute, Penal Code Section 396, prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services by more than 10 percent after an emergency has been declared.

Members of the public are encouraged to report any instances of gouging to our Consumer Protection Unit by email at DA-ReportFraud@contracostada.org. Individuals may also fill out a consumer complaint form on our website. Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The DA’s Office is charged with enforcing this statute. Additional civil enforcement action may also be taken by our Office to protect consumers. The California Attorney General’s Office also issued information on price gouging during this emergency.

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DA seeks help identifying person in human trafficking investigation

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County District Attorney

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation, Human Trafficking Unit, is seeking the identity of the pictured subject related to an ongoing Human Trafficking investigation. Anyone with information regarding the identity of this subject is requested to contact Sr. Inspector Kevin Coelho at (925) 957-8629.

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DA’s Office arrests, charges Antioch woman for Workers’ Comp fraud

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Multiple slip and falls at different employers

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the District Attorney, Contra Costa County

Martinez, Calif. – The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office charged Maria Mendoza (52-years-old) with numerous counts of insurance fraud and investigators with the DA’s Office arrested her this past Friday. The investigation originated after reports of a staged slip and fall in October 2017 at an Olive Garden restaurant located in Pittsburg. The suspect’s insurance claims history revealed a pattern of short stints of employment followed by claims against the employer. The charges allege four specific instances of workers compensation fraud against four different employers, and two additional instances of auto insurance fraud.

The first workers’ compensation fraud charge relates to Mendoza’s employment at Pronto Cleaning Services in early 2014. The charge alleges that Mendoza’s employment terminated after only three months of work. She hired a workers’ compensation attorney to file multiple workers compensation claims, including an allegation that her three months of cleaning resulted in cumulative trauma to her hands, wrists, and knees. She and her attorney litigated the claim throughout 2016 and 2017.

The complaint further alleges that Mendoza obtained employment at Architectural Glass & Aluminum Company and worked in a factory setting in late 2014. Her employment terminated there after two months and again a workers’ compensation claim followed. The complaint alleges that she told medical professionals evaluating her that she made no prior claims and is not a party to any civil litigation.

The third workers compensation fraud charged relates to employment at Olive Garden. Olive Garden hired Mendoza for work in 2017, but after approximately five months several employees and a manager reported that Mendoza faked a slip and fall on her way to a scheduled disciplinary hearing. She again hired an attorney to file and litigate a workers’ compensation insurance claim for injuries to her knees and ankles from the fall.

The final workers’ compensation fraud charged relates to yet another slip and fall claim at Claim Jumper in 2018. After approximately one month at Claim Jumper Restaurant, Mendoza visited a doctor to report a new slip and fall at work. The complaint again alleges that she falsely told the doctor evaluating her that she never previously filed a workers’ compensation insurance claim.

She is also charged with filing an auto insurance claim alleging an accident in April of 2014. Mendoza claimed the same injuries that she pursued in her workers’ compensation claim against Pronto Cleaning, as well as filing a 2018 auto insurance claim for damage to the same vehicle that her attorney claimed was totaled in the 2014 accident.

False insurance claims hurt small business owners with massive rate increases and the general public as the costs of those frauds are passed on to the consumer. The District Attorney’s Office reminds those considering fraud that reporting a fake injury at work to get money or other benefits is insurance fraud punishable by up to five years state prison and an additional fine of up to $50,000.

Anyone with information about possible insurance fraud can report that information to the District Attorney’s Office via email at DA-ReportFraud@contracostada.org.

Case information: People v. Maria Mendoza, Docket Number 04-199121-5.

 

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Contra Costa D.A. and Code for America announce 3,264 marijuana convictions will be cleared

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Part of automatic record clearance partnership

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa District Attorney

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton and Code for America today announced that 3,264 marijuana convictions eligible for relief under Proposition 64 will be dismissed and sealed as part of their cutting-edge partnership.

“I am grateful the partnership with Code for America has given us the ability to deliver tangible results for members of our community by dismissing old marijuana convictions allowed under the law. Far too often old criminal convictions for minor drug offenses can leave a lasting mark on an individual’s life. The removal of these convictions effectively reduces barriers to licensing, education, housing and employment. It is imperative that we continue to be innovative in our approach to reforming and strengthening the criminal justice system,” said Diana Becton, District Attorney for Contra Costa County.

“At Code for America, we believe government can work dramatically better than it does today; the criminal justice system is one of the areas in which we are most failing the American people. We must make sure that California lives up to the obligation of Proposition 64 and now AB 1793,” said Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director, Code for America. “I’d like to thank Contra Costa District Attorney Becton for her leadership on this issue. Through our partnership, we will remove barriers to employment, housing, health and education for thousands of Californians. By reimagining existing government systems through technology and user-centered design, we can rethink incarceration, reduce recidivism and restore opportunity.”

The Contra Costa District Attorney’s office used Code for America’s Clear My Record technology, which reads bulk criminal history data from the California Department of Justice, and securely and accurately analyzes eligibility for record remediation under state law.  This technology can analyze eligibility for thousands of convictions in just a few minutes, alleviating the need for DA staff to go through state criminal records one by one to evaluate eligibility, a time and labor-intensive process.

This partnership helps address wrongs caused by the failed war on drugs, felt most strongly by communities of color. Approximately 2,400 individuals will receive conviction relief through this partnership. Of those, approximately 36% are Black or African American, 45% are White, 15% are Latinx, 2% are Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2% are other or unknown.

Contra Costa is the fifth California District Attorney’s Office to announce a pilot partnership with Code for America and use Clear My Record Technology to clear marijuana-related convictions eligible under Proposition 64.  The other counties include San Francisco, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Los Angeles.   In total, these five pilots will help reduce or dismiss approximately 75,000 Proposition 64 eligible convictions.

Earlier this year, Code for America also launched its new Clear My Record Application and Implementation Blueprint, available at no cost and open source to all California counties.  These resources allow all District Attorneys’ offices to follow the lead of DA Becton and expedite and streamline review of Prop 64 convictions.

Record Clearance for the Digital Age

Record clearance was not built for the digital age.  Previously, each person seeking relief had to petition the court on their own to clear their records, but this is a time-consuming, expensive, and confusing process.  Because of these barriers, the vast majority of those eligible for relief have not received it.

With the aid of Code for America’s Clear My Record technology, a DA’s office can automatically and securely evaluate eligibility for record clearance for thousands of convictions in just a few minutes.

This requires no action on the part of the individual, and minimal staff time and resources from the DA’s office — two obstacles for record clearance. Streamlining conviction data processing will also make it easier for courts to update records, ensuring that individuals can obtain relief as soon as possible.

These partnerships set the standard for the statewide implementation of Assembly Bill 1793, which tasks prosecutors with affirmatively reviewing convictions eligible for dismissal or reduction under Proposition 64.  This novel approach also creates a blueprint for the future of record clearance for remedies beyond Proposition 64 — the development of policy and technology that expands, streamlines and automates the record clearance process at scale.

Code for America has been making it easier for people to remove eligible convictions from their records through Clear my Record technology since 2016.

About Code for America

Code for America believes government must work for the people, and by the people, in the digital age, starting with the people who need it most. We build digital services that enhance government capabilities, and we help others do the same across all levels of government. We organize thousands of volunteers across nearly 80 chapters nationwide who improve government in their local communities. Our goal: a 21st century government that effectively and equitably serves all Americans. Learn more at codeforamerica.org.

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D.A. to dismiss three cases from Conviction Integrity Unit review of former Antioch Police Officer

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

“Records detailed (Officer Santiago) Castillo’s involvement in sharing confidential police information with an informant, improper handling of evidence and showing dishonesty during the internal affairs investigation.”

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office

Today, Thursday, December 19, 2019, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office announced three cases will be dismissed as a result of a review done by the Conviction Integrity Unit involving former Antioch Police Officer Santiago Castillo. In the interest of justice, two cases will be dismissed outright, and one case will have one count dismissed. Formal proceedings will be conducted on the record with the Contra Costa County Superior Court.

Officer Castillo’s subsequent conduct raises questions about the integrity of the underlying convictions in the three cases that will be dismissed. Records were released earlier this year by the Antioch Police Department concerning Castillo’s tenure with the agency, which prompted the Conviction Integrity Unit review. The records detailed Castillo’s involvement in sharing confidential police information with an informant, improper handling of evidence and showing dishonesty during the internal affairs investigation.

The dismissed cases and counts include the following:

  • Demetrius Sells, Docket 04-145620-1 (felony resisting an arrest by a peace officer)
  • Joseph O’Neal, Docket 04-187933-7 (misdemeanor reckless driving, driving on suspended license)
  • James McCullar, Docket 04-186384-4 (one count will be dismissed, misdemeanor reckless driving)

If a member of the public believes they have information regarding a prior conviction involving Castillo they may contact the unit and complete an application on our website: https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/7187/Conviction-Integrity-Unit

The Conviction Integrity Unit was created by District Attorney Diana Becton.

“I created the first ever standalone Conviction Integrity Unit for this Office as the public needs to have faith in our criminal justice system” stated Becton. “A prior conviction with any impropriety causes a great disservice to our system. We will continue to review prior cases and conduct investigations as appropriate.”

Our Office notified Police Chief Tammany Brooks of the results of the review and Public Defender Robin Lipetzky.

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Contra Costa DA won’t charge five suspects in Orinda Halloween shooting deaths, wants more investigation

Monday, November 18th, 2019

Five suspects arrested, not charged and set to be released are Jason Iles, Shamron Mitchell, Devin Williamson, Lebraun Wallace and Jaquez Deshawn Sweeney. Photos by CoCoSheriff.

Suspects are or will be released; Sheriff stands by his department’s investigation.

By Allen Payton

In a news release, this evening, Scott Alonso, the Public Information Officer for Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton, wrote, “Today the District Attorney’s Office met with members of the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff to review the Orinda Halloween shooting incident. No criminal charges are being filed at this time against any individual. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the case should call the Sheriff’s Homicide Unit at 925-313-2600.” (See related article)

When reached for comment, Alonso said, “We made the decision about 5:00 p.m. tonight.”

Asked if all five suspects who were arrested would be released, he responded, “That’s my understanding, yes. If they have no holds are on their records, then they will be released, tonight. If there are no charges filed against them. Four are in custody of the Contra Costa Sheriff. One is in custody of the Marin County Sheriff.”

Asked why D.A. Becton chose not to charge any of the suspects, Alonso said, “We have a really high filing standard and we need more information. We are collaboratively working with the Sheriff’s Office to see what else is out there.”

“It’s very complex. We want more witnesses to come forward. There were a lot of people at that party,” he added.

When reached for comment and asked about the suspects, Jimmy Lee, the Director of Public Affairs for the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff responded, “They have either been released or are in the process.”

“We stand by our investigation and the arrests were made pursuant to a judge’s order,” he continued. “Although the district attorney may want more investigation done, the persons arrested and responsible for these crimes will ultimately be held to account. The entire investigation is ongoing, as is common in these types of complex cases.”

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County inmates, including former Antioch resident, indicted for attempted murder of fellow inmate

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

By Bobbi Mauler, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office

Herald file photo from Antioch Police Department. No photo of Marco Salazar was available.

A Contra Costa County Grand Jury has indicted 23-year-old Brentwood resident, Marco Salazar and 37-year-old Sacramento resident, Joseph Malfitano, a former Antioch resident, for the attempted murder of an inmate at the Martinez Detention Facility. Salazar and Malfitano were also indicted on enhancements for committing that offense for the benefit of a criminal street gang and causing great bodily injury to the victim. Additionally, they were indicted on one count of street terrorism as they were found to actively participate in the gang.

On May 4, 2019, the defendants were involved in a gang related stabbing of a fellow inmate, Edward Nachor, in the neck, in the MDF. The attack was on behalf of the Norteño and Crazy Ass Latinos (CAL) gang. The victim survived the attack but, suffered great bodily injury.

The indictment was unsealed on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019 in Dept. 3 of the county court in Martinez for their arraignment. Bail is set at $2,160,000 for Salazar and Malfitano is being held without bail. Deputy District Attorney Max Laettner is prosecuting the case. DDA Laettner is assigned to the Community Violence Reduction Unit of the DA’s office.

Salazar was arrested in Brentwood in May 2016 for attempted murder after stabbing a man in a grocery store. (See related article). Malfitano was arrested in Antioch in January 2017 for identify theft. (See related article).

Case Information: People v. Salazar & Malfitano Docket Number 05-191623-8.

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Third Human Trafficking Day of Action in East County set for September 19

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

Training session to be held at the Antioch Police Department

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County District Attorney

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton is proud to join Antioch Councilmember Monica Wilson, the Antioch Police Department, the Contra Costa County Family Justice Center, Community Violence Solutions, the Contra Costa Human Trafficking Task Force and the Contra Costa Human Trafficking Coalition in hosting East County’s third Human Trafficking “Day of Action” on September 19, 2019.

Inspired by California State Senate Bill 1193, the Day of Action intends to educate individuals on how to recognize signs of human trafficking and inform them on how they can help prevent it. Members of the business community are encouraged to participate by posting human trafficking awareness signs with resources for victims to reach out to. Our local businesses are the extra eyes of our community and can help significantly in combating the crime of human trafficking in Contra Costa County.

A training session will be presented from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. at the Antioch Police Department, located at 300 L. Street in Antioch. From there, attendees will form teams and talk with local businesses about putting up posters with resource information for people who may be experiencing forced or coerced labor or commercial sex. The outreach will occur from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend and join with law enforcement, city leaders and community organizers to make a difference in our community.

Co-sponsors of the event include Brentwood City Councilmember Karen Rarey, Oakley City Councilmember Sue Higgins and Pittsburg City Councilmember Holland White.

If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in an activity and cannot leave, whether it is commercial sex or labor – call the national Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text “Be Free” or 233733.

Local resources include Community Violence Solutions and Contra Costa’s Family Justice Centers – with a new location at 3501 Lone Tree Way. Antioch, CA 94509.

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