- Reporters Desk
Long Beach Aligns with State Minimum Wage Schedule
LONG BEACH — On Sept. 6, the Long Beach City Council unanimously voted the city’s wage raise schedule with the state, which will raise the minimum wage to $13 by 2020.
Senate Bill 3 was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in April. The state reaches a $15 mark in 2022, a year later than the city originally planned to raise its minimum wage.
CSULB Cancels N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK, Carpenter Center Director Resigns
LONG BEACH — The executive director of the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center called it quits, Sept. 8, after 14 years working at the performance center.
Michele Roberge made the decision to step down after Cal State Long Beach, the site of the performance center, pulled the show N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk, from its lineup. She believes the university’s resolution amounts to censorship.
The university claims that the performance, which explores racism and stereotypes, was met by complaints from stakeholders and campus community members, and that the performance was not achieving its goal of creating dialogue.
Trailer Crushes Man
LONG BEACH — A 28-year-old garage services attendant for the City of Long Beach, died Sept. 5, days after being crushed by a trailer.
Stevaughn Matthews was working on a trailer at the Fleet Services Building, at about 9 a.m. Sept. 1, when the trailer fell on him and crushed him, officials said.
A city employee died Monday from injuries he sustained when a trailer he was working on crushed him Thursday morning, Long Beach city officials announced today. The accident is being investigated by the City of Long Beach and the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Slangerup Quits POLB CEO Job
LONG BEACH — On Sept. 8, after only two years at the helm of the Port of Long Beach, Joe Slangerup resigned, effective Oct. 28.
Slangerup accepted a job as chairman and CEO of an aviation technology company, where he will start work on Oct. 31.
In 2015, Slangerup met with workers, tenants and politicians restore operations after a sever congestion and eased the process. He also was in charge of overseeing the construction of the new Gerald Desmond Bridge.
Hanjin Shipping Files Bankruptcy
LONG BEACH — On Sept. 7, Hanjin Shipping, a top container carrier, announced its intention to file for bankruptcy protection.
Because of the freezing of the South Korean carrier’s assets it is uncertain if or when, business partners, dockworkers and its employees will get paid.
As a result of this decision many Port of Long Beach operations slowed down. Port terminals have stopped handling Hanjin cargo, among them Total Terminal International, the second largest terminal in the port complex.
Two small ships and one medium-sized ship, anchored off coast have about 10,000 containers worth of cargo.
Whitaker Teaches Conflict Resolution at CSUDH
CARSON – On Sept. 6, actor and social activist Forest Whitaker launched the Domestic Harmonizer Program with California State University Dominguez Hills.
The Domestic Harmonizer Program is an initiative designed for middle schools, with the aim of nurturing a new generation of youth leaders committed to peaceful conflict resolution.
It integrates Conflict Resolution Education with Common Core State Standards in math, science, social studies, and English. Through this program, students and teachers will have an opportunity to practice conflict resolution skills every day, and thereby better tackle issues such as youth violence and bullying and create a peaceable school climate. The Domestic Harmonizer Program will be implemented at Andrew Carnegie Middle School for the next three years, and will serve as a model for expansion to other schools in Los Angeles and potentially across the country.
The Domestic Harmonizer Program will focus on general conflict resolution skills in the sixth grade, peer mediation in the seventh grade, and restorative justice in the eighth grade. The curriculum for the Domestic Harmonizer Program was co-designed by the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, of which Whitaker is the founder and CEO, and CSUDH. It will be implemented in classrooms by teachers from Andrew Carnegie Middle School.
Former Gardena Casino Operator Fined $1 for Money Laundering Laws
GARDENA – The former operator of the Normandie Club in Gardena has been ordered to pay a $1 million criminal fine and to forfeit nearly $1.4 million after pleading guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act by failing to report large cash transactions to federal authorities.
The casino was sold in July, after state gaming authorities revoked its license to operate.
As a result of a plea agreement between federal prosecutors and the Normandie Club, the casino pleaded guilty in January to violating anti-money laundering provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act. The partnership specifically pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and conspiring to avoid reporting to the government the large cash transactions of some of the casino’s “high-roller” gamblers. The Normandie Club was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine for each of the two counts, for a total fine of $1 million.
The Normandie Club was ordered to forfeit $1,383,530, which represents cash transactions in 2013 that were more than $10,000 and were not reported properly to federal authorities.
Under federal law – specifically, the Bank Secrecy Act – casinos like the Normandie Club are required to implement and maintain programs designed to prevent criminals from using the casino to launder the large sums of cash that illegal activity can generate. For example, casinos must record and report to the government the details of transactions involving more than $10,000 by any one gambler in a 24-hour period.
In the plea agreement filed earlier this year, the Normandie Club admitted that its casino engaged independent gambling “promoters” to locate high-rollers and then steer those gamblers to the casino. As part of the conspiracy, “high-level personnel” at the casino, including the casino’s president and chief operating officer, agreed to avoid reporting to the government the large sums of cash certain high-rollers would bring to the casino. According to the plea agreement, the casino avoided reporting transactions related to the high-rollers by submitting currency transaction reports that named the promoter instead of the gambler, by “structuring” transactions so that they appeared to be less than $10,000, or simply by failing to record large transactions.
During one six-week period in 2013, a single high-roller won more than $1 million from another party at the casino, and the casino conspired to conceal the identity of that high-roller.
Harbor Area Residents Among 33 Charged with Crimes Against the USPS
LOS ANGELES – On Aug. 26, 33 defendants were charged as part of a sweep targeting criminal activity that has victimized the United States Postal Service and its customers. The defendants included residents of Carson, Wilmington and Long Beach.
Most of the defendants charged as part of the sweep are USPS employees who allegedly stole mail, embezzled from the agency or, in one case, failed to deliver almost 50,000 pieces of mail.
Arrest warrants were issued for 6 of the 33 defendants, who were recently charged as a result of investigations by the USPS’s Office of Inspector General. Most of the defendants were charged in indictments that were returned by federal grand juries on Aug. 24 and 25.
The 33 defendants are charged across 28 cases, about half of which allege mail theft and/or possession of stolen mail by USPS employees and contractors. Other cases charge USPS employees with conspiracy, embezzlement, bank fraud, and false statements. Five of the cases allege crimes by non-employees, including mail theft and fraud related to the use of credit cards that had been stolen from the mail.
The cases filed as part of the sweep include:
Vince Johnson, 30, of Carson, who worked for a USPS contractor, was charged with possession of stolen mail;
Jose Hernandez, 35, of Long Beach, who worked for a USPS contractor, was charged with mail theft;
Tamika Deloach, 38, of Wilmington, a mail carrier, was charged with possessing stolen mail related to checks she allegedly stole from the mail and deposited into her credit union account;
Defendants charged as part of the sweep will be arraigned in the United States District Court in Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and Riverside.
LA City Council Confirms General Manager LADWP
LOS ANGELES — On Sept. 6, the Los Angeles City Council voted 13-0 to confirm the appointment of David H. Wright as general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Wright had recently served as interim general manager since August 16. Prior to that, he had served as chief operating officer and has been with LADWP since February 2015. Wright was responsible for water and power systems, customer service and information technology services, supply chain services, human resources, fleet services, equal employment opportunity services and communications, marketing and community affairs.
Wright served as general manager of Riverside Public Utilities for almost 10 years and as the chief financial officer for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and the Silver State Energy Association, overseeing a almost $1 billion budget for the three water and electric organizations. He previously spent 15 years with the City of Riverside where he served as deputy general manager and as Riverside’s city controller. Wright was instrumental in helping correct some of the issues created during the implementation of the new customer information system.
Wright earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in business administration from California State University Fullerton. He succeeds outgoing LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards who served as LADWP chief since March 2014. Edwards who is staying through the end of the year in an advisory role, recruited Wright.
LOS ANGELES – On Aug. 29, two doctors each of whom operated medical offices in Lynwood were arrested on federal drug charges alleging they issued prescriptions for narcotics and sedatives without a medical purpose.
The two doctors were charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in conjunction with an operation conducted by the Torrance Police Department and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office that targeted members and associates of the East Coast Crips criminal street gang.
The two doctors – Sonny Oparah, 75, of Long Beach, and Edward Ridgill, 64, of Ventura – surrendered to federal authorities on Friday and were released on bond that afternoon after making their first appearances in U.S. District Court. Both men were ordered to again appear in federal court for arraignments on Sept. 15.
Two criminal complaints unsealed on Friday charge Oparah and Ridgill with illegally prescribing the powerful painkillers hydrocodone (best known as Vicodin or Norco) and codeine (for example, promethazine with codeine cough syrup, which is known on the street as purple drank), alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax), and carisoprodol (a muscle relaxer best known as Soma). According to the affidavit filed in the cases, Oparah issued about 13,000 prescriptions for those drugs in a one-year period between July 2014 and July 2015, and Ridgill issued more than 21,000 such prescriptions in a three-year period between July 2011 and July 2014. All of the prescribed drugs were at or near maximum strength.
The affidavit describes 12 undercover operations during which Oparah or Ridgill sold prescriptions in exchange for cash fees. In most instances, the doctors sold the prescriptions without ever examining the undercover officer or cooperating witness. A medical expert’s independent review of the undercover recordings and seized patient files confirmed that there was no legitimate medical basis for the prescriptions.
The arrests of Oparah and Ridgill occurred jointly with a sweep that targeted the East Coast Crips street gang.
The federal investigation into Oparah and Ridgill showed that they operated cash businesses. Federal authorities made cash seizures from both doctors, and bank records showing that Ridgill deposited $500,000 in cash into his bank accounts over a period of less than three years.
CBP Seizes More Than $4 Million in Fake Footware
LOS ANGELES — On Aug. 31, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Center of Excellence and Expertise staff assigned to the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport complex seized 7,800 pairs of high-fashion shoes bearing counterfeit “Salvatore Ferragamo” listed trademarks.
If genuine, the seized footwear would have had an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $4,290,000.
The merchandise arrived in two separate shipments from China on July 20.
About $1.35 billion worth of counterfeit goods originating overseas were seized by CBP in fiscal year 2015. China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Romania, and Turkey were the top five countries of origination for counterfeit goods seized by CBP in fiscal year 2015.
Ciancia Pleads Guilty in 2013 LAX Shooting Spree
LOS ANGELES – On Sept. 6 Paul Anthony Ciancia pleaded guilty to 11 federal charges related to a 2013 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport in which he murdered Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez.
Ciancia, 26, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Hernandez Nov. 1, 2013.
Ciancia is expected to receive a sentence of at least life in federal prison, plus 60 years. The defendant could be sentenced to multiple life terms and additional years in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.
According to a plea agreement file last week, in early 2013, Ciancia purchased a semiautomatic rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and 10 magazines for the rifle. On the morning of November 1, 2013, Ciancia modified two pieces of luggage and zip-tied them together to conceal his loaded rifle.
Later that morning, Ciancia entered Terminal Three at LAX, removed the loaded rifle from his modified luggage and fired at and killed Officer Hernandez, who was checking passengers’ travel documents as part of his duties as a TSA Officer. Ciancia admitted that he then went upstairs to a TSA checkpoint, by which time many TSA officers and passengers had fled the airport. He fired his weapon at TSA Officers Tony Leroy Grigsby and James Maurice Speer, as well at a civilian, Brian Ludmer, all of whom sustained serious injuries and required surgery but survived the attack.
According to the plea agreement, as Ciancia passed passengers hiding in or fleeing the terminal during the attack, he asked if they were TSA and when they said no, he passed without shooting at them.
The first degree murder charge carries a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison. The two additional charges based on the killing of Hernandez – violence at an international airport that resulted in death and using a firearm to murder and cause death – each carry potential sentences of life in federal prison.
The two attempted-murder charges and each of the three charges based on violence against the surviving victims all carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The first count of using a firearm carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and the other two use-of-a-firearm charges each carry mandatory sentences of 25 years. The cumulative 60-year sentences for these charges would be served consecutively to any other sentences that are imposed.
Ciancia is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 7.
EPA Requires SCE to Manage Hazardous Waste
SAN FRANCISCO – On Sept. 9, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Southern California Edison for improper management of hazardous waste on Catalina Island. The electric utility company has agreed to pay a $39,127 penalty.
The EPA conducted an unannounced site inspection at SCE’s Catalina Island facility in Avalon, in September 2015 under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The EPA found that the utility was storing hazardous waste for more than 90 days and universal waste for more than one year without the proper permits. In addition, staff members conducting weekly inspections had not been adequately trained and were not checking the date labels on the waste containers. SCE has since corrected all of the identified compliance issues.
Under EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program, hazardous substances must be stored, handled and disposed of using measures that safeguard public health and the environment. EPA routinely conducts inspections in its state oversight role.
Details: www.epa.gov/rcra, www.epa.gov/hwpermitting
2 million Phony Accounts, 5,300 Wells Fargo Employees
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — On Sept. 8, Federal regulators ordered Wells Fargo Bank to pay $185 million in fines and penalties related to the creation of credit card accounts and about 1.5 million unauthorized deposits.
Thousands of employees secretly opened account to hi their sales targets and get bonuses, said officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Employees went as far as creating fake personal identification numbers and email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services, the bureau stated.
The bank must pay the bureau $100 million, $50 million to the city and county of Los Angeles, $35 million in penalties and full restitution victims of the scheme.
In the past few years, Wells Fargo has fired about 5,300 employees. The bank has stated that it fired employees who exhibited shady behavior and refunded $2.6 in fees collected from customers, a fraction of one percent of the accounts reviewed. The average refund is $25.