By Chris Lee on
Pictured: DA Investigator Jose Guzman and DDA Michael Chiriatti. (Photo by David Simon, Lead DDA of the WCIF Unit.)
Members of the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit recently attended the San Bernardino Chamber of Commerce Expo in an effort to educate the public about ways to fight insurance fraud.
What many people don’t know is that workers’ compensation fraud affects everyone. When someone commits this type of fraud, everyone pays, including the insurance company and its policyholders. While most workers’ compensation claims are legitimate, being able to spot fraud is the best way to prevent it from happening. Click here to download a list of common red flags used to identify possible fraud.
If you suspect insurance fraud or spot something suspicious, contact the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Workers’ Compensation Fraud Unit at (909) 891-3523.
Contact your Workers’ Compensation Insurance carrier
California law requires all carriers to operate “Special Investigations Units” to investigate suspected fraud.
Contact the District Attorney’s Workers’ Comp Fraud Unit:
Visit our website at http://www.sbcountyda.org and look on the right side of the page, halfway down, for the link entitled “Report Workers’ Comp Violation” and click on it. Then, follow the instructions. Or, call us at 909-891-3523.
Leave an anonymous report with the state’s “We-Tip” program.
Call the We-Tip hotline: 1-800-78-CRIME (800-782-7463) or visit them on the web at http://www.wetip.com
Contact the California Department of Insurance – Fraud Division in Rancho Cucamonga at 909-919-2200.
By Chris Lee on
The District Attorney's Animal Cruelty Task Force recently joined forces with WeTIP. Incidents of animal abuse or cruelty can now be reported anonymously by calling WeTIP at 1-800-78-CRIME
to read more about the Animal Cruelty Task Force.
By Chris Lee on
All murders are brutal, but Ana Garcia’s murder at the hands of her boyfriend, Mario Reyes, was particularly senseless and cruel. On October 7, 2008, it became clear to Reyes what he had suspected for weeks: Ana was leaving him. As she was preparing to move out of the house they shared in Ontario, he attacked her and ultimately slammed a four-pound weight on Ana’s head.
The blow was immediately fatal. The medical examiner testified at trial that the fractures in Ana’s skull were commonly seen in high speed traffic collisions. In addition, she had defensive wounds on her fingers, and fractures to her larynx suggested that she had been choked as well.
After murdering her, Reyes dragged Ana’s bleeding body to their bed and wrapped her in a comforter. He then put her body in the back of a pickup truck she had borrowed for the move. He then drove to Los Angeles.
Once in L.A., Reyes stopped at a gas station where, with Ana’s body still in the back of the truck, he used an ATM to empty her account. He then drove to a nearby self-storage facility and rented a storage unit. He specifically told the clerk he wanted a 5’ x 10’ unit with “drive-up” access. And when asked, he said didn’t need to actually see the unit before he rented it.
After obtaining the unit, Reyes headed over to a bank ATM to withdraw money from his own account, and then to a grocery store where he bought two dozen long-stemmed roses. Then, under cover of darkness, he returned to the storage facility and deposited Ana’s body in his storage unit.
He tossed the roses over her body and headed south. A few hours later, Reyes was in Mexico where he thought he had reached a safe harbor. But jumping the international border no longer offers the sanctuary it did in the past. Detectives from the Ontario Police Department worked with a joint fugitive recovery program to bring Reyes back. A month after he fled the country, Reyes was arrested by Mexican authorities in San Felipe, Mexico. He was quickly handed over to Ontario detectives.
Once in custody in the U.S., Reyes admitted to hitting Ana over the head with an object. He claimed that her family was controlling her and he wanted to give her peace from the problems of the world. However the true motive was even more base. At trial, we produced one of Reyes’ co-workers who testified that he had talked to Reyes a few weeks before the murder. In that conversation, Reyes said that Ana was talking about leaving him, and he didn’t want her to do that. But if she did, Reyes said plainly, he would kill her.
After attempting to skirt justice by fleeing the country, Reyes sought to further delay his trial for years by first feigning mental incompetency, then by going pro per and requesting continuance after continuance. The trial court noted Reyes’ dilatory tactics when it revoked his pro per status shortly before trial. Ultimately, in October of 2012, he had to face his jury. Notwithstanding the defense argument that the evidence showed a lack of prior planning, and thus did not call for a first degree murder verdict, the jury did just that after about two hours of deliberation on October 31, 2012. He was sentenced two days later to 27 years to life in state prison.
By Chris Lee on
By Chris Lee on
WHEREAS, CHRISTOPHER “KIT” DAVIS, has been a resident of San Bernardino County since 2002; and
WHEREAS, CHRISTOPHER “KIT” DAVIS started working for the District Attorney’s Office in February 2002 as a Deputy District Attorney. Mr. Davis had served as a deputy district attorney in the Barstow, Big Bear, Victorville adult and Victorville juvenile Offices; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Davis in 2008 sought to serve his country by entering military service; Mr. Davis enlisted in the Army and left the County of San Bernardino for that purpose; and
WHEREAS, he commenced his training in August 2008 at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he completed Basic Training as well as Officer Candidate School, and training to be an Infantry Officer and Mechanized Leader; Mr. Davis completed his training, and was assigned to the 2-5 Light Infantry Battalion of the Third Brigade, First Armored Division, at Fort Bliss, Texas; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Davis held the positions of rifle platoon leader and company executive officer while stationed at Fort Bliss; In September 2011, his unit was deployed to Eastern Afghanistan, Wardak Province; and during that time, he served as a mortar platoon leader and the Battalion S-9 – Civil Affairs; and
WHEREAS, for his actions during this deployment, Mr. Davis earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge for performance of duties while engaged in ground combat and a Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Davis completed his service in July 2012, and has returned to the county to continue his position as a Deputy District Attorney on October 20, 2012; be it therefore
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Supervisors of the County of San Bernardino, State of California, does hereby recognize CHRISTOPHER “KIT” DAVIS upon his return to employment with San Bernardino County upon completion of his service with the United States Army. Further, the members of this board acknowledge Mr. Davis for his loyalty and dedicated service to our Nation. His courage and self-sacrifice exemplifies the hero in us all.
By Chris Lee on
In 2009, victim Jillian Michelle White (pictured below) was a Georgia native who came to California to get away from her past. She had minor scuffles with the law. Unfortunately, she ended up dating the defendant, Louis Moore, and eventually moved in with him. During that time, their relationship was tumultuous and apartment complex neighbors saw them constantly drink and argue.
Eventually, they had another one of their many arguments, this time about a cell phone and other trivial topics. The argument occurred in the kitchen. White said she was going to call the cops. Moore told her that he would give her something to call the cops about and went into the bedroom and grabbed a 30/30 lever action rifle and shot the victim three times. He then fled the scene out the rear of his apartment off a second story balcony. Through an anonymous tip, he was captured in downtown Riverside twelve hours later.
Moore gave a full statement to the police, but his memory was very selective. He claimed to be drinking a lot and smoking weed and remembered the fight, grabbing the rifle, and making the statement, but that was about it. The next thing he remembered was walking in the streets not sure of what happened.
At trial, the next door neighbors (who had to be flown in from Texas since they had since moved) testified that they heard the arguments, heard two shots, a pause, and the last shot. One testified that she heard the defendant also jump over the balcony after throwing some type of bag first. Other witnesses placed him at the scene and provided background information on the defendant and how he was always drinking and smoking weed, but was able to be a fully functional person during this time.
Defendant's ex-wife and ex-girlfriend also testified to prior acts of domestic violence and also alcohol and drug use habits. I also had a firearms expert come in from Fontana Police Department to explain how to shoot and load a lever action firearm. The defendant initially chose not to testify at his case-in-chief, but when he learned none of the self-defense jury instructions would come in since such a defense was not yet raised, he chose to testify.
Strangely, he told a brand new story of being threatened by the victim that she was going to have an ex-boyfriend come and teach him a lesson. He claimed he drank that night until he passed out, and woke up later hearing noises in the kitchen. He thought someone was going to attack him so he grabbed the rifle and shot into the kitchen. He claims that he was in a dream-like trance and really couldn't see in front of him more than three feet and only realized it was the victim that was shot when her body fell to the floor. He claimed that his original statement to the police was not accurate because he was still under the influence and hung over.
Three jurors stayed behind to talk to us after the verdict was handed down. They said they had to resolve the intoxication issue first. They didn't believe the defendant's testimony about the new story, or the fact that he was intoxicated during his police interview because his memory (though selective) was so precise. The next issue that they had the most problem with was whether it was a first or second degree murder. They kept going back and forth about whether the killing was done willfully, with deliberation, and premeditation. What helped them decide on first degree were a couple factors: defendant's statement that he was going to give the victim something to call the cops about and also how much effort and the number of steps it took for a person to shoot someone multiple times with a lever action rifle. In fact, the first question they had during deliberations was for another demonstration of how the rifle worked.
The maximum exposure is 50 years to life in prison. He gets 25 to life for 1st degree murder and 25 to life for using and discharging a firearm that caused the death of the victim.
The sad thing about this case is that this is another example of domestic violence taken to its horrible conclusion. That's why our office takes all levels of domestic violence so seriously. The cycle of violence never ends well unless we can intervene through counseling, education, and prosecution.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Moore is scheduled to be sentenced October 23, 2012 in Fontana Superior Court.
By Chris Lee on
PICTURED ABOVE: Defendant Anthony Phillips along with crime scene photos.
Anthony Phillips (AKA “Ant”) is a member of the DHB (Delmann Heights Bloods) who shot and killed victim Maurice Major O’Neal in May 2012. Phillips maintained his innocence throughout the trial arguing that the victim—AKA “West,” who was a member of West Covina Neighborhood Crips—pulled a gun on him and shot eight times, so he defended himself by returning fire nine times, striking the victim three times in the upper chest.
Although there were numerous unexplained bullet holes at the scene and the victim had GSR on his hands, no gun was ever found with the victim. The only thing that was found on the victim was seventeen individually-wrapped rocks of cocaine. Although Phillips claimed justifiable self-defense, he ran from the scene, hid the gun and then lied to the police about even being there.
Despite the fact that this incident took place in front of a crowd of people, the victim’s girlfriend was the “only” eyewitness to the shooting. She testified that she went to the scene of the crime to get her boyfriend (victim) to leave because it was a dangerous area. When she arrived she saw O’Neal speaking with some other girls. When she questioned victim about his trifling ways he punched her once in the mouth which angered her. She immediately called 911 and told dispatch that O’Neal had just punched her in the mouth and that he had a gun and crack cocaine on him. Shortly after the call, the shooting occurred.
On October 15, in San Bernardino Superior Court, Phillips was convicted of Second Degree Murder and Gun Use Causing Death. He was sentenced 40 years to life in state prison. He will be 66 before he is eligible for parole.
Anthony Phillips is one of those gangsters who has slipped in and out of the criminal justice system without suffering serious conviction and punishment for most of his life. Like the criminal veteran he is, he pressed our office to take this case out to trial quickly, never having once waived time. Of the defendants that I have prosecuted, Mr. Phillips struck me as one of the most dangerous. He is cold, fairly intelligent and extremely manipulative.
In my opinion, it was that intelligence which allowed him to lure the victim close to him, letting down his guard, before he murdered him. I don’t often give second thoughts to the defendants who I have sent away to prison for life, but Mr. Phillips stands out. I have no doubt San Bernardino is a better place without this man walking its streets.
Gang cases are difficult on the one hand because you are dealing with individuals who are extremely reluctant to testify for fear of retaliation. They are also difficult, on the other hand, because you have victims and witnesses who come into court with criminal histories of their own. It’s not easy to get jurors to care about a victim, as in this case, who was himself a felon, a gang-banger, a spousal abuser, a drug dealer and likely carrying a gun before he was shot and killed. Having said that, it’s that much more rewarding when, despite all those difficulties, we deservedly convict the other gang member who murdered a man, criminal or not, in cold blood.
By Chris Lee on
Lead DDA Cary Epstein receives the Don Williams Memorial Award from Judge Cheryl Kersey.
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission of San Bernardino County awarded Lead Deputy District Attorney Cary Epstein with the Don Williams Memorial Award yesterday as part of the 28th Annual Recognition of Service to Youth Awards.
This award is given to honor individuals dedicated to making the community a better place to live and to improving the quality of life for youth.
In 2011 a new gang reduction program began in Rialto public schools addressing the dangers of gangs for children as young as the second grade with follow up classes in the fifth and seventh grade. This effort to reach children in schools before they become associated with gangs in their communities was the brain-child of Lead Deputy District Attorney Cary Epstein of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.
Cary is an experienced hard-core gang prosecutor who has convicted many gang members, several who were minors, of the most heinous crimes. But he saw a need in the community and decided to fill it. His vision was to educate minors, parents and teachers about the dangers of gangs so they would not join. Cary created GRIP (Gang Resistance Intervention Partnership) with little more than his passion to give children a chance to lead productive, full, crime-free lives.
According to Cary, he “began to review a number of programs that dealt with gang reduction, but felt that there was not one particular program that addressed all the needs. There are other gang programs that share the same acronym, but I believe ours covers areas not addressed by other programs.”
GRIP has an educational component and starts with children in the second grade with follow-up programs in the fifth and now seventh grade. The curriculum focuses on the dangers of gangs, drugs, positive choices and respect for other people and property. Classes are taught in the Rialto Unified School District by school security officers.
There is also a parent component with monthly meetings. Speakers are provided and topics selected to help parents’ combat gangs, violence, truancy, crime and other problems affecting their children. In the coming year, another component of GRIP will include “The Parent Project” which will be offered free to parents. This evidence-based series of classes is taught by another employee of the District Attorney’s Office and teaches parents good parenting skills and the chance to work on the specific problems they are dealing with in their families.
Truancy is also addressed with the assistance of a Deputy District Attorney assigned to the Let’s End Truancy program (L.E.T.). The focus in the future is to work with children who are habitual truants and their parents early in the school year to increase attendance and school performance.
According to Cary, GRIP has been successful in building a relationship between the Rialto School District and the community. Students are receptive of the message about dangerous gangs in their community and parents reach out to the staff for assistance with older children who are headed in the wrong direction.
Cary has built GRIP from the ground up with funding from the County Law and Justice Committee and Children’s Fund. Staff is either volunteer or are already employees of the partner agencies who do extra work as part of their duties. Every dollar contributed to the program goes directly to the needs of the children who are in classes. GRIP is a collaboration of the District Attorney’s’ Office, the Rialto School District and the Rialto Police Department. To date, 1200 children have been touched by GRIP and it will be in two middle schools in the coming year.
Cary’s ultimate goal for the future is to take the program county wide to every school district and reduce gang membership and crime starting in early childhood. Currently, plans are underway to take GRIP into the San Bernardino Unified School District in collaboration with the San Bernardino Police Department.
What makes Cary such a great candidate for recognition is that he has done this amazing project with little money (and finding money is no easy task in these hard economic times) while handling a full time assignment as a gang prosecutor. What drives Cary is his sense of justice and passion to help children have a better life.
The previous write-up was prepared by Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Bell, who oversees the Juvenile Division. To read more about Lead Deputy District Attorney Cary Epstein in his own words and to view a video on the GRIP Program click here.
By Chris Lee on
Right now you're reading this post. Maybe you're in an abusive relationship. Maybe you know a friend or family member who is in a potentially dangerous situation. Either way, the main point I hope to convey is that help is available.
Last year our office filed 3,062 cases across the county that were related to domestic violence. Sadly, nine cases ended in murder. In order to better serve our victims we teamed up with the San Bernardino Police Department and the Mexican Consulate to educate the public about services and resources available to those who are in a potentially dangerous situation that needs attention. Over the course of the last three months our office has been working on a 15-minute educational video aimed at raising awareness on this issue. Today, we released that film in both English and Spanish.
Too often, our victims of domestic violence are scared to come forward. Scared to make the phone call. Scared of retribution by their abuser. Scared of the unknown that lies on the other side of current situation. These are all valid feelings, but it’s important to point out that nobody deserves to be a victim. Nobody. And if children are involved we need to consider the tragic impact that domestic violence has on them. Just a few days ago, a domestic violence call in Rialto turned deadly after a man accused of beating two women and shooting neighbors took his own life.
Sadly, we see these types of cases far too often across the county. Domestic violence knows no boundaries. It affects all walks of life. I started this post by saying maybe you're in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, so my charge to you today is to pick up the phone and take action before it's too late. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger. Call our victim advocates who are available to help. Call a friend or someone you trust because no one deserves to be a victim.
To view a copy of our domestic violence film in either English or Spanish, please click here.
By Chris Lee on
Andy Chavez, 41, of Fontana, was convicted by DDA Kyung Kim of one count of Possession for Sale of a Controlled Substance.
According to DDA Kim, Chavez was a low level street dealer in a high crime area that Fontana Police Department was conducting extra patrols.
“Fontana Police Department made the effort to clean up that area so it was natural we should back them up in their efforts,” said Kim. “Given the number of violent crimes that occur with both the sales and use of drugs, getting Mr. Chavez off the streets was one step of many in helping create a safe and clean neighborhood.”
Chavez faces 3 years in County Prison when sentenced Sept. 28.