DA Files Criminal Charges in Pacific Beach Incident

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan today announced multiple felony charges against six of the eight people arrested in connection with violent criminal acts committed earlier this year during a demonstration in Pacific Beach on January 9, 2021. Charges against the defendants include conspiracy to commit a riot, illegal use of tear gas, assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and vandalism. If convicted, the defendants face a sentencing range of probation up to 10 years and eight months in prison.

The defendants who appeared in court today were Luis F. Mora, 30; Joseph Gaskins, 21; Martin Talab, 27; Jeremy White, 39; Bryan Rivera, 21; Brian Lightfoot, 25; and Jesse Cannon, 31. A readiness hearing was set for December 15 and a preliminary hearing is currently set for December 17. The remaining two defendants will be arraigned at a later date. An outstanding arrest warrant exists for the ninth defendant.

The Defendants are self-identified to be affiliated with Anti-fascists or Antifa and in this case organized into two groups, one originating from Los Angeles and the other from San Diego. The defendants began organizing on January 2, 2021 for what they referred to as “Direct Action” against a demonstration to take place on January 9, 2021 in Pacific Beach. Evidence gathered in the investigation shows that Antifa members reference to “Direct Action” means acts of violence such as assault, battery, assault with deadly weapons, arson, and vandalism.

On January 9, the crowd of self-identified Antifa— many of them dressed in all black clothing commonly known as “Black Bloc” and wearing Antifa memorabilia— gathered at the Pacific Beach pier to counter a political demonstration that was referred to as “Patriot March,” in support of the former President. The group wearing all black arrived an hour prior to the scheduled beginning of the “Patriot March.” The group gathered and began to march up and down the boardwalk. On at least eight separate occasions, approximately 15 to 20 members from the counter protesting group (Antifa-affiliated) broke off and surrounded perceived members of the Patriot March group and attacked them using impact weapons and mace. At present, there are 16 known victims.

At one point, a line of 20 to 25 counter protesting individuals advanced on a smaller group of four people from the Patriot March, yelling obscenities at them and screaming for them to run. One member of the group, who was dressed in black with their face covered, pulled out a can of pepper spray and sprayed it in their faces. The smaller group was attacked with chairs, sticks, glass bottles, full alcohol/beer cans and closed fists as they were chased down the boardwalk.

The Antifa-affiliated group surrounded several minors who they believed to be attending the Patriot March, sprayed them with mace and chased them up the boardwalk, shoving one of the minors to the ground. The minor was surrounded and beaten resulting in the minor victim being taken to the hospital to be treated for a concussion.

In addition to assaults on those participating in the Patriot March, there were collateral victims including a dog that was maced, a journalist attempting to take photos, a business that was vandalized, and assaults on police officers.

Video evidence analysis shows that overwhelmingly the violence in this incident was perpetrated by the Antifa affiliates and was not a mutual fray with both sides crossing out of lawful First Amendment expression into riot and violence.

The San Diego Police Department declared the event an unlawful assembly and demanded that the protestors disperse. The counter protestors threw bottles, eggs, rocks and sprayed at the officers with mace before the crowd was finally broke up.

SDPD, working with the District Attorney’s Office, investigated multiple allegations of violent criminal conduct. As a result of those investigations, on December 2, search and arrest warrants were served throughout Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

As in every case, the District Attorney’s Office follows the rule of law in bringing charges where the evidence supports it beyond a reasonable doubt regardless of the political orientation of crime victims, as the right to peaceful protest must be protected. When peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were assaulted in Lemon Grove, the DA’s Office brought felony charges and obtained felony convictions.

Anyone who was a victim in the incident who hasn’t spoken with law enforcement may contact SanDiegoDA@sdcda.org

International Fraud Awareness Week

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan is encouraging the public to report fraud during International Fraud Awareness Week. Insurance Fraud is the second-largest economic crime in the U.S. and costs California residents about $15 billion a year. To combat this problem, the District Attorney, in conjunction with the California Department of Insurance, is shining a spotlight on this issue to minimize the impact of fraud by promoting anti-fraud awareness and education.

In 2020, the DA’s Insurance Fraud and Workplace Justice Division filed criminal charges against 214 defendants and obtained 81 convictions for various insurance fraud offenses. As a result of these convictions, over $1.1 million in restitution was ordered for victims, including individuals, insurers, and state agencies.

“Committing fraud is a serious financial crime that harms seniors, business owners, employees and corporations,” DA Stephan said. “Ultimately fraud impacts all of us when insurance prices spike because of unscrupulous actors. Honest industries can’t compete with those cutting corners through fraud. If you know of fraud being committed, report it.”

The Insurance Fraud and Workplace Justice Division is dedicated to eradicating insurance fraud, whether it relates to workers’ compensation, automobile insurance, life insurance, or fraud in the healthcare industry. It also prosecutes other crimes uncovered during fraud investigations, including wage theft, tax evasion and even labor trafficking.

The DA’s Economic Crimes Division is also responsible for prosecuting a wide variety of fraud, including identity theft, investment scams and embezzlements. The division also acts to protect consumers and businesses by successfully filing civil cases to prohibit unfair business practices within the marketplace.

 

Examples of the types of crimes that the Insurance Fraud and Workplace Justice Division prosecutes are:

Workers’ Compensation Provider Fraud – When medical and legal providers, including doctors, chiropractors, and lawyers are paying or receiving kickbacks for referrals, billing for services not rendered or overbilling for services provided.

Workers’ Compensation Premium Fraud – When a business misrepresents its true payroll, the type of work it performs, or conceals employee injuries to pay lower workers’ compensation premiums. One of the most common premium fraud schemes occurs when employers pay employees in cash without reporting that cash payroll to the Employment Development Department and their insurer. This activity results in $7 billion in lost revenue each year and evasion of approximately $6.5 million in payroll taxes annually. Frequently, employers who commit premium fraud also engage in other crimes, including wage theft, tax evasion, and labor/human trafficking.

Workers’ Compensation Applicant Fraud – When employees fake or exaggerate work injuries to collect workers’ compensation benefits, or when employers make false statements to deny benefits to injured workers.

Uninsured Employers – Every business in California is required to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover its employees in the event of a workplace injury. These cases are especially important because if an employee is injured at work and their employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, the employee may have no recourse to get required care and benefits.

Auto Insurance Fraud – Fraudulently obtaining payment on an auto insurance policy based on false information such as inflated or faked damages, staged collisions, false claims of vehicle theft and arson. This fraud costs consumers billions of dollars each year in the form of higher insurance premiums.

Disability and Healthcare Fraud – This involves fraudulent medical and disability claims and policies, including medical providers who fraudulently bill insurance companies or who divert medications for personal use or sale. Healthcare fraud increases medical costs for everyone.

Life and Annuity Fraud – Unscrupulous life insurance agents and others who seek to steal the savings of victims through power-of-attorney abuse, securities fraud, and fraudulent claims on legitimate policies. These scams often target senior citizens, and the impact is life-altering, since seniors do not have the time or opportunity for financial recovery.

Workplace Justice Violations – In this unit we have developed an innovative approach to prosecuting wage theft, wage and hour violations, meal and rest break abuses, unfair business practices, tax evasion, and labor trafficking.

The Economic Crimes Division has filed criminal charges against 233 defendants and obtained 144 convictions from 2020 through this year so far. Additionally, from those convictions, 50 defendants were ordered to pay $2.5 million in restitution. The division also investigated over 100 price gouging complaints during the early days of the pandemic.

This division also pursued civil enforcement actions against various businesses for unfair competition or environmental violations. In 2020, the Consumer Protection and Environmental Protection Units completed over a dozen major civil enforcement actions resulting in injunctions to stop the unlawful business practices and statewide monetary relief that included millions of dollars in civil penalties and costs and $19.6 million in direct restitution to consumer victims.

Examples of the types of cases that the Economic Crimes Division prosecutes include:

Real Estate Fraud – This type of crime involves various fraudulent real estate transactions and/or schemes such as the submission of forged loan applications, fraudulent transfers of title of real property, recordation of fraudulent real estate documents; home equity sale contract fraud; and mortgage foreclosure consultant fraud.

Computer and Technology Crimes High Tech Task Force (CATCH) – This Unit prosecutes high-technology criminals engaged in crimes where technology is the prime method of committing crime.

Identity Theft – These crimes involve criminals acquiring key pieces of someone’s identifying information to impersonate them and commit numerous forms of fraud.

Complex Theft – These crimes commonly involve embezzlement or investment scams. Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted. Instead of using the company’s payroll system or checking or credit card account for legitimate company business, the individual uses these accounts to steal by directing the money to his or her own accounts or to pay for personal expenses. Grand theft schemes take many forms but include scams where the perpetrator misleads individuals about an investment opportunity and instead the uses the money to support the perpetrator’s lifestyle.

Consumer Protection – These cases generally involve a business or an individual taking advantage of consumers. These cases can range from a business failing to warn a consumer that their credit card will be billed on an ongoing basis to a business using scanners that charge an amount over the advertised price to building contractors operating without a license. These cases also include other unfair business practices such as misleading product labeling or false advertising.

Environmental Protection – These cases involve businesses that violate rules relating to the environment such as hazardous waste disposal, underground storage tank regulations and clean air act statutes.

If you see, hear, or know of an insurance fraud scam happening in your area, please contact the DA’s Office through the Insurance Fraud hotline at (800) 315-7672 or at sdconnect@sdcda.org, or contact the California Department of Insurance at (800) 927-4357. To report fraud related to real estate, you can contact the DA’s Real Estate Fraud hotline at (619) 531-3552. To report any other type of fraud or criminal activity, please contact your local law enforcement agency. For information and resources about International Fraud Awareness Week, visit www.FraudWeek.com.

Consumer Settlement with Synchrony Bank

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that Synchrony Bank will pay $3.5 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought by a statewide team of district attorneys alleging the bank made unreasonably frequent or harassing phone calls to debtors in California.

“Often, these harassing debt collection calls were made to consumers who didn’t owe any money and sometimes even to a wrong number,” DA Stephan said. “The District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit is committed to holding these companies accountable for unfair business practices when companies like this bank violate state and federal debt collection practices.”
The investigation and prosecution of the case was handled by the California Debt Collection Task Force, a statewide law enforcement team composed of the District Attorneys of San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside and Santa Clara counties.

The civil consumer protection complaint alleges that Synchrony Bank and its agents engaged in unlawful debt collection activities from call centers in and outside the United States. The complaint alleges that the collection calls were often made in an excessive and unreasonable volume, and sometimes continued after the consumers indicated they no longer wished to receive the calls or when the calls were made to wrong numbers.

The judgment negotiated with the Utah-based company, entered November 10 in Los Angeles Superior Court and signed by Judge Rupert A. Byrdsong, requires that Synchrony Bank implement and maintain policies and procedures to prevent unreasonable and harassing debt collection calls to California consumers, including limiting the total number of calls to each debtor and honoring consumer requests for calls to stop.

Under the judgment, which was entered without admission of wrongdoing, Synchrony Bank was ordered to pay a total of $3.5 million, including $2 million in civil penalties and $975,000 in investigative costs. Because individualized restitution is not feasible under these circumstances, the judgment also requires Synchrony Bank to pay $525,000 in alternative restitution to a charitable trust fund to support additional consumer protection efforts. The district attorneys indicated that Synchrony Bank worked cooperatively with the prosecutors to resolve the matter.

The case was handled for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office by Deputy District Attorney Thomas A. Papageorge, Head of the Consumer Protection Unit, and Colleen E. Huschke, a Deputy District Attorney in the Consumer Protection Unit.

Las Colinas Nurse Charged with Manslaughter in Inmate Death

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has charged Danalee Pascua, 36, a nurse at the Las Colinas Detention Facility, with Involuntary Manslaughter, a felony violation of Penal Code Section 192(b), in connection with the death of Elisa Serna, 24. Serna died on November 11, 2019 while in custody at the detention facility. Arraignment is scheduled for November 19 at 1:45 p.m. in East County. If convicted, Pascua faces up to four years in prison. There is an ongoing investigation in this case reviewing other parties who may also be criminally responsible.

On November 10, 2019, Ms. Serna reported that she was dizzy and nauseous and was moved into the Medical Observation Unit of the Las Colinas Detention Facility. The next day, the defendant responded to Serna’s medical isolation cell in an attempt to take Serna’s vitals. Serna fell in the defendant’s presence. The defendant failed to get Serna’s vitals, did not move Serna into a recovery position and left Serna on the ground in the cell. About an hour later, Pascua and deputies returned to Ms. Serna’s cell and began futile life saving measures.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department referred their investigation to our office for review. The Special Operations Division of the DA’s Office, a dedicated unit of prosecutors and investigators that review officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths involving criminal wrongdoing, is handling this case.

District Attorney Summer Stephan released the following statement:
“There is nothing more sacred than the sanctity of life and when that life is in the custody and care of government, it must be safeguarded and provided with the appropriate medical care. The evidence in the in-custody death of Elisa Serna demonstrates criminal negligence that contributed to her death. It is a heartbreaking case of failure to safeguard Elisa’s life by those who are charged with that responsibility. Our analysis in this case as in any case follows the law, is independent and objective. In this particular incident, we can only file charges against the individuals involved if it is determined there is criminal negligence beyond a reasonable doubt. Other systems such as civil actions, administrative sanctions and citizen review boards provide wider remedies without the very high burden of proof of criminal accountability.”

Maya Millete Case News Conference

DA Charges Larry Millete with Murder

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that her office has filed a murder charge against Larry Millete, 40, the husband of May “Maya” Millete, 40, a Chula Vista, California mother of three who has been missing since January. In addition to the murder charge, Millete is also charged with illegal possession of an assault weapon. If convicted, he faces life in state prison.

[WATCH NEWS CONFERENCE HERE]

Millete was arrested today by the Chula Vista Police Department. Following Millete’s arrest, he was booked into a San Diego County Jail and is being held without bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday at 1:30 in the South Bay Courthouse located in Chula Vista.

“Whenever one of our community goes missing, we hope for their safe return,” DA Stephan said. “Sometimes missing persons cases remain unsolved, but as the evidence unfolded in this case, it pointed in one direction— that May was murdered. As we make this announcement, I know the hearts of the community are with May’s family, her three young children, and everyone who knew and loved her.”

California law allows prosecutors to file murder charges even though May’s body has not been found. Specifically, case law holds that successfully disposing of a victim’s body does not entitle a murderer to avoid prosecution.

The District Attorney’s Office filed this case based on evidence that was developed during a nine-month investigation based on the collaboration of the Chula Vista Police Department, which led the investigation and a dedicated team from the DA’s Office along with support from the FBI and NCIS.

“Today is a step toward justice, but it does not mark the end of our investigation,” said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy. “The Chula Vista Police Department will continue to seek answers for May’s family.”

In San Diego County, there is an average of 13 domestic violence-related homicides each year. These types of murders make up 14 % of all homicides in the county.

If you or someone you know is being abused by a current or former partner, call the National
Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) for confidential support and assistance.

Domestic Violence PURPLE Ribbon

DA Announces Standards for Healthcare Response to Domestic Violence

District Attorney Summer Stephan announced on Wednesday the release of a collective set of guidelines for healthcare organizations on how to screen for and respond to domestic violence. The first-of-its kind standards provide a countywide roadmap for medical professionals, who are often the only individuals able to see domestic violence victims alone away from their abusers.

This effort builds on the steps taken by the District Attorney’s Office and the County Health and Human Services Agency over the past five years in the Strangulation Protocol under which training was provided to over 5,000 peace officers on how to detect strangulation signs and symptoms.

“Domestic violence, including strangulation, goes largely under-reported by survivors,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Healthcare staff can be a critical point of intervention and connection to help in a safe and private setting and that’s why I am so proud of the partnership with our County’s Public Health Officer along with other healthcare experts that is saving lives.”

The data-driven effort has been led by the District Attorney’s Office, County Medical Care Services, Emergency Medical Services and Public Health Services. Together, the partners worked with healthcare staff over the past year to develop this evidence-informed document.

Since the Strangulation Protocol went into effect, domestic violence homicides dropped by 15 % between 2017 and 2020 according to the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.

In 2019, the DA’s Office in partnership with HHSA released launched the Health CARES initiative, bringing training and resources to healthcare staff countywide. The release of the Healthcare Standards comes on the anniversary date of national Health Cares About Domestic Violence Day. Healthcare staff across the county will take part in efforts to raise awareness about domestic violence including resources fairs, training and outreach events.

Included in the Healthcare Standards are evidence informed practices for:

  • Conducting screening for domestic violence
  • Assessing for signs and symptoms of strangulation
  • Reporting suspicious injuries to law enforcement
  • Evaluation of the patient by a trained forensic examiner
  • Safety planning with the patient and connect them to resources

“The purpose behind these standards is to have a collective and coordinated healthcare community response as we see and treat patients who have experienced violent crime,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, Public Health Officer for the County of San Diego Public Health Services, HHSA.

Implementing better documentation and connecting forensic health service examiners when strangulation or other domestic violence related injury has occurred has been critical.

“These steps are saving lives and we hope the implementation of these Standards for Healthcare staff countywide help drive this change home,” said Michelle Shores, Director of Forensic Health Services for Palomar Health.

Abusers are being held accountable and justice is better served through these efforts.

“Our office has seen a threefold increase in felony charges for strangulation-related crimes that we can attribute to better forensic evidence,” DA Stephan said. “The most compelling data point that the partnership between healthcare and public safety is working is the dramatic decrease in domestic violence strangulation homicides that have dropped to 2.3 %.”

The San Diego County Domestic Violence Council has assisted in bringing together countywide staff representatives from healthcare organizations such as UCSD, Rady Children’s Hospital, Sharp, Palomar Health, military hospitals, and the County of San Diego in the collaborative development of this document.

“Our hope is for universal screening in healthcare settings, where every patient is asked whether they are experiencing abuse and received education and resources,” said Claudia Grasso, the San Diego Domestic Violence Council President. “Even if that patient is not personally experiencing abuse, odds are that they know someone who is and this information could make a difference to someone who needs help.”

If you or someone you know is being abused by a current or former partner, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) for confidential support and assistance with planning.

Administrative Analyst Carmen Olut

Meet Administrative Analyst Carmen Olut

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are highlighting stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service. Meet Administrative Analyst Carmen Olut, who has been with the DA’s Office since 2014.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your position and how you got where you are?

I was born in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. I am the second of three girls. I moved to San Diego for college (SDSU). I have a BA in Political Science, MA in International Relations, and a Paralegal Certificate. I first started in the County at the Assessor’s Office and then the Health and Human Services Agency. I am currently an Administrative Analyst II in the Financial Management Unit but started as a Legal Support Assistant I in reception.

I thought helping victims or their families in fighting for justice was a very rewarding job. Although I am not a prosecutor, there are many ways someone can contribute to helping victims and keeping our community safe. In my case, I can assist with managing Insurance Fraud grant funds and purchasing needs that can arise.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? Why is it important?

It is important to recognize this month and the many achievements that Americans with Hispanic backgrounds have done. Personally, since both of my kids were born here, I would like for them to be proud and knowledgeable of half of their culture/background (their other half is Turkish) and for them to also be able to identify themselves as American and value the greatness that comes with that.

DUI fatalities continue to spike

Fatal DUIs Continue to Spike

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said today that the county has already set a grisly record of 35 people killed in DUI crashes so far this year, representing the most fatal DUIs recorded in 20 years of record keeping.

Last year, despite the decrease in traffic on the roadways due to the ongoing COVID -19 pandemic, San Diego County saw its worst year in over two decades with 30 DUI fatality cases that killed 33 people. This year, there are already 34 such cases with 35 victims. Historically, the county averages between 15 and 20 DUI-related fatalities each year.

In addition, data shows average blood-alcohol levels are also higher than last year – increasing to .18%. Prosecutors say that more than half of individuals being arrested for driving under the influence have both alcohol and drugs in their system—a deadly combination.

“Drivers know the risks and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, yet it seems more than ever they’re being reckless and putting lives at risk by then they drink, abuse drugs drinking excessively and/or using drugs and then getting behind the wheel,” said DA Summer Stephan. “Prosecuting and investigating these serious cases require a specialized team of prosecutors and investigators, who are working every day to hold offenders accountable and deter this deadly behavior.”

For the eighth year in a row the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is receiving a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety to prevent and prosecute impaired driving deaths and DUI -drugs. This year’s grant funding total is $530,600. For cases in which someone dies at the hands of a DUI driver – alcohol or drug impairment— the cases are investigated as potential murders, instead of approaching the case as a DUI car crash in which someone died.

Funding from the DUI Prosecution Grant supports the District Attorney’s Office in handling cases through each step of the criminal process. In fatal and major injury DUI vehicle collisions, members of the team may respond to the crash scene in person to assist in the investigation. The program allows the District Attorney to focus specifically on holding those who decide to drive impaired accountable for their dangerous actions. To date, the Office of Traffic Safety has given more than $3.2 million in grants to the DA’s Office. This year, the DA is expanding the grant to include specialized training and prosecution of DUI drug cases.

“Experience and knowledge are critical for prosecutors to build successful impaired driving cases,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “This program provides resources, tools and a strong training network for DUI prosecution teams that hold people who drive under the influence accountable for their actions.”

While fatal DUI crashes continue to increase, non-fatal DUIs have gone down. More than 5,130 DUI-related cases were prosecuted last year, a decrease of about 55% from the 9,400 two years ago. When you include DUI crashes with injuries into the number of fatal crashes, the District Attorney’s Office prosecuted 396 DUI cases with injuries or fatalities – which is a decrease of 12% from the 445 injury crashes of 2019.

As part of the grant and with assistance from the State’s Traffic Safety Resource Program, the DUI Homicide Unit coordinates and participates in DUI prevention and awareness in schools, military bases and colleges. It also provides training to local law enforcement agencies.

“By getting the message out, we are hoping for voluntary compliance from motorists,” said California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Omar Watson. “However, officers will be looking for anyone who is driving impaired and posing a danger on the roadways.  As a reminder to the motoring public, don’t drive impaired, have a ride plan or pre-designate a driver, and remember, one bad decision is not worth a lifetime of repercussions.”

The DUI Homicide Unit, which launched in 2014, streamlines complex DUI cases by creating expertise within the DA’s Office. The specialized unit creates uniformity in sentencing among the four adult courthouses. In addition, the unit helps law enforcement adapt to changes in technology by having a designated DA Investigator who is trained in the latest techniques in collision reconstruction. Since its inception, the unit has prosecuted more than 170 cases.

In recent years, California has seen an increase in drug-impaired driving crashes statewide. The District Attorney’s Office supports OTS’ efforts to remind the public that “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.” If you take prescription drugs, particularly those with a driving or operating machinery warning on the label, you might be impaired enough to be cited for DUI. Marijuana use can also be impairing, especially in combination with alcohol or other drugs, and can result in a DUI arrest and conviction.

“In the wake of the deadly increase of DUI and Drug related crashes that result in death, we are calling on all drivers to take a pledge today to not drive after drinking alcohol or consuming drugs including marijuana,” said DA Stephan. “We are also calling on our community to take all reasonable measures to stop anyone from driving under the influence. We will continue to bring stiff accountability for those who harm others through reckless driving under the influence, but the real win is when we can together prevent death and injury in the first place. Grant funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration helps us be better, more efficient and increasingly effective in how we handle these challenging cases.”

Assistant Director of Prevention and Intervention Programs Martin Arias

Meet the Assistant Director of Prevention and Intervention Programs Martin Arias

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are highlighting stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service. Meet the Assistant Director of Prevention and Intervention Programs Martin Arias, who has been with the DA’s Office since 2016.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your position and how you got where you are?

My parents were born in Mexico and immigrated to the US 30 years ago. I am first generation born in the US and am also the first to graduate from a university in my family. I graduated from San Diego State University in 2015. I started working at the District Attorney’s Office as a Crime Prevention Specialist five years ago and am now the Assistant Director of Prevention and Intervention Programs.
As the Assistant Director, I focus on making sure the CARE Center’s needs, as well as those of the staff, are met. Additionally, I build and nurture meaningful community partnerships so that we can continue to provide resources and services to the community.

Latinos are heavily underrepresented in public service and law enforcement, but are the largest minority group. I decided to pursue a career in public service and law enforcement so that I can help give a voice to those who have historically not had one.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? Why is it important?

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to honor and remember our ancestors, roots, culture, and all things that Latinos have accomplished. It is important because we should always be proud of where we come from and it should serve as a reminder to us that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.

Senior Accountant Karen Castillo McCabe

Meet Senior Accountant Karen Castillo McCabe

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are highlighting stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service. Meet Senior Accountant Karen Castillo McCabe, who has been with the DA’s Office since 2016.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your position and how you got where you are?
I was born and raised in Lima, Peru. My grandparents were our next-door neighbors and I had cousins across the street. I lived the typical, wonderful Latin-American childhood surrounded by a lot of family and friends.
Thanks to my parent’s efforts, and after my senior year in high school, I came to the United States to finish my education. I attended Grossmont College while working in a Jack in the Box restaurant. I transferred and went on to graduate from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. After obtaining my degree I went to work for the Jack in the box Corporate Office on their accounting team.
I was always taught by example, the value of hard and honest work in public service. My dad was a police officer and my mom an attorney, who served as a judge before coming to the United States. Because of their example, I sought an opportunity to work at District Attorney’s Office and so far, it has been very rewarding. I am now a senior accountant with the Administration Division, and I know how very important our work is to our community. My efforts help to support the various programs that improve the lives of everyone who lives in San Diego. I am happy to serve the people and make this area a better place to live for me and my growing family.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? Why is it important?
Hispanic heritage is very present in my household. I show my kids (Marco, 4, and Bianca, 1) that we are Peruvian, we speak Spanish and we value our traditional foods and dances. We are also proud that our ancestors, the Incas, had great engineering and agricultural knowledge that combined with hard work, turned their community into one of the greatest empires.
Hispanic Heritage Month is important because it gives us an opportunity to share and learn more about our culture as well as others. This helps our community be more inclusive and understanding with one another. When we celebrate what makes us unique it allows our differences to become special and dear to us. It has given my son a sense of great pride to point on a map where his mother is from and say “yo hablo Español también.”