Weekender Updater: Revenge Killing, Serial Killer Wannabe, Day Care Molester and More
This weekend you are updated on sentence for: a man in the fatal stabbing of his then-girlfriend's believed rapist; a wannabe serial killer who tried to fatally stab two people in a movie theater; and a former Orange County day care worker who sexually abused a girl. We then turn to the business page for updates on: a plea in Orange County's biggest Ponzi scheme; bankruptcy filings for Corinthian Schools Inc. and Morgan Drexen Inc.; and sentences for a delivery driver who stole and sold eyewear bound for U.S. servicepeople overseas and a gambler who embezzled $3 million from his company.
Update: Costa Mesa's Gianni Anthony Van, 45, was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder for the 1995 fatal stabbing of a man who the defendant's then-girlfriend claimed had raped her 20 years ago. This is the case that involves Norma Patricia Esparza, a respected professor who had been living with her husband and daughter in France. Her October 2012 arrest in Boston, after she'd just landed to attend a conference, sparked an outcry and claims that she should be treated as a crime victim, not a defendant. Jurors deliberated about six hours before finding true a special circumstance allegation that the murder of 24-year-old Gonzalo Ramirez was done during the commission of a kidnapping, which means Van could get life in prison without the possibility of parole at sentencing scheduled for July 10. Van's then-girlfriend Esparza was home in Santa Ana from Pomona College for a weekend in March 1995 when she went with her sister to the El Cortez nightclub, where they met and befriended Ramirez. He gave her a ride the next day back to her dorm in Claremont, where Esparza claims he raped her. She told Van, who along with his girlfriend and their friends hatched a plan to get revenge. Testimony and evidence put Van in places Ramirez was immediately before he was killed on April 16, 1995, and where the body was found in Irvine. Van is believed to have been helped by Kody Tran, who authorities say committed "suicide by cop" in a standoff with SWAT officers in Irvine in July 2012. His wife Diane Tran, 46, of Costa Mesa, and Esparza accepted plea deals for their roles in the conspiracy in exchange for their testimonies against Van. Tran is scheduled to get up to four years in prison in June, and Esparza is looking at a six-year term in September. Trial for another defendant, 44-year-old Shannon Ray Gries, is scheduled to begin in July, when he faces the same harsh sentence as Van.
Update: Steven Walter Robinson Jr. was sentenced Friday to 22 years to life in prison for stabbing two men at a Fullerton movie theater in 2009--the same sentence the 30-year-old originally received before his conviction was overturned four years ago. Robinson was first convicted of attempted murder and mayhem charges on Sept. 29, 2009, but the 4th District Court of Appeal ordered a retrial upon ruling that the trial judge failed to tell jurors to consider Robinson's claim that he had a schizo-affective disorder. Armed with proper instructions, a new jury convicted Robinson on Sept. 3 of two counts of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation and found true sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a weapon and inflicting great bodily injury. And Orange County Superior Court Judge James Rogan gave the same 22-year sentence. Robinson, who went on his rampage during a screening of The Signal at the AMC theater on South Lemon Street in Fullerton, had several books on serial killers in his possession and had posted several comments about killing and mass murder through his "psychokiller666" moniker on MySpace--bolstering the theory that only would-be serial killers remain on MySpace.
Thomas Burke Pulver, Held in LA County Child Molestation, Worked in Many OC Daycares Update: Thomas Burke Pulver, who worked at several Orange County day cares over the years, recently pleaded pleaded no contest to sexually abusing a young girl. The 36-year-old La Mirada resident, who was immediately sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison, was convicted of a felony count of oral copulation or sexual penetration with a child 10 years old or younger. The judge in Los Angeles County also ordered Pulver to register as a sex offender for life.
And now to the business page ...
Story: Adam Jay Boskovich Surrenders in Alleged $150 Million Ponzi Scheme Called OC's Largest Ever Update: Adam Jay Boskovich, who had been had been facing more than 30 felony counts in the largest Ponzi scheme in Orange County history, pleaded guilty this week to a single felony charge of making false statements. And, once looking at a maximum of 45 years in state prison, the 45-year-old Laguna Niguel resident could have the felony knocked down to a misdemeanor if he repays those he ripped off by May 19. "We had serious statute of limitations issues and his victims were not cooperative and did not want it prosecuted because they're hopeful they'll get money out of him," explained Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche to City News Service. "Testimony came out during the preliminary hearing that if we did prosecute they would not cooperate." Boskovich, who lied to these investors, previously settled a civil lawsuit they brought against him. (Terms were not disclosed.) And Labreche concedes Boskovich did not know the man he was recruiting investors for--50-year-old Frank Cellette of Minnesota--was actually running a $150 million Ponzi scheme involving paper, printing and supposed major national clients. Cellette--who Labreche alleges spent his ill-gotten funds on cars, flights on private jets and multiple homes that included such luxuries as a Go-Kart track, a bowling alley and a 1950s-themed malt shop--still faces several felony counts.
Story: Luis Quintanilla Allegedly Stole and Sold Oakley Eyewear and Other Deliveries Meant for Troops Update: Luis Albert Quintanilla was sentenced this week to three years and four months in state prison for illegally selling Oakley eyewear intended for soldiers in the U.S. Military on eBay after repeatedly stealing shipments from DHL processing centers. The Buena Park 48-year-old, who worked as a contract driver for the delivery company, was also ordered to pay $299,000 restitution and a $580,000 fine. He had pleaded guilty on Feb. 2 to 10 felony counts of grand theft with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $100,000 and property loss over $200,000. Quintanilla auctioned the stolen eyewear on eBay from his home under the name "havetime2sell." The inmate can now change it to "havetime2cell."
Story: Law Enforcement Private Contractor Busted For Massive Embezzlement In Irvine Update: Steven A. Hagstrom, a former executive of an Irvine-based court services firm, was sentenced this week to 37 months in federal prison for embezzling more than $3 million from his employer. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana also ordered the 38-year-old Anaheim resident to pay $2,127,932 in restitution. Prosecutors argued for a 46-month sentence, but Judge Carter lessened Hagstrom's punishment because he pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $3 million and did not resist government attempts to claim $1.2 million he held in accounts that were frozen after his arrest. Hagstrom, who was an accountant and later the controller of Sentinel Offender Services LLC , had a gambling problem that he has since taken steps to address, according to his lawyer.
Story: Workers and Students Scramble as Corinthian Colleges Closes Its Remaining For-Profit Schools Update: Corinthian Schools Inc. filed for bankruptcy in Delaware on Monday, a week after the Santa Ana-based company shut down all of its for-profit California vocational campuses. The company listed its assets as between $10 million to $50 million, with estimated liabilities between $100 million to $500 million. Court filings show the company's top three uncredited claims are: Barclays Capital Inc. of New York, $1.25 million; Ambassador Education Solutions of Melville, New York, $1.2 million; and Student Scout LLC of Chicago, $500,000.
Story: Morgan Drexen Loses Bid to Declare Government Agency Suing It Unconstitutional Update: After the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Morgan Drexen Inc. in federal court in Los Angeles in August 2013 for allegedly conning consumers and charging illegal upfront fees, the Costa Mesa debt-relief company threw a hail Mary of a defense. Morgan Drexen claimed in court papers that the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an unconstitutional government agency and therefore its prosecution was as well. To extend the hail Mary metaphor, multiple decisions against Morgan Drexen's legal move would represent that desperation pass being knocked down in the end zone. And a judge's recent decision would perhaps represent the clock running out and the company losing. Big time. Morgan Drexen has disclosed it has filed for bankruptcy protection because Judge Josephine Staton ruled there was merit in the government agency's case. She also found no merit in the company's legal defense, which not only included an attempt to have the agency ruled invalid but of not responding to discovery and failing to admit liability. The conduct in court led to company assets being frozen so there might be some funds to cover damages. Without the ability to pay basic administrative expenses, reasonable attorney fees and rent to The Irvine Co., Morgan Drexen says it has no choice but to file bankruptcy.