UPDATE, APRIL 27, 8:54 A.M.: The final item in a Weekender Updater post a couple weekenders ago was on Corinthian Colleges being fined $30 million by the U.S. Department of Education for overstating job placement rates for graduates, which was just the latest government smack down of the Santa Ana-based chain of diploma mills. Sunday, Corinthian announced it is shutting down its remaining more than two dozen schools–the ones that had not closed already–effective today.
While the move had been expected, scores of employees and more than 10,000 students were given no notice, leaving them no choice but to seek new jobs and school transfers (or federal loan forgiveness), the Los Angeles Times reports. The Mexican-in-Chief and I have written extensively about the woes at what was once the largest chain of for-profit colleges here: http://www.ocweekly.com/search/results/keyword:corinthian+colleges/type:all/.
ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 18, 7:04 A.M.: The weekend you're updated on: an Orange County cold case murder making prime-time television TONIGHT; guilty pleas in an underage sex prosecution involving a man and his phony uncle as well as by a pickup truck driver who mowed down a 44-year-old mother of eight on her bike and sped off; an ex-pharmacist's punishment for illegally distributing OxyContin; and more trouble with the feds for Santa Ana-based Corinthian Colleges.
Update: Former nuclear engineer Paul Marshal Curry, who was sentenced Nov. 14 to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for the poisoning death of his wife 21 years ago, goes under the CBS eye tonight. In "To Catch a Genius," 48 Hours correspondent Erin Moriarty unravels the long road to justice after Curry called 9-1-1 on June 9, 1994, to report that he had awoke in his San Clemente home to find his wife Linda barely breathing. Smart enough to become a Jeopardy! champion, Curry obviously did not plan for his wife to have told friends she believed she was always sick because of something her husband was secretly doing to her–nor that the disclosure would reach the ears of Orange County homicide detectives and prosecutors. Linda Curry died of nicotine poisoning, even though she did not smoke, and Ambien was detected in the autopsy. Guess who collected the proceeds of several of his wife's life insurance policies before moving out of state? See how the cold case heated up beginning at 10 tonight on KCBS/Channel 2.
Update: Benjamin Avila pleaded guilty this week to sexually assaulting a Trabuco Hills High School girl and was immediately sentenced to 15 years in prison. But the 13-year-old girl was not solely victimized by the 28-year-old Anaheim man, who copped to eight counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor. She told investigators that her "boyfriend" Avila not only had an ongoing sexual relationship with her but that he convinced her to have sex with his "uncle." Turns out 63-year-old Jose Luis Gonzalez of Anaheim is not related to Avila, but following the younger man's preliminary hearing the judge decided there is enough evidence for the older man to stand trial. Gonzalez is scheduled to be arraigned April 27 on 12 felony counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor, with four counts dating back to April 1998.
Update: Junior Rigoberto Lopez pleaded guilty this week to running down a 44-year-old mother of eight with his pickup truck in Anaheim Nov. 1 and fleeing the scene. The 30-year-old's admission of hit-and-run with permanent and serious injury was an open plea, meaning there's no guarantee of what his punishment will be, but an Orange County Superior Court judge told the Buena Park resident it will not exceed three years in state prison. Lopez's exact sentence, which is set to be revealed on June 11, will depend on a report from probation officials and statements from family members on how the death affected them, according to the prosecutor. The death of Daniela Palacios affected more than her family. The mother of eight children between the ages of 9
and 28 and the grandmother of 11 had once been temporarily homeless and was known to stop to feed the homeless in Anaheim. It is believed that she may have done so on her way to visit a friend when she was run down by Lopez.
Multimillion Dollar SoCal Pharmacy Oxycontin Scheme Put 900,000 Pills on Streets: Feds
Update: Elizabeth Duc Tran, who owned Mission Pharmacy outlets in Fountain Valley and Panorama City, was sentenced in federal court in Los Angeles this week to two years behind bars for illegally distributing the painkiller OxyContin without legitimate medical purpose. The 49-year-old Fountain Valley resident pleaded guilty in September 2013
to a federal conspiracy count tied to a drug trafficking ring based at a medical clinic in the Westlake district of LA that illegally distributed more than 1 million OxyContin pills. Under a plea agreement with federal Judge Dean D. Pregerson, Tran will also serve three years of supervised release after she gets out of prison, pay a $20,000 fine, forfeit about $208,000 to the government and voluntarily surrender her pharmacy license and DEA registration. Pregerson ordered Tran to turn herself in for her prison sentence by June 15.
Corinthian Colleges Avoid Shutdown (For Now)
Update: Santa Ana-based Corinthian Colleges was fined $30 million by the U.S. Department of Education for overstating job placement rates for graduates, the federal agency announced this week. Corinthian's Heald College chain, which is based in San Francisco, misrepresented employment numbers to prospective students and the government, according to a DOE investigation. Heald paid temp agencies to hire its graduates to work on its own campuses for as little time as two days so that it could count those students as employed, the government says. "This should be a wake-up call for consumers across the country about the abuses that can exist within the for-profit college sector," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. Corinthian faces an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office and lawsuits by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state Attorney General Kamala Harris for allegedly preying on low-income people with high-interest loans.