Boyd Put on Administrative Leave
SAN PEDRO — Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka issued as statement after a federal grand jury indicted the chief of police for the Port of Los Angeles on corruption and tax charges.
“In light of Thursday’s announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles Port Police Chief Ronald Boyd is being put on administrative leave until further notice,” Seroka said. “Deputy Chief of Port Police Thomas Gazsi will assume Boyd’s responsibilities. The city and Port of Los Angeles will fully cooperate in the investigation of this matter.”
The corruption charges in the indictment relate to a scheme in which Chief Ronald Jerome Boyd stood to financially benefit from the development of a social networking program that would become the official smartphone app for the Port and would then be marketed to other law enforcement agencies.
Boyd, 57, of Torrance, who in January was named as chief of public safety and emergency management at the port, was charged in a 16-count indictment returned by a grand jury. The indictment accuses Boyd of corruption, lying to FBI agents, failing to file federal corporate tax returns for a private security company he created and tax evasion.
At the center of the case are four “honest services” wire fraud charges that accuse Boyd of executing “a scheme to defraud the citizens of the City of Los Angeles and the Harbor Department for the City of Los Angeles of their right to the honest services of defendant Boyd by means of bribery and kickbacks, materially false and fraudulent pretenses and representations, and the concealment of material facts.” The corruption scheme centers on a program called Portwatch, which was developed to provide information to the public and to allow citizens to report criminal activity at the port.
In 2011, Boyd and two business partners formed BDB Digital Communications, a company that entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with the unnamed company developing Portwatch. The parties involved with BDB intended to generate revenues by marketing and selling a similar app – called Metrowatch – to other government agencies. “Under the terms of this agreement, defendant Boyd would receive approximately 13.33 percent of all gross revenues generated by the sale of the Metrowatch application throughout the United States,” according to the indictment.
The revenue-sharing agreement was contingent upon Boyd’s assistance in securing the Portwatch contract for the unnamed company. Over the course of a year, beginning in October 2011, Boyd took steps to benefit the unnamed company with respect to the Portwatch contract. The indictment alleges that his actions included hosting a private meeting with the unnamed company for the purpose of disclosing confidential information, meeting with Los Angeles officials that included the city attorney and the mayor, editing the scope of work for the Portwatch contractso that he could personally monitor the Portwatch app’s development, and urging the Port to expedite a press release to announce the implementation of the Portwatch app.
The indictment goes on to allege that Boyd, who was interviewed by special agents with the FBI last October, lied to the investigators when he denied having any financial interest in Metrowatch. The indictment alleges that Boyd falsely stated that BDB was created to sell body armor, and that he was unaware of the revenue-sharing agreement between the unnamed company and BDB. In relation to these alleged misrepresentations, Boyd faces three counts of making false statements.
Counts 8 through 16 of the indictment allege tax violations. Boyd is specifically charged with four counts of failing to file tax returns for the years 2008 through 2011 for his security business, At Close Range. He is also charged with five counts of tax evasion for the tax years 2007 through 2011 for failing to report income that was “substantially greater than the amount stated on the return,” according to the indictment.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If he is convicted of all 16 counts in the indictment, Boyd would face a statutory maximum sentence of 124 years in federal prison.
Boyd is expected to surrender to federal authorities next week on a date to be determined.
Suspected Kidnappers of Baby Eliza Plead Not Guilty
LONG BEACH — On April 30, Giselangelique Rene D’Milian, Anthony Ray McCall and Todd Boudreaux, who are suspected and charged with the kidnapping and murder of 3-month-old Eliza de la Cruz, pleaded not guilty to felony charges.
The next court date for all three suspects is a preliminary hearing on June 17.
On March 25, the Long Beach Police Department made four arrests in connection with the January 2015 kidnapping and murder of a 3-week-old baby Eliza.
D’Milian, 47 and a resident of Thousand Oaks, was arrested in Corona. D’Milian is suspected of developing the kidnapping plot to produce two babies after lying to her married boyfriend that she was pregnant with his twins. She was booked for murder, kidnapping, attempted murder and conspiracy. She is being held in Long Beach City Jail. Her original bail amount was $1 million and has been changed to no bail;
Anthony Ray McCall, 29 and a resident of Oceanside, was arrested in Oceanside. He was booked for murder, kidnapping, attempted murder and conspiracy. He is being held in Long Beach City Jail. His original bail amount was $1 million and has now changed to no bail;
Todd Damon Boudreaux, 43 and a resident of Fontana, was arrested in Fontana. He was booked for accessory after the fact. He is being held in Long Beach City Jail. His original bail amount was $20,000 and has now changed to no bail.
A bail review hearing for McCall and Boudreaux will take place May 5.
Charisse Nicole Shelton, 29 and a resident of Corona, was arrested in Corona. She was booked for accessory after the fact and is also being held in Long Beach City Jail. Her original bail amount was $20,000 and has increased to $1 million. Shelton is D’Milian’s daughter.
The kidnapping occurred Jan. 3, when Long Beach police were dispatched to a shooting in the 100 block of West 51st Street, where three adults sustained gunshot wounds and a 3-week-old baby was kidnapped. The following day, the baby was found dead in a trash dumpster in Imperial Beach.
Port Industry Leaders Examine Trade Trends for 2015 And Beyond
LONG BEACH — On April 29, Experts from across the goods movement industry spoke at the 11th annual “Pulse of the Ports: Peak Season Forecast,” hosted by the Port of Long Beach.
The event drew 600 people to the Long Beach Convention Center’s Pacific Ballroom to hear how current trends will affect trade throughout the rest of the year.
While the unique and highly anticipated annual event explores the cargo forecast, this year’s session also discussed the recent challenges of cargo movement and how the supply chain is evolving to cope with demands for higher efficiency and improved reliability.
Speakers at the event identified improvements in the U.S. economy, slowing growth in the Asian economy and long-term trends in shipping as forces that shape the flow of cargo through the San Pedro Bay ports.
Walter Kemmsies, chief economist for Moffatt & Nichol, titled his talk “Outlook – lots of moving parts” due to the mixed bag of forces that will shape trade this year. While the economy is not fully recovered, he said it’s been on the upswing and that will likely continue and will fuel increases in imports. Meanwhile export growth will be challenged due to a strong U.S. dollar and the increasing efficiency of overseas agriculture and other sectors.
Kemmsies noted that while the global economic outlook is for slow growth at best, global markets are becoming more stable, which in the long run will fuel increase trade through U.S. ports.
Other panelists recounted challenges impacting the industry, such as equipment shortages and congestion. Increased transparency, improved coordination among stakeholders, and supply chain optimization were among the key goals listed for 2015 and beyond.
Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero echoed a sentiment expressed by many of the panelists when he predicted that most of the volume redirected during the recent labor negotiations would return to West Coast ports.
An archived webcast of the event and speaker information are available at www.polb.com/pulseports.
Woman Sentenced for Running Wheelchair Scam
HAWTHORNE — Adeline Ekwebelem, 51, was sentenced, April 29, to 78 months in federal prison.
Ekwebelem, of Hawthorne, ran a company that submitted more than $7 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare – primarily for power wheelchairs that were not needed by patients. Her actions caused the government health insurance program to lose almost $3.5 million.
Ekwebelem, 51, was also ordered the defendant to pay $3.45 million in restitution to the Medicare program.
Following a seven-day trial this past September, a federal jury found Ekwebelem guilty of 16 counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and payment of illegal kickbacks.
The evidence presented at the trial showed that Ekwebelem’s Gardena-based durable medical equipment supply company, Adelco Medical Distributors, Inc., billed Medicare for medically unnecessary durable medical equipment – primarily power wheelchairs – for beneficiaries often recruited off the street. As part of the scheme, which ran from January 2007 through December 2011, Ekwebelem illegally paid kickbacks to “marketers” who recruited those beneficiaries and then paid kickbacks to a handful of complicit doctors in exchange for fraudulent prescriptions for durable medical equipment.
Those doctors included Dr. Charles Okoye, who was sentenced to two years in federal prison after he pled guilty to conspiring with Ekwebelem to commit health care fraud, and Dr. Uche Chukwudi, who fled a month before trial and remains a fugitive. Three of Adelco’s marketers – Romie Tucker, Cindy Santana and Maritza Hernandez – have also received sentences of up to two years in prison for their roles in the scheme.
As the evidence at trial showed, Ekwebelem did more than cause substantial losses to Medicare – she also caused harm to Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare will only pay for one wheelchair every five years. On at least one occasion, Ekwebelem submitted a fraudulent claim to Medicare for a power wheelchair that she did not even let the beneficiary keep, which later prevented the beneficiary from getting a wheelchair when it was actually needed.
Nation’s Ports Win Funding
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nation’s ports will receive an additional $36 million in funding next year as a result of an amendment championed by Rep. Janice Hahn that the U.S. House of Representatives passed April 29 during consideration of the energy and water appropriations bill.
Almost 30 years ago Congress established the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to pay for dredging and other maintenance needs for federally maintained commercial and recreational ports and harbors. Shippers pay a tax on goods they import through our ports, providing about $1.6 billion of “Harbor Maintenance Tax” revenue every year, enough to cover the cost of keeping the ports and harbors they rely on in good working order. However, most of that funding never makes it back to the ports. Each year Congress appropriates only a fraction of the Harbor Maintenance Tax receipts, leaving $9 billion behind in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
As a result, ports across the nation are being denied the crucial funding they need to dredge and are filling with silt. In fact, the full depth and width of our ports are available less than 35 percent of the time, meaning ships are forced to carry less cargo or wait for high tide to safely come into harbor. This costs the American economy billions of dollars each year.
This past year, Hahn led a successful effort to set annual targets for harbor maintenance appropriations increases leading toward full usage of the Trust Fund by 2025. These targets were passed into law as part of the Water Resource and Reform Development Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (passing 412 to 4 in the House).
However, the Energy and Water appropriations bill proposed for Fiscal Year 2016 would have funded the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund below the 2016 Water Resource and Reform Development Act target level. Hahn spearheaded an effort to make sure the target would be met and together with Rep. Bill Huizenga introduced an amendment increasing funding by $36 million to meet the target for 2016.
Video of Hahn speaking in support of increased harbor maintenance funding during the debate on her amendment can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55Y8juvAWMU&feature=youtu.be
Possible Locations for New Bixby Knolls Post Office Announced
LONG BEACH — The U.S. Postal Service has come up with a list of possible sites for the new Bixby Knolls Post Office:
A) 3838 Atlantic Avenue
B) 4121 Atlantic Avenue (current Trader Joe’s location)
C) 4250 Long Beach Blvd. (Trader Joe’s new location)
D) 4462-4470 Atlantic Avenue @ 45th St. (shop space next to Marshall’s)
Depending on the location chosen, the new post office would be scheduled to open in either September of this year (options A and D) or March of 2016 (options B and C).
Anyone wishing to comment on any of these possibilities has 30 days to send written comments to:
1300 Evans Avenue, Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94188-8200
Rancho Los Alamitos Honors Ottos with Cottonwood Award
LONG BEACH — Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation will present its prestigious Cottonwood Award to Doug Otto and Freda Hinsche Otto at the fourth annual Cottonwood Award Luncheon on May 14, 2015.
The award will be presented by this ast year’s recipients, former California Gov. George Deukmejian and Gloria Deukmejian. The Cottonwood Award is presented to individuals who have shown outstanding leadership in valuing and protecting the cultural resources of the region. Previous award winners include LA County Supervisor Don Knabe and Julie Knabe and former Long Beach Mayor, Beverly O’Neill.
The Rancho will also be paying special tribute to the Port of Long Beach and the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association for their extraordinary contributions to the preservation and advancement of the educational mission of Rancho Los Alamitos, and their support of projects throughout the city.