At least temporarily, California’s drought has been broken by a string of atmospheric river storms originating in the vicinity of Hawaii. Atmospheric rivers are jet streams of moist air, tens to hundreds of miles wide, which can carry 7.5 to 15 times as much water vapor as the Mississippi River at its mouth. A month-long series of AR storms in 1861 and ‘62 flooded the entire LA Basin, and many other parts of the state, creating a 300-mile lake in the San Joaquin Valley.
The current series of storms destroyed a California landmark, the iconic “Pioneer Cabin” sequoia, which is thought to be more than a thousand years old and is the most famous of the handful of tunneled-through sequoias in the state. It was toppled by the storm and shattered when it hit the ground. The initial set of storms removed most of Northern California from official drought status, according the Drought Monitor Index weekly update on January 12. It replenished surface water reserves across the state, but it will require multiple wet years to fully replenish California’s aquifers.
It’s also possible this year will be anomalous. Global warming intensifies AR storms on one hand, but also makes droughts more extreme. Multi-decade mega-droughts are projected to be increasingly likely this century, and we may still be in the midst of the first one. It will take at least one or two more wet winters before Californians can breathe easy again on that score.
Teacher Arrested For Child Porn
SAN PEDRO — Daniel O’Connell, a physics teacher at Mary Star of the Sea High School, was arrested for possession of child pornography on Jan. 10 by Los Angeles Police Department detectives with special training in handling online crimes against children.
Investigators began scrutinizing O’Connell after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that O’Connell was having inappropriate contact with minors he met on a mathematics tutoring website. They showed up at O’Connell’s Rancho Palos Verdes home with a search warrant and booked him at LAPD 77th Regional Jail, where he is being held on $20,000.00 bail.
People with any additional information, or additional victims are urged to call (562) 624-4027 or visit www.lapdonline.org. Click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu to submit an online tip.
Woman Killed on Knight Avenue in Long Beach
LONG BEACH — On Jan. 10, Susan Garcia, a 33 year-old resident of Long Beach, was shot to death on the 6300 block of Knight Avenue. Long Beach Police Department officers responded to the area at about 7:30 p.m. after reports that two people were shot.
Officers found Garcia with a gunshot wound to the upper torso. The Long Beach Fire Department declared her dead at the scene. A man also was shot in the torso and was taken a local hospital in critical condition. John McVoy, a 35-year-old resident of Corona was detained by witnesses until police officers arrived and took him into custody.He was booked for murder and attempted murder, and is being held on $2 million bail.
The relationship between the victims and the suspect is still to be determined. The shooting is not gang related. Anyone with information is urged to call (562) 570-7244 or anonymously visit www.lacrimestoppers.org.
LB Man Convicted for Producing Child Pornography
LONG BEACH — On Jan. 11, Long Beach resident Christopher Michael Salisbury was sentenced to 60 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release for two counts of child pornography.
Salisbury, 38, also was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine. After his release, he must register as a sex offender wherever he resides, works or attends school.
According to Salisbury’s plea agreement, he sexually abused two minors — beginning when each victim was about five years old — while residing in Maryland between 2006 and 2013. Salisbury produced images and videos of himself and the minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Salisbury used video and photo editing software to compile videos of his sexual abuse that included music, text and other editing.
Additionally, Salisbury regularly accessed the internet through a network specifically designed to facilitate anonymous communication, commonly referred to as the “dark web.” Salisbury used the network to find and join a hidden website whose primary purpose was to advertise and distribute child pornography. Salisbury used the “dark web” and his membership in the hidden website to view, download, receive, and collect thousands of images and videos of child pornography.
LBPD Chief Appoints New Commander
LONG BEACH — On Jan. 13, Long Beach Police Department selected 19-year veteran Chief Robert Luna Berkenkamp for the position of commander. Berkenkamp began his career with LBPD in 1997, was promoted to sergeant in 2007, and to lieutenant in 2015.
Berkenkamp has worked a variety of assignments: patrol, field training officer, directed enforcement, SWAT, critical incident management and event planning section. Most recently he oversaw the special enforcement section, which includes SWAT, the K-9 detail and air support.
ILWU Member Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison
SAN PEDRO — David Gomez, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for his role in a scheme in which two medical clinics submitted more than a $250,000 in bills to the union’s health care plan. The chiropractic services were not provided or were not medically necessary.
Gomez, 53, was convicted in October of 20 counts of mail fraud. Gomez has been in custody since a federal jury returned its guilty verdicts.
The ILWU represents dockworkers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Members of the union receive benefits, including health care benefits, through the ILWU-Pacific Maritime Association Welfare Plan.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Gomez, a San Pedro resident, and his co-defendant, Sergio Amador, opened a clinic in Long Beach in 2009 that operated under the name Port Medical and provided medical and chiropractic care. The next year, they opened a second clinic operating under the same name in San Pedro.
Gomez and Amador also created medical management companies that they used to receive funds generated by the medical clinics, which they then used to pay themselves and to pay incentives to ILWU members. These incentives were often paid as “sponsorships” of basketball or softball teams, with the understanding that the ILWU member receiving the “sponsorship” would visit, and encourage other team members to visit, Port Medical.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Port Medical chart entries were falsified to indicate that ILWU members and their dependents, including children as young as 5, had received repeated chiropractic services, including multiple sessions of massage therapy, that they had not. To accomplish this, ILWU members were asked to sign their names on multiple sign-in stickers that were used to create the fabricated chart entries, or their signatures on stickers affixed to the chart entries were simply forged.
Other evidence at trial related to instructions provided to Port Medical massage therapists on how to craft chart entries to maximize billing and make services appear to be medically necessary, a requirement for them to be covered by the ILWU-PMA Welfare Plan. Included were instructions to massage therapists never to write that a patient had indicated “no complaints,” and to make sure not to copy or write chart entries “exactly the same each time, change things up a little!!!”
According to court documents, a conservative assessment determined that the total amount of fraudulent bills was $258,913, and the health plan paid out $228,440. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner ordered Gomez to pay $201,000 in restitution to the health plan.
Amador pleaded guilty this past year to one count of mail fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 6.
Controller Reports Ineffective Oversight of City’s WorkSource Centers
LOS ANGELES — On Jan. 13, Controller Ron Galperin issued a review of the city’s Economic and Workforce Development Department selection and monitoring of Los Angeles’ job resource sites, known as WorkSource Centers. The City’s 17 locations provide job training, counseling and employment referral services to job seekers and employers.
The Controller’s Office undertook an evaluation of the development department’s process in selecting nonprofit service providers following an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office of a service provider, which was a center operator for both the city and the county of Los Angeles. Executives of the Chicana Service Action Center, which was a city service provider for about 25 years are facing felony charges stemming from allegations of conspiracy, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds. The center also is alleged to have falsified information about clients and placements. The center operated one downtown location through 2013, and center began operating a location for the city in Boyle Heights until June 2015, when the city cancelled its contract for the center with the center. That center is now operated by a different service provider.
The Controller looked to evaluate department’s processes in selecting service providers in order to ensure better selection and oversight of all the city’s job center operators. The report finds the City has insufficient controls to ensure appropriate monitoring of service providers; inadequate processes to detect fraud, waste, and/or abuse; and a need to adopt best practices that would help identify unsuitable service providers early on.
The controller’s recommendations include:
- A much more thorough review process and oversight of service providers;
- Better communication between city departments; and
- Regularly updated performance evaluations.
Jan Perry, the general manager of the department has initiated numerous new controls. The department has also now agreed to the creation of a compliance task force in partnership with the controller.
The review, along with the Controller’s other audits, reports, open data and more, is available at www.lacontroller.org or http://tinyurl.com/WorkSourceReport.
Record Year for Ports
The idle container shipping fleet has soared to 1.7 million TEU in 2016, the Dec. 23 edition of West Coast Sailors reported.
The expansion was driven by Hanjin’s collapse and by carriers withdrawing ships from service at a rapidly in an attempt to limit the impact of chronic overcapacity and weak demand.
The number of idle ships has increased from 238 vessels in November 2015 with a combined capacity of about 900,000 twenty-foot equivalent units to 435 ships aggregating 1.7 million TEUs in early November of this year, according to the maritime research, consulting and advisory services company, Drewry.
At the beginning of 2015, idle containerships comprised just 2.5 percent of the global fleet, while ships laid up around the world now account for 9 percent of the global fleet. The growth of the idle fleet may have been rapid. Of the 1.7 million TEUs, Hanjin Shipping generated 36 percent of that capacity during the past quarter, when the carrier went bankrupt.
The former Hanjin-operated fleet accounted for 622,958 TEUs, and of this, about 200,000 TEUs were for containerships of more than 10,000 TEUs from discontinued TransPacific and Asia-Europe services.
About 600,000 TEUs of capacity has also been scrapped this year, without which the idle fleet would have grown higher. Yet, such is the surplus vessel overhang that even with around 13 percent of the global fleet now scrapped or idling, the rebalancing of supply and demand remains elusive.
Cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles reached 8,856,782 TEUs in 2016.
December was particularly strong, at about 796,536 container units. December imports increased 22.6 percent to 394,217 TEUs, slong with a 23.5 percent rise in empty containers, while exports shot up nearly 25.6 percent to 164,900 container units. Overall in 2016, cargo increased 8.5 percent compared to 2015.
However, at Port of Long Beach cargo traffic fell 5.8 percent in 2016 to almost 6.8 million container units.
December was even weaker, falling 8 percent from the previous December as only 549,000 container units moved through the docks. Imports decreased 8.2 percent to 271,599 TEUs. Exports fell 2.5 percent to 122,933 TEUs, while empties declined 11.4 percent to 154,397 TEUs.
The Aug. 31 Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy may be the cause of the diversion of cargo between the two ports. Hanjin was a majority stakeholder at POLB’s largest container terminal. Much of Hanjin’s cargo went to other shipping lines that have agreements to call on the POLA, not Long Beach.
The Long Beach Harbor Commission had approved an agreement for a subsidiary of Mediterranean Shipping Co. to take over the long-term lease at the terminal formerly home to Hanjin.
More detailed cargo numbers for POLA can be found at www.portoflosangeles.org/maritime/stats.asp.
More detailed cargo numbers for POLB are at www.polb.com/stats.
Berkenkamp will begin his new assignment on Jan. 21 as the commander of the West Patrol Division.
The current West Patrol Division Commander Robert Smith will assume command of the Gang and Violent Crimes Division to replace commander Robert Luman, who recently retired.
Hall Appointed to Agricultural Labor Board
SACRAMENTO — On Jan. 13, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed former state Sen. Isadore Hall to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
The appointment requires Senate confirmation. He will earn an annual salary of $142,095.
Hall, 45, was appointed the same day that board Chairman William B. Gould IV announced his resignation, accusing the state bureaucracy of stalling a proposal to allow the board to demand access to farms to educate workers about their rights.
Hall served in the state Senate from 2014 to 2016, the Assembly from 2008 to 2014 and was a member of the Compton City Council from 2003 to 2008.
Hall was defeated in the Nov. 8 election by former Hermosa Beach City Councilwoman Nanette Barragán, a fellow Democrat, in the race to replace Rep. Janice Hahn.