How Safe Are California’s State Parks? State Parks rangers discuss lack of public safety personnel to patrol, respond to emergencies and answer 911 calls
SACRAMENTO – California State Parks rangers who serve on the Resource Protection Peace Officers Association (RPPOA) board met on October 18, 2017 in a video conference to discuss major concerns among California State Parks rangers regarding safety in California’s State Parks, the shortage in the number of park rangers and communications operators, and the lack of adequate safety equipment. (more…)
Fresno Resident Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Sell Fraudulent Identification Documents California DMV investigators assisted in investigation
FRESNO — A Fresno woman accused of working with five others to sell fraudulent social security cards and alien registration receipt cards for as much as $150 a set has pleaded guilty to the charges against her. On October 16, 2017, Maria Victoria Perez-Vasquez, 32, pleaded guilty to conspiring to transfer, possess, and sell false identification documents.
On June 16, 2016, Perez-Vasquez and the five others were arrested for the scheme that took place between June 2015 and June 2016. Prior to Perez-Vasquez’s guilty plea, four of those charged in the case pleaded guilty and have already been sentenced. Charges are pending against the remaining co-defendant, Fidel Vasquez-Velazquez, who failed to appear in court for a bond forfeiture hearing on August 22, 2016.
Perez-Vasquez is scheduled to be sentenced on January 16, 2018. She faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Investigations Division.
“Creating and selling fake government documents threatens the safety and security of all of us, here at home, across the country, and around the globe,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “DMV investigators are the guardians of California identification cards and driver licenses and are an excellent resource for other agencies to call upon in fraudulent document investigations.”
Mexico Man Pleads Guilty to Cultivating Marijuana In Sequoia National Forest DOJ Special Agents & CDFW Wardens assisted in investigation
FRESNO— On October 16, 2017, Alfredo Cardenas-Suastegui (“Cardenas”), 56, a native and citizen of Mexico, pleaded guilty to charges relating to cultivating a large grow of marijuana in the Sequoia National Forest with the intent to distribute it. In addition to his plea, Cardenas also agreed to pay restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the damage to public land and natural resources caused by the marijuana cultivation activities.
“These illegal grows damage land, and the mere presence of armed, ‘grow’ caretakers, is a danger to visitors,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.
According to court documents, co-defendants Sair Maldonado-Soto, 22, and Coral Herrera, 21, both of Perris, California, were linked to two separate grow sites in the Sequoia National Forest after a four-month investigation. The investigation revealed that they were supplying material, equipment, and personnel to the grow sites, which consisted of a total of 10,396 marijuana plants. They were also responsible for transporting Cardenas and co-defendant Abel Toledo-Villa, 34, of Michoacán, Mexico, away from one of the grow sites after it was raided. Both Cardenas and Toledo-Villa tended to the marijuana plants at one of the grow sites. A rifle, ammunition, and processed marijuana were seized from the vehicle occupied by the four defendants as it drove away.
The marijuana cultivation operations at both sites caused extensive damage to the land and natural resources. Harmful pesticides and fertilizers, miles of plastic irrigation lines, and large amounts of trash were found at both sites. Native trees and vegetation were also removed to make room for the marijuana plants.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Fontana Police Department, and Victorville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.
Cardenas, who has been detained as a flight risk and danger to the community, is scheduled for sentencing on February 12, 2018. He faces a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of 5 years and a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, along with a $5 million fine. Herrera and Maldonado previously entered guilty pleas and are scheduled for sentencing on December 4 and 18, respectively. Toledo-Villa previously entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
CHP-PSDA Holds Third Quarter Board Meeting
CHP-PSDA Board and Special Guests
SACRAMENTO – The California Highway Patrol – Public Safety Dispatchers Association (CHP-PSDA) held its third quarter board meeting at California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) headquarters in Sacramento on October 13, 2017.
“We had a very productive day,” said CHP-PSDA President Tina Brazil. “We received updates about what is happening in each division and brought concerns and issues to the Office of Employee Relation (OER), Communication Center Support Section (CCSS), and the Hiring/Testing unit of CHP, that affect all communications centers.”
CSLEA President Alan Barcelona speaks to CHP-PSDA Board
The CHP-PSDA board of directors also received updates from CSLEA President Alan Barcelona and CSLEA Chief Counsel Kasey Clark.
“I had the privilege to speak the CHP-PSDA board,” said Barcelona “I so admire these public safety professionals. They all work full-time and have the energy, focus, and drive to work for the betterment of their coworkers. I thank them their public service and their work to save the middle class - our members.”
The entire CHP-PSDA board was present for the day-long meeting. Also present were OER Commander Ryan Okashima, Bargaining Unit 7 Labor Relations Specialist Michele Berlin, CCSS Commander DeeDee Teel, and PSDA II Robyn Snow and matt Brunette, Commander, Selections, Standards and Exams Unit.
The CHP-PSDA board ended the day by attending an evening party in honor of outgoing Commissioner Joe Farrow.
CHP-PSDA President Tina Brazil & CSLEA Senior Counsel Andrea Perez
CSLEA Greets New State Parks Communications Operators New Employee Orientation at NorCom in Rancho Cordova
RANCHO CORDOVA – The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) and its affiliate California Association of Law Enforcement Employees (CALEE) would like to welcome four new members, all communications operators with California State Parks.
“Our member services representatives Marco Castro and George Pina met with the new communications operators and introduced them to CSLEA, our benefits and services, and helped them to get to know what our goals and mission are,” said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. “We exist for our members and their involvement is welcomed and encouraged.”
CSLEA representatives conducted the new employee orientation on October 17, 2017.
CSLEA would like to welcome Christine Hardy, Rosalind Herron, Julie Philipopoulos and Glenn Elliff.
Former AFLAC Employee Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison Stole more than $4 Million from insurance company using fake disability claims
SANTA ANA - On October 16, 2017, a former sales representative for AFLAC was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after being convicted of federal fraud charges related to a scheme that bilked the insurance company out of $4 million with fake disability claims.
In addition to her prison sentence, Patricia Diane Smith Sledge, 61, of Redlands, was ordered to pay $4,166,063 in restitution.
“The California Department of Insurance assisted with this investigation that led to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of this individual,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Law enforcement teams working together truly make a difference.”
The joint investigation also included United States Department of Labor - Officer of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Sledge – who was residing in Irvine while working for the company formally known as American Family Life Assurance Company – sold disability insurance policies to bogus companies, and to people who supposedly worked for those companies. Sledge then orchestrated the filing of fraudulent disability claims and directed the purported employees to doctors who would sign off on the fake injury claims.
Sledge made money both from the commissions related to the sale of the fraudulent insurance policies and from kickbacks she received from the supposedly injured “employees.”
Sledge exploited her knowledge of AFLAC’s internal policies and underwriting procedures to further the scheme. For example, Sledge and others involved in the scheme listed artificially inflated incomes on the applications for insurance because the amount AFLAC paid on disability claims was based on the policyholder’s income.
Sledge was also found guilty of witness tampering for encouraging potential witnesses to lie to federal investigators and discouraging them from cooperating in the investigation. One of these crimes was committed while she was on bond in this case.
Three others have been prosecuted for acting as fake employers and fake employees in this scheme.