Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Mortgage company president guilty on 100 felony counts in $7 million statewide fraud scheme

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

Robert Sedlar of Grand View Financial LLC which operated in the counties of Contra Costa, San Diego, San Mateo, Alameda, San Joaquin, Placer, Solano, Mendocino, San Francisco, El Dorado, and Sacramento. 

OAKLAND —  California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Friday, May 12 the former president of a purported mortgage “investment” company, Robert Sedlar, has been convicted of 100 felony counts for operating a mortgage fraud scheme throughout California. The scheme resulted in a combined loss of over $7 million. The victims, including people who were elderly and in financial distress, sought mortgage relief services from Grand View Financial LLC in the counties of Contra Costa, San Diego, San Mateo, Alameda, San Joaquin, Placer, Solano, Mendocino, San Francisco, El Dorado, and Sacramento. The operators of Grand View Financial—Steven Rogers, Robert Sedlar, and Audrey Gan—were previously indicted by a grand jury in the Sacramento Superior Court for conspiracy, grand theft, elder abuse, filing false or forged documents in a public office, and engaging in a prohibited act as a foreclosure consultant. Steve Rogers and Audrey Gan entered guilty pleas before trial, and Robert Sedlar, president of the company, proceeded to trial in March 2023 on all counts. Today, Robert Sedlar was found guilty of Conspiracy as well as multiple counts of Filing a False Document, Grand Theft, Elder Abuse, and Prohibited Acts by a Foreclosure Consultant. He will be sentenced on July 21, 2023.

“Let this be a strong warning to anyone seeking to steal people’s hard-earned money: We will find you, and we will hold you accountable,” said AG Bonta. “Individuals who prey on vulnerable communities to enrich themselves will be held accountable by the California Department of Justice. My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those who disregard the rule of law.”

Between 2015 and 2019, the defendants conspired to steal money and homes from distressed homeowners using a company called Grand View Financial LLC. The company advertised assistance to desperate homeowners facing foreclosure. The defendants promised consumers that if they transferred title of their house to Grandview Financial and paid money, the company would eliminate the mortgage lien and deed the home back to the homeowner, clear of any liens. During this time, the defendants filed false court documents, false documents with the county recorders offices, and false bankruptcies that stalled the foreclosures but did nothing to eliminate the liens, all while collecting funds from the victims. Every single victim lost their home as a result.  

The indictment and arrests are the result of a joint investigation by the California Department of Justice, Fraud and Special Prosecutions Section and White Collar Investigation Team; the United States Office of Inspector General, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; the United States Office of Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency; the United States Trustee Program; the United States Marshals Service; the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office; and the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office. 

A copy of the charges can be found here.

Contra Costa DA’s Office settles multi-county enforcement action with CVS Pharmacy

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

Will pay almost $8 million for selling expired over-the-counter drugs and baby formula.

By Ted Asregadoo, PIO, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office Consumer Protection Unit has settled a civil law enforcement action against CVS Pharmacy for selling expired over-the-counter drugs and baby formula.

The settlement is part of a multi-county enforcement action initiated by Contra Costa, Santa Cruz, Fresno, Marin, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Shasta, Solano, and Yolo Counties District Attorneys’ Offices. Locally, Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Bryan Tierney prosecuted the case against CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Longs Drug Stores California, L.L.C., and Garfield Beach CVS, L.L.C., (“CVS”).

CVS Pharmacy owns and runs pharmacies and retail stores throughout California – with 31 stores in Contra Costa County. These stores offer a variety of products such as over-the-counter drugs, food, infant formula, and baby food.

California law prohibits retailers from selling or offering for sale any over-the-counter drug that has expired. Also, food retailers in California are prohibited from selling or offering for sale any infant formula or baby food that has passed its “use by” date, as mandated by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The civil complaint — which was filed in Santa Cruz County Superior Court on May 9th — alleged that CVS Pharmacy has been selling expired over-the-counter drug products, as well as infant formula and baby food past their “use by” date for the past four years.

After being informed of the violation, CVS Pharmacy cooperated with authorities and acted by conducting internal checks for expired over-the-counter drugs, infant formula, and baby food that were past the “use by” date at all their retail locations in California. CVS Pharmacy also invested time and resources to retrain store personnel to verify the expiration dates of food and drug products.

It’s important to note that the investigation did not uncover any evidence that the sale of expired or past the “use by” date products resulted in harm to consumers.

Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton said, “This enforcement action underscores how our work helps to protect consumers from unlawful business practices. The residents of Contra Costa County must have confidence that the products they purchase are safe and not beyond their expiration dates. This settlement shows that CVS Pharmacy understands the seriousness of the violations and has taken steps to remedy the problem.”

CVS Pharmacy agreed to abide by a court order that prohibits any further violations of California law regarding the sale or offer for sale of expired over-the-counter drugs or infant formula and baby food past their “use by” date. The agreement was made without admitting or denying any wrongdoing. As part of the judgment, CVS will pay $6,500,000 in civil penalties and investigative costs, as well as an additional $1,000,000 in restitution. The restitution amount will be contributed to various charitable organizations that serve California residents throughout the state. Locally, CVS Pharmacy will pay the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office $475,000 in civil penalties, and $19,000 to reimburse the office for prosecution costs.

Three die after car hits tree at high speed in Antioch Monday night

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023
Photo courtesy of Art Ray Bay News Video

By Lt. Michael Mellone, Antioch Police Department Support Services Bureau

On Monday, May 15, 2023, at 10:23 pm, the Antioch Police Department Communications Center received 9-1-1 calls reporting a vehicle collision at 4198 Lone Tree Way. Officers arrived and located a vehicle with three occupants that had collided with a tree. The occupants, two males and one female, had major injuries and were subsequently pronounced deceased by emergency medical personnel.

The APD Traffic Unit responded to the scene and assumed control of the investigation. Preliminary information revealed the victim vehicle was traveling eastbound on Lone Tree Way at a high rate of speed. The victim vehicle struck another vehicle, causing it to lose control, leave the roadway, and collide with a tree. The occupant of the other vehicle was uninjured. Identification of the victims is being withheld pending notification to the next of kin.

Photo courtesy of Art Ray Bay News Video

This investigation remains on-going, and we ask anyone who witnessed the collision or with information pertaining to the incident to contact Officer Egan at or (925) 204-1587. You may also text an anonymous tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword ANTIOCH.

Fire in Antioch BART station parking lot destroys six cars

Friday, May 12th, 2023
A fire in the Antioch BART station parking lot destroyed six cars in Thursday, May 11, 2023. Photos: Con Fire

During possible attempted gas theft

By Allen D. Payton

According to the Contra Costa Fire Protection District (Con Fire), a fire in the Antioch BART parking lot on Thursday was extinguished after a total of six vehicles were extensively damaged. Con Fire crews, along with Antioch and BART police, responded. The fire appears to have been caused during an attempted gasoline theft. The incident remains under investigation.

Photos: (L) ConFire (R) Denise Cantrell

Antioch Police Chief pledges full cooperation with CA DOJ, announces acceptance into new Trust Building Campaign with 25 Key Policies

Thursday, May 11th, 2023
Source: IACP

By PIO Ashley Crandell, Antioch Police Department Community Engagement Unit

On May 10, 2023, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a civil rights investigation into the Antioch Police Department. Chief Steven Ford welcomes this investigation and pledges full cooperation with DOJ officials, just as we have done with the joint FBI-Contra Costa DA investigation already taking place. We understand the importance of ensuring our policies, procedures, and practices are in line with expectations of 21st Century Policing.

In furtherance of our commitment toward meaningful reform, the Antioch Police Department is pleased to announce that we have joined other progressive policing agencies across the United States (and globally) in pledging to enhance trust and collaboration between police and the community we serve. The pledge is part of an initiative called the Trust Building Campaign which was started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the world’s largest and most influential professional association for police leaders. In joining the Trust Building Campaign, the Antioch Police Department has pledged to implement 25 key policies and leading practices within a 36-month period.

As we complete the Trust Building Campaign pledge, the Antioch Police Department will prioritize actions encouraging positive community-police partnerships within six focus areas (bias-free policing, use of force, leadership and culture, recruitment, hiring, and retention, victim services, and community relations). These areas and their associated key practices are designed to promote safe, effective interactions, create strategies to prevent and reduce crime, and improve the wellbeing and quality of life for all.

In a world where information is spread so quickly, it is critical, now more than ever, that law enforcement have the trust of the community that they will provide truth, transparency, and justice.

Through the Trust Building Campaign, the IACP is committed to addressing these, and other issues, on a national and international level.

Statement from Chief Steven Ford:

“We are excited to announce this partnership with the IACP Trust Building Campaign. This initiative aligns with our Strategic Plan goals that we have been progressively implementing during our Public Safety Partnership and emphasizes our commitment to advancing public safety practices through community engagement, transparency, and bias-free policing. We look forward to collaborating with our community stakeholders, justice partners, and industry experts to ensure success in meeting the goals of this campaign.”

For more information about the Trust Building Campaign, visit the IACP’s website at

25 Key Policies and Promising Practices

1. Establish a policy on bias-free policing.

2. Increase transparency and accountability of police use of force. Publish use of force and complaint process policies.

3. Provide officers with training and coaching on cultural responsivity.

4. Train officers on the unique makeup and needs of their communities based on country of origin, religious and cultural practices, etc. which may conflict with local laws.

5. Adopt the elements of the National Consensus Policy on Use of Force into the agency’s policies and procedures. Publish use of force policy

6. Provide regular training on the agency’s use of force policy. Training should include scenario-based exercises that incorporate de-escalation techniques.

7. Document all use of force beyond handcuffing in agency records. Review these records on an annual basis to identify trends that need to be addressed in policy and training.

8. Participate in the National Use of Force database.

9. Establish an agency policy or statement that recognizes the sanctity of life and the importance of preserving human life during all encounters. Adopting the IACP Oath of Honor will meet this requirement.

10. Participate in accreditation, certification, or credentialing process that has an independent organization that reviews an agency’s policies and procedures.

11. Ensure training and policy reflect a culture of equity, diversion, inclusion, accountability, and that promote procedural justice for community members and employees alike.

12. Establish an employee wellness program that includes both physical and mental health.

13. Conduct a culture assessment of the organization, with steps taken to address areas of concern.

14. Provide body armor to officers and require the wearing of soft body armor while on uniformed patrol.

15. Embrace the guardian officer rather than the warrior mindset in recruiting and training.

16. Establish minimum educational standards or equivalency requirements that can be met by prior life experience. Provide officers with the opportunity for advanced education and training opportunities.

17. Verify potential hires with the national decertification database before hiring experienced officers.

18. Include measures of problem-solving, trust-building, and cultural responsivity in metrics of officer performance.

19. Train officers in Trauma-Informed Responses.

20. Train officers on best practices, resources, and tools for communicating with community members who do not speak English or whose ability to communicate is impaired.

21. Establish partnerships to provide for mental health, substance abuse, and youth deflection/diversion resources in their community.

22. Educate communities on the dynamics of policing and set reasonable expectations for their police. Establish shared expectations of the role police have in the community and solicit review and input from the community on agency policies and procedures.

23. Establish a clear and timely complaint process that does not require written or sworn statements to submit. Complaint processes and policies should be accessible to all.

24. Conduct a regular recurring survey of the community to measure the level of trust in the police.

25. Establish written strategies to engage with youth and marginalized groups in the community to develop positive relationships with police officers and how to interact safely with police.

Annual count shows slight increase in homelessness in Contra Costa County

Thursday, May 11th, 2023
Contra Costa County Point In Time Homeless County on Jan. 25, 2023. Source: H3

95 more homeless residents than in 2020

Contra Costa County’s annual survey to document people experiencing homelessness showed a four percent increase overall in 2023 compared to 2020, according to a report released by Contra Costa Health’s Health, Housing and Homeless Services team (H3).

H3 and its community partners, including more than 200 volunteers, canvassed across the county to count the number of people living in emergency shelters or outdoors on Jan. 25, 2023 and released preliminary findings of the 2023 Point in Time count (PIT) this week.

The PIT provides a one-day snapshot of homelessness in Contra Costa. It impacts funding, includes important data and demographics, and helps inform how Contra Costa Health (CCH) can most effectively provide services to people experiencing homelessness. (See Powerpoint presentation)

The preliminary findings show that 2,372 people were without housing during that 24-hour period, including 1,653 people who were unsheltered. That is a 4% increase from the 2020 PIT, which counted 2,277 people experiencing homelessness.

“There’s no one reason why people lose their housing,” said John Gioia, Chair of the County Board of Supervisors. “We are working hard on many fronts to create more housing opportunities with supportive services, including investing $12 million per year in a newly established Housing Trust Fund. Contra Costa County is also working with other counties statewide to reform the homeless system of care in California to link funding with accountability for outcomes.”

Since 2020, bed capacity in the county increased by over 560 beds and CCH opened Delta Landing thanks to the state’s Homekey program, which added critically needed services in East County.

“This year’s PIT count shows that homelessness rates in the county are relatively stable and similar to pre-pandemic numbers,” said H3 director Christy Saxton. “This is a testament to the services we work to provide to people who are experiencing homelessness in our communities, but there is more work to be done.”

The full PIT report, expected to be completed in June, will include additional geographic and demographic data. Visit for more information on homeless services and resources.

Torres-Walker’s absence from council meeting leaves Antioch tobacco product sales ordinance ban in place

Thursday, May 11th, 2023
Mayor Lamar Thorpe and Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker were absent from the May 9, 2023 council meeting during the Consent Calender portion. Thorpe arrived an hour late. Video screenshot.

After Ogorchock switched positions in March; Thorpe hour late to meeting without explanation

By Allen D. Payton

With the final vote to revise the Antioch tobacco products sales ban ordinance on the Consent Calendar during Tuesday night’s meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker was absent and Mayor Lamar Thorpe was an hour late to the meeting. That left the vote up to the other three council members, including District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson who opposed the changes. During the March 28th meeting District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock reversed her previous support for the entire ban, joining Torres-Walker and District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica. The motion to adopt the revised ordinance failed on a 2-1 vote with Wilson voting against.

According to the staff report on the agenda item, Section C. of the current ordinance reads, “No tobacco retailer shall sell, offer for sale, possess with the intent to sell, offer in exchange for any form of consideration, or provide at no cost any of the following: (1) Any package of fewer than twenty little cigars; (2) Any package of fewer than six cigars; and (3) Any package of cigarettes, little cigars, or cigars at a price that is less than ten dollars per package, including applicable fees and taxes.”

Retailers had complained to the city council that they were unfairly targeted and there wasn’t a level playing field with retailers in neighboring cities. As a result, that section was removed in the revised ordinance which the council passed 3-2.

But the failure of the second reading of the ordinance leaves that section in place and any revisions to the ordinance requires the council to start the process again.

A separate effort to remove the ban on the sale or transfer to family members of tobacco retailers in the city was sent back to the Planning Commission for review and a recommendation vote. That will return to the city council for a decision at a future meeting.

New Poll: Overwhelming support for more police on BART, greater focus on cleanliness, stronger enforcement of rules 

Wednesday, May 10th, 2023
Source: Bay Area Council

San Francisco—BART riders and others who have stopped using the system or reduced their use dramatically say they would return in significant numbers if crime, safety and cleanliness issues are addressed, according to new polling released today by the Bay Area Council. Concerns about crime far outweigh remote work as the reason they are not riding. The findings offer an encouraging path forward for a system that is teetering on the brink of a fiscal cliff as BART ridership hovers at historic lows following the pandemic. 

A Bay Area Council analysis of the poll findings suggests that by taking a much stronger and swifter approach to crime, safety and cleanliness, BART could see up to 300,000 more trips over the course of the workweek, pushing ridership above 50% of pre-pandemic levels. 

Key Findings 

  • 79% say they feel more comfortable riding BART when there is a uniformed police officer or security present 
  • 73% say BART should prioritize adding more uniformed police on trains and in stations 
  • 62% say BART should improve fare gates to prevent fare evaders; 66% want fare gates to fully enclose station entrances 
  • 79% say BART should eject people from the system that violate the passenger code of conduct, which prohibits drugs, smoking, drinking and other illegal or unacceptable behavior 
  • 65% say BART should focus on core operations and leave social service issues to other public agencies 
  • 90% put high priority on more frequent cleaning 
  • 74% feel things in the Bay Area have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track

Riders and residents overall are crystal clear about what the main barriers are for them to returning to BART. Among all respondents, including those that never or rarely ride BART, 78% said they would ride BART more often if it was significantly cleaner and safer. This number is particularly striking when compared to the far fewer 46% of respondents who stated they would ride BART more often if they had to commute to work or school more frequently. 

There is similar enthusiasm for returning to BART among the 37% of respondents who were regular BART riders before the pandemic but have since dramatically curtailed their use of the system or dropped off completely. These riders may represent BART’s best opportunity to bring more riders back to the system more regularly, with 59% saying they would ride BART a lot more often with safety and cleanliness improvements. But they also generally harbor much stronger levels of dissatisfaction with the system than others who are not BART riders. 

“There can be no higher priority for BART and the future survival of the system than to direct every ounce of energy and resources into making the system safer and cleaner,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, which was instrumental in the creation of BART in the 1950s and has long been a champion for the system. “We specifically call on BART to immediately and significantly increase police and security personnel on trains, vigorously enforce the rider code of conduct, and install new fare gates within a year. BART must treat this like a crisis, because it is a crisis. BART is the mass transit backbone of our region and there’s too much at stake for BART and our region not to be more aggressive in addressing the reasons legions of riders are staying away. BART deserves credit for recent moves to increase police presence and ramp up cleaning, but riders and others are saying they must do more and they must do it now.” 

See the BART poll findings>> 

Read the full BART poll questionnaire>> 

The concerns about safety and cleanliness are reflected in overall sour views of the system, with 49% giving BART an unfavorable rating compared to 30% for SF MUNI, 23% for AC Transit and 15% for Caltrain. The poll by EMC Research surveyed 1,000 residents in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and northern San Mateo counties encompassing BART’s service area. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points. 

Having a more visible police presence across the system is critical to bringing riders back. A vast majority of all those surveyed say they want more police officers on trains and in stations, they want more frequent cleaning of train cars and stations, and they want BART to strictly enforce an existing code of rider conduct which outlaws gate-hopping fare cheats, drinking and smoking, drug use and other illegal and dangerous behaviors. 

These attitudes shouldn’t come as a big surprise. According to the poll, 53% of residents know of someone who has been a victim of crime on BART, 46% say they have witnessed crime on BART, and 18% say they personally have been a victim on crime on BART. Meanwhile, 44% of BART riders said they have never or rarely seen a police officer.