Weekender Updater: ISIS Terror Plea, Santa Ana's Most Wanted Convicted and Much More
Adam Dandach (inset) tried to become a homegrown Orange County terrorist like the late Adam "Azzam the American" Gadahn.
FBI (inset El Modena High School)
There is much to be updated about this week, including: an Orange resident pleading not guilty to terrorism charges amid allegations he tried to join ISIS in Syria; a man from Santa Ana Police's most wanted list being convicted of murdering his employer; a teacher pleading not guilty to murdering her live-boyfriend in Laguna Niguel; an appeals court upholding the conviction and stiff sentence for a B movie producer Ponzi schemer; many more charges filed against a tutor who allegedly helped Corona del Mar High School students cheat; a former Orange County Democratic Party chairman being sentenced for an extortion plot against the owners of the Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin; a woman being sentenced for the retaliatory kidnapping and assault of a man for the benefit of her husband's white supremacist gang; and an Orange man copping to hit and run and manslaughter for killing three teens on Halloween night 2014 in Santa Ana.
Update: Adam Dandach, who was arrested last year at John Wayne Airport while holding a fake passport, pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges recently for allegedly trying to board a flight to Turkey to join ISIS terrorists in Syria. The Orange 21-year-old, who most recently went by Fadi Fadi Dandach, was indicted March 4 on a charge of trying to provide support to the ISIS terrorist group after previously being indicted on charges of making a false statement on a passport application and using a passport obtained through a false statement. Dandach, who has remained jailed without bond since July 2014, is tentatively set to go on trial June 16. A conviction could send the 2012 El Modena High School graduate to federal prison for 15 years on the material-support charge, 25 years on passport fraud charges and up to 25 years for an the obstruction of justice charge.
Update: Gerald Guy Byrne, who was on the Santa Ana Police Department's most wanted list, was convicted this week of murdering his employer. The 54-year-old was found guilty of one felony count of second degree murder. Two prior strike convictions for robbery in 1986 and arson in 1993 sets up a hearing on his prior strike convictions April 10 that could ultimately result in a sentence of 55 years to life in state prison. Byrne made the "Santa Ana Police Department's 10 Most Wanted Suspects" list for fleeing to Washington state after murdering his 69-year-old boss, Charles Samo. Byrne's attorney argued that investigators got the wrong man.
Update: Michele Lynn Green pleaded not guilty this week to fatally stabbing her live-in boyfriend. The 50-year-old was arrested in the killing of Richard Begley following a domestic dispute on Feb. 21. Begley, 52, was found that night by sheriff's deputies lying in a neighbor's yard on La Vida Drive in Laguna Niguel with a stab wound to his upper chest. Green, a teacher in the Santa Ana Unified School District, faces up to 26 years to life in state prison with a conviction. By the way, this case has received much interest from Begley's friends, based on the number who have contacted the Weekly seeking more details.
Update: A panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices this week affirmed the conviction of Mahmoud "Mike" Karkehabadi as well as his 27-year prison sentence for a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme that convinced investors to back production of a series of independent films. The 57-year-old Laguna Niguel B movie producer's scheme stemmed from the production of five movies featuring MMA fighter "Rampage" Jackson and rapper Flavor Flav, among others. Karkehabadi appealed for denial of a right to present a defense, lack of evidence, prosecutorial misconduct on the part of the Attorney General's office, judicial bias, ineffective assistance of his attorney and errors in jury instructions and sentencing. Justices denied all of his claims, and Karkehabadi's investors should have done. He promised them 18- to 25-percent interest on loans, falsely claimed he had been in the movie business for 25 years and that Alien was one of his financial successes.
Story: Timothy Lance Lai, Tutor Accused of Helping 3 Students Cheat, May Have Aided Hundreds
Update: Sixteen additional charges were filed Friday against Timothy Lance Lai, a tutor who is accused of helping Corona del Mar High School students hack into a computer system to inflate their grades. The 29-year-old, who was previously charged with helping three students, is now accused of illegally aiding between a dozen to 15 students, Senior Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon told City News Service. Lai, who now faces up to 16 years and four months in prison with a conviction, allegedly used a "key-logging" device on computers to get access to answers on tests.
Update: James Toledano, the Newport Beach attorney and former Orange County Democratic Party chairman, was sentenced this week to nine months in jail for his role in an extortion plot involving threats to reveal embarrassing personal information about the married owners of the Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin. Toledano, 70, faced a maximum punishment of four years in state prison after being convicted Nov. 26 of extortion and conspiracy to commit a crime. Co-defendant Michael Earl Roberts, 49, of Corona del Mar, pleaded guilty Oct. 27 and was immediately sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. The former personal trainer for Priscilla "Bo" Marconi and her husband Dick Marconi, Roberts was also ordered to stay away from his former employers, an order that has now been extended to Toledano.
Update: Ruthie Christine "Mama Bear" Marshall, the 45-year-old wife of a white supremacist gang leader, was sentenced Friday to 20 years in state prison for the retaliatory kidnapping and assault of a man for the benefit of the gang. This criminal case stems from the December 2010 Operation Stormfront, the largest-ever take down of white supremacist prison and street gang criminal enterprises in Orange County, according to authorities. "Mama Bear" of Huntington Beach pleaded guilty Jan. 27 to one felony count each of kidnapping, aggravated assault, extortion by force or threat, and a sentencing enhancement for criminal street gang activity.
Update: Jaquinn Ramone Bell was convicted Friday of hit and run and manslaughter for killing three teens on Halloween night 2014. The 32-year-old Orange resident pleaded guilty to three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, one felony count of hit and run with permanent injury or death, one misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license, and sentencing enhancement allegations for fleeing the scene of a crime after committing vehicular manslaughter. He faces up to 13 years and eight months in state prison at his May 21 sentencing in Santa Ana. Bell blew through the crosswalk on Fairhaven Avenue in Santa Ana in excess of 60 mph (the posted speed limit is 45 mph) and struck two 13-year-old twin girls and their 13-year-old friend, also female. Bell failed to stop to render aid, driving off. The girls were later pronounced dead at the scene.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.