Innovative Work Leads to Prestigious Award for Elder Abuse Prosecutor and Investigator

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that two members of the DA’s Elder Abuse Unit have been named Prosecutor of the Year and Investigator of the Year by the California District Attorney Investigators Association. Deputy District Attorney Scott Pirrello and DA Investigator Felix Salazar were recognized for their groundbreaking and collaborative accomplishments in helping to develop a new, innovative Elder Justice Task Force in San Diego County lead by the FBI in partnership with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office and several other law enforcement agencies.

Deputy DA Pirrello and DA Investigator Salazar developed an innovative vision for solving complex elder scams that ultimately prompted the development of a task force capable of tracking down and holding accountable those responsible for scamming elders out of billions of dollars. The task force is the culmination of years of work and the beginning of a new era in attacking crime syndicates that prey on the elderly.

“Deputy DA Scott Pirrello, who leads the elder abuse unit, and investigator Felix Salazar tenaciously fought to protect San Diego County seniors from being defrauded out of their hard earned and often desperately needed savings,” DA Summer Stephan said. “Their vision and dedication have taken elder fraud prosecution to a new level that is already bringing organized fraud syndicates to justice.”

Every year, San Diego senior citizens are scammed out of tens of millions of dollars, which happens through phony scenarios that often involve a loved one, such as a grandson or granddaughter needing urgent help or scammers posing as government agencies such as the IRS or Social Security Administration calling to demand money.

Without knowing it, seniors are sending their hard-earned retirement money to international scam syndicates. For years, these criminals operated across the U.S. and out of the country. They were hard to pin down because they committed their crimes in so many different jurisdictions and there was no way to connect the dots.

But thanks to the Elder Justice Task Force, announced last month, the District Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement partners have begun systematically dismantling these scam syndicates using data-driven investigative techniques. The Task Force shares key information, including databases, and actively works to connect dots and reveal patterns that allow us to zero in on criminals and arrest them.

When setting out to connect the dots in elder scam cases, Pirrello and Salazar spent two years following a money trail of elder victims. During that time, DAI Salazar wrote and submitted more than 200 search warrants to follow the money from elder victim bank accounts. He discovered that the billions of dollars in losses were not going directly from elder victims to overseas accounts. Instead, he found a billion-dollar underground economy in the U.S. full of money launderers willing to transfer large sums of money multiple times to facilitate the transnational criminal organizations getting their money.

Now, with the unprecedented power of the unified collaboration and data sharing between the District Attorney’s Office with the U.S. Attorney and FBI, law enforcement is more prepared than ever to take down these rings through the Elder Justice Task Force.

Last year, the San Diego County District Attorney’s office focused on bringing down an active ring that began preying on San Diego elders. The bait was the same: a call to a grandparent from someone posing as their grandchild in peril in another country. Before the seniors could process the information, the fake grandchild was replaced on the phone with someone claiming to be an attorney demanding bail money for the grandchild or they could face dire harm.

A courier, supposedly from a bail bond agency, was sent to the grandparent’s home to collect large sums of cash. The suspect – an Orange County resident – was identified through Ring Doorbell video. She eventually pleaded guilty to nine felony counts including residential robbery, theft from an elder, money laundering and receiving stolen property. She was sentenced to four years in state prison in June, a sentence that would not have been imaginable just years ago.

“Elder abuse is one of the most underreported crimes, often because of the embarrassment and shame felt by victims,” DA Stephan said. “Our goal is for the Elder Justice Task Force to become an example for the rest of the nation on how to stop the billion-dollar criminal industry of elder fraud.”

Gavel & Open Law Book

Former CEO Fined $37 Million in Massive Charter School Fraud Case

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan today announced that Jason Schrock, 46, charged with stealing tens of millions in public funds has been sentenced to four years in state prison and ordered by a judge to pay $37.5 million in fines with his co-defendant Sean McManus, 48.

In addition to handing down his sentence, Judge Frederick Link ­– who oversaw the entire case – ordered $18.75 million in fines to be paid to the County of San Diego now, reserving another $18.75 million to paid when McManus is sentenced on February 22, 2022. Another $14 million in restitution was ordered to be paid to victims in kindergarten through 12th grade, which will be held in trust and administered by the San Diego Foundation. The remaining restitution of more than $90 million will go the state. The court-appointed receiver was ordered to hold the additional approximately $70 million to be paid out at a future date. In all, more than $220 million in stolen funds were recovered, of which $150 million was the subject of today’s court hearing.

Under a resolution passed unanimously by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors last month, the fines imposed by the court related to this case will be earmarked and exclusively dedicated to programs that directly serve the needs of kindergarten through 12th grade students in San Diego County. The District Attorney’s Office is recommending the funds be allocated in the areas supporting educational equity and acceleration of learning, behavioral health needs, housing and food stability needs, mentorship, and other needs that allow children to thrive, all of which is consistent with the Judge Link’s order to the receiver.

“These defendants engaged in a systematic public corruption scheme on the backs of students, their parents and the public that over time diverted millions of taxpayer dollars into their own pockets,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Our team’s successful prosecution of this case held the defendants accountable for widespread misappropriation of public funds that extended across the state. Now, a great deal of those stolen funds will be funneled back into supporting students. Children are our future and these funds come at a perfect time to help them recover and succeed.”

McManus, the CEO and president of A3 Education, along with Jason Schrock and nine other defendants were indicted in May of 2019 on a several criminal counts including conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds, and conflict of interest.

The case is one of the nation’s largest fraud schemes targeting taxpayer dollars intended for primary education. Schrock pleaded guilty to felony charges including conspiracy and conflict of interest. He has been on house arrest in his home in Orange County since he was arraigned. As part of the DA’s investigation, more than $220 million in assets and fraudulently acquired taxpayer funds is being recovered, representing one of the nation’s largest recoveries.

Prosecutors said a case of this magnitude, with foreign parties and compounded with the set back of the pandemic, could take a decade to see through trial and appeals, during which time hundreds of millions of dollars would have been unavailable to children for educational purposes. By coming to an early resolution and recovering all the funds, the DA’s office was able to save the cost of litigation and guarantee a victory that puts money back into the system to help educate our youth as intended.

The 235-page indictment was the result of a year-long investigation by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office into allegations of fraud in public schools. The investigation uncovered a massive scheme in which McManus and Schrock directed subordinates and co-defendants to open 19 charter schools in San Diego County and across California and obtained taxpayer funds in a variety of unlawful ways while providing little to no education to most of the children enrolled. McManus and Schrock sought out small school districts with limited experience and ability to provide oversight and proposed they authorize online charter schools to earn additional public funds in the form of oversight fees. Without any meaningful oversight, McManus and Schrock used the charter schools to unlawfully secure taxpayer revenue and siphoned more than $100 million into companies they control.

McManus and Schrock paid athletic organizations for student information and documentation used to enroll children into public school under cover of a “fundraiser.” McManus and Schrock paid pre-existing youth programs as little as $25 per student and the state later compensated them as much as $4,000 per student as a “charter school student.” Some parents were unaware their children were enrolled in a charter school and these children received nothing more than they would have already received from their athletic program. McManus and Schrock further inflated the taxpayer funds they collected by backdating student enrollment documentation, misrepresenting spending to meet state requirements for instructional services expenditures, distorting the calendars for the school year to manipulate the state funding formula, and moving children between schools when the students earned maximum funding for a school year.

McManus and Schrock controlled the charter schools and transferred over $100 million to private businesses under their control by falsifying invoices for services provided to the charter schools that never occurred. McManus and Schrock did not use the money to educate students, but instead spent the funds on themselves and their families—they invested in startup companies, real estate, and wired funds directly to themselves or family members. The funds paid to McManus and Schrock’s companies largely ended up in their pockets.

Nine co-defendants in the case have pleaded guilty thus far, including McManus who will be sentenced on February 22, 2022. As part of the plea agreement, McManus is cooperating with the District Attorney’s Office and the court-appointed receiver to assist in the prosecution of the remaining defendants and in the court-appointed receiver’s efforts to recover additional funds.

Diverting Youth Arrested for Arson

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that her office is providing a $25,000 grant to the San Diego Burn Institute in support of their Youth Firesetter Intervention Program (YFS). The diversion program incorporates evidence-based risk assessment tools and education to intervene in dangerous fire setting behavior by youth and stop it at the source. The grant comes on the heels of the DA announcing its new Juvenile Diversion Initiative.

“Data shows that most youth come into contact with the criminal justice system only once, so initiatives like the Firesetter Intervention Program are critical in re-directing young people away from this specific behavior that got them into trouble,” said DA Summer Stephan. “The program also addresses the root cause of the juveniles’ arson behavior which can put themselves or others in danger.”

YFS responds to referrals from county fire departments, law enforcement, school officials, probation, juvenile justice systems, Metro Arson Strike Team, and others in San Diego and Imperial Counties. The Burn Institute provides risk assessments for future fire setting behaviors and education courses with the youth and family about legal ramifications, fiscal ramifications, and the dangers to self and others. The program also makes referrals to community agencies to address compounding clinical issues.

“Fire is everywhere in our society, from lighting a candle, to large explosions in movies,” said Susan Day, Executive Director of the Burn Institute. “Children see and mimic these behaviors when they don’t understand the risks or think through what could happen. Our YFS program uses prevention and intervention techniques to help change a child’s behavior before a curiosity or experimentation with fire becomes more destructive”

Juveniles under age 18 who are referred for fire setting behaviors are eligible for services available in English, Spanish and other languages. The District Attorney’s Juvenile Division reviews about 10 allegations of arson by youth each year. However, the YFS program assists many more youth than cases the DA receives. Firefighters or law enforcement might suspect a youth is involved in starting the fire but may not have the evidence to submit a case. In those cases, the youth will still be referred to Burn Institute for assessment and education on the dangers of fire.

Research shows that 55% of U.S. arson arrests are under the age of 18, and almost half of these arrests are age 15 and under. Arson is the second leading cause of all fatal home accidents, and fire setting is the largest cause of home deaths among children.

The YFS program is confidential and free of charge. Individuals don’t need a referral and can self-enroll in the program by contacting the Youth Firesetter Program Coordinator at 858-541-2277 x 111 or YFS@burninstitute.org.

Fentanyl-Laced Blue Pill

‘Day of Action’ Calls Attention to Alarming Spike in Fentanyl Overdose Deaths

A “Day of Action” will be held in National City on Saturday, August 28 to bring public awareness to the ongoing increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths across San Diego County, provide community resources on how to save a life and important information on how to avoid becoming an overdose victim. The event will include demonstrations on how to administer Narcan – the medication used to save a person who is overdosing on opioids, including fentanyl. Free doses of Narcan will be available.

In 2019, there were 152 fentanyl-related overdose deaths. Last year, that number spiked to 461. Based on data so far in 2021, experts predict there will be more than 760 overdose deaths.

‘Day of Action’ Calls Attention to Alarming Spike in Fentanyl Overdose Deaths“Our county is experiencing a fentanyl overdose crisis in which teens and adults dying in nearly every zip code,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “In spite of the focused outreach and awareness efforts of many of us in the community, opioid overdose deaths have continued to increase over the last two years. We are stepping up our efforts to educate the public on how street drugs, no matter how authentic they look, are often mixed with fentanyl and are behind the alarming spike in deaths. One pill can kill. This is a call to action for our community to become more informed and empowered to save lives.”

The event is being held at the DA’s CARE Center, 12 N. Euclid Avenue in National City from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The day was organized in partnership with the County Health and Human Services Agency, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and many other community organizations.

“The NAACP San Diego branch is happy to partner in this harm reduction activity,” said Francine Maxwell, president of the San Diego Chapter of the NAACP. “Harm Reduction is the best prevention to empower our community. The mission of the NAACP San Diego branch is to always collaborate before we challenge the status quo. We thank the District Attorney for her responsive action and leadership and to all the partners participating in this event.”

In addition to free Narcan, the Day of Action will feature informational booths and resources on housing, education, mentorship, health and behavioral services. Speakers will include DA Summer Stephan; Francine Maxwell, President of the San Diego Chapter of the NAACP; Dr. Nicole Esposito, Assistant Medical Director of County Behavioral Health Services; and DEA Special Agent Rocky Herron.

For more information on the dangers of opioids, watch this video.

Libro de martillo y ley abierta

Gang Member Charged in Murder of Woman in Parked Car

The San Diego County District Attorney filed felony charges against a gang member in connection with the fatal shooting of a woman as she sat in a parked car with her family in Spring Valley in April. Jammerieo Austin, 26, has been charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit a crime, shooting at an inhabited vehicle, and two counts of being a felon in possession of a gun.

San Diego resident Karmen Dionne Anderson, 40, was shot in a car parked outside a liquor store on Bancroft and Golf drives in Spring Valley at about 11:30 p.m. on April 24. Anderson was in the car with her husband, who was in the driver’s seat, and a 4-year-old child in the backseat when the shooting started. Anderson, who also went by Karmen Hicks, was the only person hit by gunfire. She was treated at a hospital for multiple gunshots wounds but died two days later.

In open court on Wednesday, the prosecutor said the shooting was gang-motivated and Austin used an AK-47 to shoot 13 rounds into the car, causing it to burst into flames with the 4-year-old momentarily trapped inside the car.

Prosecutors say surveillance footage showed the defendant’s car following the victims’ car with its headlights off just prior to the murder. Austin ambushed the would-be victim when he stopped his car at a liquor store. The defendant’s car drove back and forth several times waiting for their intended target to emerge from the store. As soon as he did, the defendant opened fire. Investigators also located a photograph taken the day of the murder, which showed the defendant posing with fellow gang members, one of whom was holding an AK-47, which is believed to be the weapon used in this murder.

The investigation into this murder is ongoing. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Homicide Unit at (858) 285-6330/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

The charges come as law enforcement officials are reporting a troubling increase in gang-related crime and the proliferation of ‘ghost guns’– firearms that are assembled by hand and are usually untraceable. According to the District Attorney’s Office, most of the criminal cases it files involving ghost guns are gang related. Since 2019, the DA’s Gangs Division has charged cases involving over 100 ghost guns. At the same time, gang-related cases submitted to the DA’s Office by law enforcement countywide are up 25% from same time last year

A readiness hearing for Austin has been scheduled for August 5, 2021.

DA Announces Grant Opportunities to Build Safer Neighborhoods

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that the DA’s Community Grant Program (CGP) is being expanded as her office seeks to engage a more diverse group of non-profit organizations and other community partners that can help build safer neighborhoods. Grants are available to community-based organizations regardless of zip code that are identifying and implementing new and innovative methods to address community safety and expand community assets – such as hope and resilience.

“Our office has been able to show that partnering with and empowering community organizations that are doing exceptional work with small grants allows us to enhance cultural competence in serving crime victims and preventing harm, said DA Stephan. “Many smaller community-based service organizations may not realize this grant funding exists, so we’re working harder to let them know and are encouraging them to consider applying.”

More information, funding requirements and instructions on how to apply can be found here.

In 2018, the County Board of Supervisors authorized the District Attorney Community Crime Reduction Grant Program to support collaborative public safety efforts with community-based organizations up to $3,000,000 each year. The program is funded by the California Board of State and Community Corrections. Grants of up to $50,000 will be provided to participating organizations for a maximum of 12 months to grow promising community-based solutions that produce positive results in the following focus areas: Youth and Family Support, Environmental Justice, Protecting Vulnerable Youth and Victim Support.

These focus areas were determined in collaboration with stakeholders and community partners and are supported by trends in regional crime data. The District Attorney’s Office is also eager and excited to partner with small organizations embedded in communities who may not have had access to grant opportunities previously but are poised to propose innovative and dynamic approaches to addressing the above four areas of focus. The DA’s Office is committed to ensuring providers who receive grants reflect the diverse makeup of the communities we serve.

To be eligible, organizations must have a Business License or be a verified non-profit organization that has been in operation for at least one year.

Grant funding is intended to implement new programs/projects, or to expand existing programs with new and innovative methods to address community safety in the specified areas of focus. Funds are not intended to supplant or replace existing funding and future funding is based on funding availability and not assured.

Synagogue Shooter Pleads Guilty, Will Serve Life in Prison

John T. Earnest, 22, pleaded guilty today to murder and other charges in San Diego Superior Court in connection with a deadly shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue two years ago. There were 54 people inside the synagogue when Earnest entered the lobby and opened fire with an assault-style rifle on April 27, 2019. Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed in the attack. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was shot in both hands, causing him to lose an index finger, and Noya D., then 8, and her uncle, Almog Peretz, were wounded.

Earnest pleaded guilty to the willful, deliberate, premeditated murder of Ms. Kaye, and the willful, deliberate, and premeditated attempted murder of Rabbi Goldstein, Almog Peretz, and Noya D. Earnest admitted that he committed those crimes because of his bias and hatred of Jews, and he admitted that he personally discharged a firearm causing death and great bodily injury. He also pleaded guilty to the arson at the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque for the purpose of terrorizing Muslim worshipers.

Earnest agreed to serve the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 121 years-to-life and 16 years in state prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for September 30, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. in Department 2104 downtown.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office released the following statement:

“While we reserved the option of trying this as a death penalty case, life in prison without the possibility of parole for the defendant is an appropriate resolution to this violent hate crime and we hope it brings a measure of justice and closure to the victims, their families, friends and the wider community. After consulting with the Kaye family and the many victims impacted by the shooting, the decision to accept a plea of life in prison was made in the interest of justice and with the knowledge that a parallel prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and possible plea in that case would prevent the state’s case from moving forward. This plea ensures the defendant is held accountable for his crimes under California state law.”

Earnest Prosecution Timeline:

  • Crime occurred on April 27, 2019.
  • Arraigned on state charges on April 30, 2019.
  • Arraigned on federal charges on May 14, 2019.
  • Earnest submitted a conditional plea agreement on June 4, 2021 for consideration by federal prosecutors.
  • Deadline for federal prosecutors to announce a decision regarding the death penalty is August 30, 2021.
  • Earnest is next due in federal court on September 8, 2021.
  • Sentencing on state charges set for September 30, 2021.
Gavel & Open Law Book

Three Charged with Murder of Marijuana Dispensary Guard

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that three defendants have been charged with murder in connection with the deadly shooting of a security guard at an illegal Spring Valley marijuana dispensary last year. Kenneth Love, 59, was shot and killed on June 2, 2020 at an illegal dispensary in the 8700 block of Troy Street. The shooting was tied into a broader scheme to extort the illegal dispensaries for money. After an exhaustive investigation by San Diego Sheriff’s Homicide detectives and the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, three defendants were arrested for Love’s murder.

Two additional defendants have also been charged in connection with the scheme to rob and extort money from illegal dispensaries. If the extortion money was not paid, the defendants used threats and violence to intimidate ownership. The crime spree is responsible for other Spring Valley area shootings in July 2019 and November 2019. Two of the defendants are gang members who reside in the Los Angeles area and the third is a San Diego man associated with a local gang.

“This case demonstrates how violent gang crime knows no borders and criminals will exploit any opportunity, such as marijuana dispensaries operating illegally, to make money,” said District Attorney Stephan. “Law enforcement never gave up on finding the murderers and our team will continue to seek justice for Mr. Love’s family and friends through this prosecution. Extraordinary cooperation among our investigative partners from several local, county and national agencies led to these arrests.”

Daveon Dajuan Hicks Sr., 30, Curry James Williams Jr., 29, and Jamal Johnson, 41, have all been charged with murder, conspiracy to commit extortion and other offenses related to the Spring Valley shootings. Adrian Kasey Batten, 36 was charged with conspiracy to commit extortion and other offenses related to the Spring Valley shootings. Jester Ramos, 28, has been charged with attempted robbery and shooting at an occupied building.

On June 23, 2021 the victim’s loved ones joined community members, and Sheriff’s personnel from Homicide and deputies and Senior Volunteer Patrol from the Rancho San Diego Station at the First Baptist Church of Spring Valley to hand out flyers asking people with information about the murder to come forward.

“I want to thank the Sheriff’s Homicide Unit, as well as detectives with the Rancho San Diego Sheriff’s Station, and the Violent Crimes Task Force for continuously working this case for more than a year to find answers in the murder of Kenneth Love,” said Sheriff William Gore. “We are also grateful to the public for submitting tips when we made renewed calls for new information. This is an example of how law enforcement and community collaboration can hold criminals accountable for their actions.”

In the spring of 2021, the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force joined the Sheriff’s Homicide investigation and had a sizable contingent in Los Angeles for arrests that occurred on July 1.

“Last week’s arrests bring a conclusion to this chapter of an investigation by a group of dedicated law enforcement professionals committed to making the streets of San Diego safer for the community to live and work,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “This case involved a wide array of investigative techniques varying in their complexity, worked jointly with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, all with one goal in mind – to bring justice to Mr. Love and his family.”

On July 1, a total of five search warrants were served in Hawthorne, Bellflower, Long Beach, and two warrants were served in Compton. Five firearms were recovered during the execution of these search warrants and Hicks and Williams were arrested at their homes in Compton. The arrests were made possible with continuing assistance of the FBI’s Los Angeles’s Field Office, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Violent Crimes Task Force, Long Beach Police Department, Torrance Police Department, and the Hawthorne Police Department.

On July 7, 2021, Johnson and Batten were arrested by San Diego Sheriff’s detectives after they landed at Los Angeles International Airport. Later the same day, a San Diego County Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Detail served a search warrant at Ramos’ residence in the city of San Diego and arrested him there.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Unit at (858) 285-6330/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can also remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

Screenshot of Match.com

$2 Million Settlement with Match.com and Other Dating Sites

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that Match Group, Inc., the owner of numerous popular online dating sites including Match.com, PlentyofFish, OkCupid and Tinder, agreed to pay $2 million in civil penalties and costs, in addition to victim restitution, as part of the settlement of a consumer protection lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in Santa Cruz county in November 2020 by the California Auto Renewal Task Force (CART), which includes the District Attorney’s Offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties and the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, and alleged that Match’s online dating service subscriptions violated provisions of California’s automatic-renewal and dating service contract laws.

Among other things, the task force alleged that Match’s sign-up processes failed to clearly and conspicuosly inform consumers that they were enrolling in an automatically-renewing service and failed to secure their affirmative consent as required by law. Additionally, the prosecution team alleged that Match’s post-payment acknowledgments failed to inform consumers how to cancel and that the cancelation process was lengthy and tedious – also violations of California’s automatic renewal laws. Match has denied these allegations.

“San Diego and its CART colleagues continue to hold companies accountable when they violate California’s automatic renewal laws, and online dating service companies are no exception,” DA Stephan said. “These laws exist so that consumers are not surprised by unanticipated recurring charges and, when seeking to cancel an automatically-renewing subscription, can do so simply and efficiently. This is one of several recent examples of our consumer protection team working with CART to achieve compliance with these important laws.”

Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann entered a final court judgment on the parties’ stipulated settlement on July 7, 2021.

The judgment requires Match to have full transparency with consumers about their automatically renewing subscriptions.

The company must:
• Clearly and conspicuously disclose its automatic-renewal terms
• Obtain the consumers’ affirmative consent to the terms through a separate checkbox or
similar mechanism before charging for an automatic renewal or continuous service
• Email consumers a confirmation of the transaction after they pay which clearly includes the automatic-renewal terms and information on how to cancel
• Allow consumers to easily cancel their subscriptions, including online

Match has already taken steps to ensure its web disclosures and processes comply with California’s Automatic Renewal and Dating Service Contract laws.

Deputy District Attorneys Colleen E. Huschke and Stephen M. Spinella with the Consumer Protection Division handled this case for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

Welk Resorts Will Pay Up To $ 5.5 Million To Settle Consumer Protection Lawsuit

Gang Claims Innocent Victims

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office today arraigned Tahjee Ector, 23, of Riverside County on two counts of murder, premeditated attempted murder, shooting into a residence and assault with a firearm in connection with three gang motivated killings that occurred over the past five years. If convicted, he faces life in state prison.

Last month, in connection with same gang motivated crime spree, the District Attorney also charged Kenneth Brooks, 21, with two counts of murder, premeditated attempted murder, shooting into a residence and assault with a firearm.

The charges come as law enforcement officials are reporting a troubling increase in gang-related crime and the proliferation of ‘ghost guns’– firearms that are assembled by hand and are usually untraceable. According to the District Attorney’s Office, most of the criminal cases it files involving ghost guns are gang related. Since 2019, the DA’s Gangs Division has charged cases involving over 100 ghost guns. At the same time, gang-related cases submitted to the DA’s Office by law enforcement countywide are up 25% from same time last year.

Prosecutors say that in May 2016, Ector went to Emerald Hills Park looking for rival gang members to shoot and kill. Believing he had located a rival, Ector shot and killed Kevin Spelmon, 46, as he worked on his car.

Four years later, in May 2020, Ector continued to kill on behalf of his gang. Ector and Brooks engaged in an ongoing conspiracy with other gang members, where they armed themselves with automatic handguns and again attempted to locate, shoot and kill rivals. Their mission culminated in the murder of an innocent victim, Arif Abdalla, 28.

Brooks went in search of rivals in Emerald Hills Park, in May 2021, this time, resulting in the murder of Tamara Shellum, another innocent victim.

The spike in gang-related crime and the widespread use of untraceable guns by gangs needs to be addressed through prevention and prosecution,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “We won’t allow gangs to terrorize any of our neighborhoods in San Diego County and we are dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to stem the alarming uptick in gang-related violence.”

“Preventing and addressing gang-related crime and the use of ghost guns is a priority for the San Diego Police Department,” said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit. “I would like to thank our Homicide Unit, Gang Investigators, and Special Operations Unit for tirelessly working to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.”

Recently, the San Diego Police Department said it is on pace this year to nearly double the number of ghost guns they impounded last year. Of every five guns police seize, one is a ghost gun.

In addition, gang shootings are up 129% over the same period last year. Below is a comparison of the first six months of 2021 with the same period in 2020, based on data from the San Diego Police Department.

  • 39 shootings compared with 17 last year, a 129% increase
  • Three attempted murder cases compared to one last year
  • 34 assaults with a deadly weapon compared to 19 last year
  • Nine drive-by shootings compared to two last year

Ector pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is scheduled for a bail review hearing on July 6 at 8:30 a.m. and a preliminary hearing on July 14 at 8:30 a.m.

Brooks is scheduled to be in court on July 20 at 8:30 a.m. for a status hearing.