- Reporters Desk
Arrest Made In Murder Case
LONG BEACH — On Aug. 17, the Long Beach Police Department arrested 25-year-old Patrick Fereti Mose of Long Beach was arrested in connection with the Aug. 2 murder of Vaiola Vaipulu.
LBPD officers were dispatched at about 7 p.m. Aug. 2, to a residence in the 6700 block of Olive Avenue regarding a natural death of a female adult. The woman was later identified as 60-year-old Vaiola Vaipulu of Long Beach.
The Los Angeles County Coroner investigator responded and detected suspicious circumstances. Long Beach Homicide detectives also responded to initiate an investigation. Through their investigation, detectives discovered surveillance video linking a possible suspect vehicle to the case and, subsequently, to the identification of a suspect.
Mose is being held in Long Beach City Jail on $1 million bail. He is scheduled to appear in Long Beach Superior Court for arraignment on Aug. 20.
Hotel Workers File Class Action Lawsuit Against Long Beach Hotel for Wage Theft
LONG BEACH —Workers employed by the Long Beach Westin Hotel have filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the hotel has subjected them to numerous wage and hour violations, including off-the-clock work, the denial of meal and rest breaks, and failure to reimburse them for work supplies.
The hotel is operated by Noble-Interstate Management Group California and Interstate Hotels & Resorts, both named defendants, and is 95 percent owned by Utah Retirement Systems.
The lawsuit, brought by the law firm of Alexander Krakow + Glick and the Law Offices of Kyle Todd, claims that the hotel’s housekeepers are not paid for work they perform off-the-clock.
The lawsuit is the latest step taken by Long Beach hotel workers, the majority of whom are women, in a campaign to put an end to workplace abuse in the Long Beach hotel industry. In July, workers and community members held a march to Long Beach City Hall to call attention to housekeepers’ experiences of inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature by hotel customers, as well as other workplace concerns.
The workers’ campaign is supported by Stand With Women Against Abuse, a coalition of women’s organizations, health professionals, clergy, and community leaders.
The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information regarding the murder is urged to call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.LACrimeStoppers.org.
Transportation Technology Strategist Fellow Appointed
LOS ANGELES — On Aug. 18, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the appointment of Ashley Z. Hand as the transportation technology strategist fellow at the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
The fellowship is funded through a grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation.
Most recently, Hand served as chief innovation officer in Kansas City, Mo. — the first woman in the nation’s history to serve as a municipal chief innovation officer. In that post, she developed Kansas City’s first-ever digital roadmap; established a public-private partnership to build a smart city network along a new streetcar starter line; and utilized data to deliver city services more efficiently. She previously served as an architectural designer and planner for the global firm AECOM, where she worked collaboratively across the public and private sectors to encourage clients to use sustainable best practices.
As an architect, Hand’s commitment to green, durable, and environmentally-sound buildings has earned her the designation as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, with a specialty in Building Design and Construction. In 2014, she was recognized by the Central Exchange as a Rising Star in Technology, and by Next City Vanguard for urban leadership. Hand was selected in 2013 as the Kansas City Business Journal’s inaugural NextGen leader and was recognized in the previous year as Emerging Professional of the Year by American Institute of Architects-Kansas City.
As the transportation technology strategist fellow, Hand will work closely with DOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds and Chief Technology Officer Peter Marx to position Los Angeles as a national model in sustainable, tech-enabled transportation and as a test bed for technologies that will change the future of transportation.
In her new role, Hand will create a citywide transportation technology strategy to plan for the future of road safety, road use efficiency, traffic regulation, and traffic enforcement, and will be responsible for a policy plan to ensure a safe, mobile, sustainable future for Los Angeles. This strategy will also help LADOT meet the transportation goals outlined in the Mayor’s Sustainable City Plan.
The fellowship is funded by a grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation and serves as part of Garcetti’s effort to build a tech-savvy transportation system that helps Angelenos navigate the city — including wi-fi equipped smart bus stops, ridesharing at LAX and creating a data-sharing partnership with the Waze app to help cut commute times.
Career Drug Trafficker Sentenced to 20 Years in Federal Prison
LOS ANGELES – On Aug. 17, one of the principal cocaine traffickers associated with an international narcotics ring was sentenced this morning to 20 years in federal prison after law enforcement seized more than 170 pounds of cocaine and $1.5 million in drug-tainted cash linked to his narcotics-trafficking activities.
Zaid Wakil, 43, of Winston Salem, N.C., was sentenced for his drug trafficking activities in which he acquired cocaine from Los Angeles-area traffickers with the intent to distribute the narcotics on the East Coast.
In a sentencing memorandum filed with the court, federal prosecutors said that Wakil “participated in an extensive scheme to traffic in extraordinary quantities of cocaine.” They argued that Wakil “willfully pursued a criminal lifestyle” as reflected in his 20 prior criminal convictions over the course of more than two decades on charges that included drug trafficking, forgery and burglary.
Following a jury trial in February at which Wakil represented himself, he was found guilty of participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy and three counts of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute. The three narcotics-possession counts were the result of three seizures between May and July of 2011 in which more than 170 pounds of cocaine was seized. Authorities in Arizona and seized nearly 70 pounds during two traffic stops, and investigators were able to intercept a 105-pound shipment that Wakil attempted to send to the East Coast via FedEx.
The first cocaine seizure in this case came during a May 2011 traffic stop of Wakil’s car in Flagstaff, Ariz. by officers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. After he was released from custody less than two months later, Wakil contacted his Los Angeles-based supplier and stated that he was “still moving,” despite the law enforcement seizures of his drugs and money. According to wiretapped phone calls played at his trial, Wakil told his supplier at that time: “Let’s make the profits bigger.”
Wakil engaged in “sophisticated means to conceal his activities,” according to prosecutors, who noted that he operated a “shell business” in Santa Clarita – a purported trucking company that he used to conceal his cocaine shipments and to make his drug proceeds appear to be legitimate.
In 2010 and 2011, law enforcement in the San Fernando Valley, Ohio and Maryland made three seizures of cash totaling more than $1.5 million from vehicles that Wakil was driving. “[O]n each occasion, a trained narcotics detection canine gave a positive alert on the seized money,” according to the government’s sentencing brief.
Wakil was one of 22 defendants charged in June 2012 in two grand jury indictments with participating in a large-scale conspiracy to traffic cocaine. The conspiracy involved a drug-trafficking partnership between operatives in Mexico, Canada and the United States. Fourteen of the 22 defendants named in those indictments now have been convicted.
Both of the Los Angeles-based leaders of the conspiracy – Ichiro Tomatani-Guzman and Eduardo Olivares – pleaded guilty and each received 10-year prison terms. The leader of the Canadian nexus of the conspiracy – John Darrell Krokos – pleaded guilty and received a 138-month prison sentence.
Eight of the defendants charged in this case remain fugitives. They are:
- Jesus Esteban Felix Leon, 43, of Culiacan, Mexico;
- Jesus Felix Alvarez, 23, of Culiacan, Mexico;
- a man known only as “96”;
- Inocencio Aispuro-Lizarraga, 66, of Mexico;
- Rigoberto Ortega-Guzman, 60, of Downey;
- Fausto Medina, 42, of Lynwood;
- Mauricio Leon-Torres, 41, of Los Angeles; and
- Luis Cazarez-Beltran, 51, of Downey.