Garden Grove man, who served time for terrorism, now accused of drug trafficking

Drug trafficking charges have been leveled against a Garden Grove man previously convicted of leading a terrorist organization that planned attacks on military installations and synagogues in Los Angeles, officials said Wednesday, July 26.

Ahmed Binyamin Alasiri, also known as Kevin Lamar James, 44, of Garden Grove, was arrested Friday, Aug. 21 and indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on suspicion of two felony counts of distribution of methamphetamine. The defendant allegedly sold a total of two pounds of high-grade methamphetamine for $7,400 to his housemate, an undercover FBI employee, on July 24 and Aug. 6, according to court documents.

“I have connections to every single drug you can imagine,” Alasiri said while riding in a car with the undercover FBI employee on June 11, 2020, according to court documents.

He faces between 10 years to life in prison if convicted. Alasiri made his first appearance in court on Monday, and is scheduled to appear at an arraignment hearing Sept. 14.

Alasiri was on supervised release after being sentenced in 2009 to 16 years in federal prison. He had pleaded guilty  in December 2007 to one count of conspiracy to levy war against the United States. He founded Jami’yyat Ul-Islam Is-Shaheeh (JIS), a group that planned to attack “enemies of Islam or ‘infidels,’” according to court documents.

The radical organization conducted research and made plans to attack military bases and recruitment centers, synagogues, the Israeli consulate and other targets in Los Angeles, according to court documents. Members of the group robbed 10 gas stations in Orange, Fullerton, Torrance, Bellflower, Pico Rivera, Playa Vista, Walnut and Los Angeles between May 30, 2005 and July 5, 2005.

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3 family members from O.C. sentenced to jail for home loan modification scheme

SANTA ANA — A 43-year-old Yorba Linda man, his brother and the brother’s wife received jail terms Tuesday as part of their involvement in a $390,000 scheme involving loan modification companies that preyed on mostly Spanish-speaking victims throughout the state.

The ring leader, Carlos Jose Centeno, who pleaded guilty in January, was sentenced to a year in jail and placed on seven years of formal probation. He is scheduled to report to jail Oct. 30, according to court records.

Centeno’s brother, Ricardo Torres Centeno, 36, of Anaheim, who also pleaded guilty in January, was sentenced to 150 days in jail and placed on seven years probation. He is also scheduled to report to jail on Oct. 30.

Ricardo Centeno’s wife, Lizeth Garcia Arzate, 37, who also pleaded guilty in January was sentenced to 90 days in jail and placed on three years of formal probation. She is scheduled to report to jail by Feb. 12, according to court records.

Co-defendants Hector Alfredo Valdivia, 55, of Lake Elsinore, and Susie Rabadan, 36, of Anaheim, were scheduled for sentencing Sept. 9, according to court records.

About two dozen victims were bilked out of fees for helping them to renegotiate their home loans, Orange County District Attorney’s Office prosecutors said when charges were filed in January 2015.

Carlos Centeno was the ringleader, prosecutors said. He owned Foreclosure Prevention Department in Irvine and was an executive for Orange County-based Debt Settlers of America.

It is illegal to charge upfront fees for loan modification services, prosecutors said.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department led the investigation, prosecutors said.

Valdivia and Rabadan were considered lesser players in the scams from the end of 2009 through 2012, prosecutors said.

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2 pedestrians killed in Anaheim crash identified

Officials identified two men Sunday, Aug. 23, who were fatally struck by a BMW while crossing a street in Anaheim nine days earlier.

Girmay Girmay, 70, of Anaheim and Solomon Kedebe, 61, of Los Alamitos, on Friday, Aug. 14 were standing on a center divider along Lincoln Avenue near Aladdin Drive just before the crash, Anaheim Police Sgt. Steve Pena said. They waited for at least one vehicle to pass before trying to cross the street, but were hit by a silver BMW at about 9 p.m.

“It looks like the pedestrians didn’t see the driver, and the driver didn’t see the pedestrians because the other car was in the way,” Pena said.

Both men died before they could be taken to a hospital, Orange County Coroner’s officials said. Relatives and friends of the victims from the surrounding neighborhood gathered near the site of the crash as police conducted an investigation.

Residential parking is limited nearby, and many people who live in the area wind up crossing Lincoln to get to their homes, Pena said. He said jaywalking is not uncommon on that street.

The driver of the BMW coupe waited for police to arrive, Pena  said. Drugs or alcohol did not appear to have been factors in the crash, Anaheim Police Sgt. Shane Carringer said.

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Woman 8 months pregnant dies in Anaheim crash; baby survives

A pedestrian who was more than eight months pregnant was killed in a crash in Anaheim on Tuesday night, Aug. 11 and another woman was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

The victim was walking on the sidewalk with her husband at about 7:36 p.m. when a Jeep jumped the curb on Katella Avenue, drove along the sidewalk for about 300 feet and struck her, police said. The jeep then crossed Bayless Street and crashed in front of a car wash.


A man in distress kneels and is comforted by bystanders following a crash on Katella Avenue near Bayless Street in Anaheim that left a pregnant 23-year-old Anaheim resident dead Tuesday, Aug. 11. The driver of the SUV involved in the collision suffered minor injuries and was arrested on suspicion of DUI. (Image taken from footage by Brentt Sporn, OnScene TV)

The woman’s husband attempted to perform CPR before she was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center, where she died, Anaheim Police Sgt. Shane Carringer said.

The 23-year-old Anaheim resident was in her eighth month of pregnancy, he said. The baby was hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit as of 10:45 p.m. The mother’s identity was not immediately released.

David Orozco told a videographer at the scene he was in the area when he heard a loud boom and saw an SUV speeding past. He rushed to the scene of the collision and saw a woman lying on the ground with injuries to her head.

“It looked like she wasn’t breathing anymore,” Orozco said. “The husband was checking the pulse, and when he did check, he screamed.”

The 40-year-old woman behind the wheel of the SUV suffered minor injuries and was hospitalized, Carringer said. Investigators believe she may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. She was arrested and her booking was pending her release from medical treatment.


Police investigate at the scene of a crash on Katella Avenue near Bayless Street in Anaheim that left a pregnant 23-year-old woman dead Tuesday, Aug. 11. The driver of the SUV involved in the collision was arrested on suspicion of DUI. (Image taken from footage by Brentt Sporn, OnScene TV)

 

This is now a fatal traffic collision. An adult female pedestrian was killed in the collision.

— Anaheim PD (@AnaheimPD) August 12, 2020

OnScene.TV videographer Brentt Sporn contributed to this report.

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2 O.C. men sentenced to prison for scamming distressed homeowners during ’08 recession

SANTA ANA — Two Orange County men were sentenced Wednesday to five and 12 years in prison for their roles in a Santa Ana-based home loan modification scheme during the Great Recession in 2008.

Aminullah “David” Sarpas and Samuel Paul Bain started Santa Ana-based U.S. Homeowners Relief in late 2008 during the collapse of the housing industry that tipped the nation into a recession.

The company promised distressed homeowners relief on mortgage payments in exchange for advance fees ranging from $1,450 and $4,200, prosecutors said. The two falsely promised they had a 97% success rate lowering mortgage payments for clients, prosecutors said.

About 1,600 homeowners lost about $3.5 million in the scheme, prosecutors said. Many of the victims lost their homes.

Sarpas and Bain also co-owned Greenleaf Modify, Waypoint Law Group and American Lending Review.

Sarpas, 37, of Irvine, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney. Sarpas was convicted in a trial of 10 counts of conspiracy and mail fraud in April 2019.

Bain, 40, of Tustin, was sentenced to five years in prison, but has already served that amount of time behind bars, said his attorney, Kate Corrigan. Bain pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiracy and mail fraud.

Bain “has changed his life quite a bit and Judge Carney recognized the changes,” Corrigan said.

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Police ID 5 suspects in robbery of man targeted and killed for his bicycle in Santa Ana; 4 in custody

SANTA ANA — An accused gang member was behind bars Wednesday for allegedly robbing and fatally shooting a man who was targeted for his bicycle last month in Santa Ana.

Jose Luis Salgado of Santa Ana, who turned 20 Wednesday, is charged with murder, with a special circumstances allegation of murder committed for the benefit of a street gang, robbery, participating in gang activity and being an active participant in a gang carrying a loaded gun in public.

Salgado also faces sentencing enhancement allegations of a gang member’s vicarious use of a gun, discharge of a gun causing death and gang activity.

Pedro Morale Chocoj, 31, of Santa Ana was attacked July 23 about 7:45 p.m. by multiple suspects who wanted to steal his bicycle, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

His body wasn’t found until late the next day, when police responded to a call of a man down on a dirt path next to the Santa Ana Riverbed north of 5th Street, Bertagna said.

Chocoj was residing in Santa Ana with his brother and was sending money back to his wife and kids back in El Salvador, Bertagna said.

Santa Ana detectives tracked down the victim’s bicycle on July 27 in the 900 block of Fair Way, thanks to a tip that also led them to a suspect, who is charged with being an accessory after the fact, Bertagna said.

Jesus Gonzalo Ibarra, 22, of Santa Ana, is also charged with participating in gang activity, receiving stolen property and being an active participant in a gang carrying a loaded gun in public, all felonies, with sentence enhancement allegations for gang activity.

Last Wednesday, police arrested Salgado and two other suspects, including a teenager, Bertagna said. The other suspects’ identities have not been released as detectives are still investigating the case and seeking a fifth suspect, he said.

Anyone with information was asked to call detectives at 714-245-8390. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at 855-TIP-OCCS.

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Passenger dies, driver hospitalized after crash on 5 Freeway in Anaheim

A person died, and another was hospitalized after a car slammed into a pole on the 5 Freeway in Anaheim on Tuesday evening, July 28.

The crash happened at about 7:40 p.m.  between Brookhurst and Euclid Streets, Anaheim Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Tim Sandifer said. First responders encountered two people in a black Chevrolet sedan that struck a pole supporting a freeway sign.

The 26-year-old driver of the car was rushed to a trauma center. The 19-year-old passenger of the Chevy was “extremely entangled within the wreckage,” Sandifer said.

A firefighter was seen lying on the hood of the smashed vehicle while attempting to treat the passenger inside. Crews used pneumatic rescue tools and worked for about 25 minutes to free the passenger.

“It was a complicated extrication,” Sandifer said as orange sirens flashed and police investigated the scene behind him on the freeway. “Once that patient was removed from the wreckage, it was determined that it was a fatal traffic accident. It appears to be a young adult male who was killed in the incident.”

Orange County Coroner’s officials were summoned at 8:17 p.m., according to California Highway Patrol logs. The identity of the person who died was not made public Tuesday evening. Updates regarding the condition of the hospitalized driver were not immediately available.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Authorities shut down the right two lanes near the site of the collision while authorities conducted an investigation, Sandifer said.

OnScene.TV videographer Brentt Sporn contributed to this report.

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Pedestrian struck and killed in Irvine

IRVINE — A 52-year-old pedestrian was struck by an SUV and killed Tuesday night in Irvine.

The crash occurred near the intersection of Silkberry and Hazelnut about 6:30 p.m., according to the Irvine Police Department.

The victim was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival, the department said. His name was not disclosed.

The driver of the SUV remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation, police said.

Alcohol or drugs were not immediately considered factors in the crash.

It was unclear if the pedestrian was in a marked crosswalk at the time of the crash.

Anyone who witnessed the crash was asked to call Detective Chris Ostrowski at 949-724-7047.

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Man gets 9 years in prison for crashing car into La Mirada fitness center after cancellation of membership

NORWALK — A Whittier man who deliberately crashed a relative’s car into the front of a La Mirada fitness center that had canceled his membership was sentenced to nine years in state prison, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Sergio Gabriel Reyes, 34, was sentenced immediately after pleading no contest to one count of assault with a deadly weapon — an automobile — on Monday, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Reyes drove a relative’s vehicle to Crunch Fitness, in the 12800 block of Valley View Avenue, and crashed the car through the front window, nearly hitting an employee who was standing at the reception desk, on March 19, 2019.

Reyes fled the scene and was arrested soon afterward, according to Deputy District Attorney Robert Villa.

Reyes’ gym membership was terminated that month due to alleged inappropriate behavior, according to authorities.

He has remained behind bars since he was taken into custody, jail records show.

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Man detained after Lake Forest hotel is evacuated and explosive devices are found

Explosive devices and substances were found in a room in a Lake Forest hotel, which was evacuated Tuesday night, officials said.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department said on social media the devices and substances were rendered safe and the hotel on Orchard Road would reopen. The OCSD Bomb Squad and an Orange County Fire Authority hazardous materials team had assessed and dealt with the devices and substances.

The OCSD Bomb Squad made entry to the room and discovered multiple homemade illegal explosive devices, along with illegal explosive substances. With the assistance of the Hazmat Team, the devices and substances were collected and rendered safe. pic.twitter.com/zq0Cu2Tpj2

— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSheriff) July 15, 2020

A man was detained and authorities planned to book him on suspicion of multiple felonies, the Sheriff’s Department said.

The man’s identity wasn’t immediately released and it was not immediately known why he allegedly had the devices and substances.

 

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