Local Students Design Interactive Game App

Local Students Design Interactive Game App

District Attorney Summer Stephan joined e3 Civic High and the Art Institute of California today to announce that a group of high school students mentored by the DA’s Office has created an innovative mobile phone app designed to inspire youth to make good choices. As part of their participation in the DA’s Youth Advisory Board, students at e3 Civic High researched and designed the app to address issues faced by young people such as addiction, crime, education and peer pressure. They chose an app platform so the outreach would be accessible and appealing to their peers, and because it is an easy way for students to learn about the consequences of their choices. [TWEET THIS]

The LifeMap app – a game about choices – was born out of a discussion in 2016, when students on the Youth Advisory Board at e3 Civic High began examining quality of life and educational issues they saw in their communities. Players in the game are given the option to make choices based on five scenarios involving issues such as dropping out of high school, graffiti tagging, poverty, and more. The game takes the player through various trolley stops through downtown, Barrio Logan and Belmont Park. Students designed and created the app with assistance from the Art Institute of California San Diego campus, which assisted with computer programming. It is currently available on Apple and Androidmobile devices by searching Life Map DAYAB.

“It’s not easy being a kid these days and these students have created a unique and engaging way to connect with their peers about real life issues,” DA Summer Stephan said. “The students who are Youth Advisory Board members across San Diego County are helping us connect with issues affecting youth and give our office a perspective that helps us in our mission of preventing crime and strengthening public safety.”

The students unveiled the mobile app today at e3 Civic High in downtown San Diego along with the schools’ administration, faculty, and parents.

Elder Abuse

“Our scholars are being challenged to become the civic leaders of today and make a positive impact on the quality of life for all citizens, especially their peers,” said e3 Civic High’s CEO, Dr. Helen Griffith. “The expert mentorship provided by their involvement in the Youth Advisory Board is the catalyst that is training them to change our world. We applaud DA Summer Stephan for her leadership to ensure that our youth are seated at the table of transformation.”

Students researched each topic included in the game to come up with questions and answers.

“I learned so much more working with my peers than working alone during the creation of this game,” Youth Advisory Board member Anna Phounsavath said. “I hope this game is useful for other young people in that it gets them to think about the choices they make and how they affect other people.”

The first DA’s Youth Advisory Board was created in 2008 as a unique partnership between the DA’s Office and area high school students. Currently, the advisory board consists of students from Lincoln High School and e3 Civic High. Previously the board had students from Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch high schools. Over the years and with adult support and guidance, students have produced impactful outreach and awareness campaigns that have earned a regional Emmy Award and the Diversity Youth Leadership Award from the City of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission. Through their perspective, the groups educate the community and the DA’s Office about current issues affecting young people and work to create positive change in the community in an effort to reduce crime. Each advisory board includes a diverse group of students from both high schools.

The students will be taking the game app to classrooms across the county, as well as and youth-centered organizations, along with information about resources that are available to help students succeed. [TWEET THIS]

Principals, youth directors and community leaders interested in this new game app and the related outreach campaign may request a presentation from the YAB by visiting their website at www.SanDiegoDAyab.com.

Governor Signs Law Tripling Fines for Those who buy Underage Sex

Governor Brown signed into law a bill sponsored by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, AB 2105 (Maienschein), which increases fines or penalties awarded in civil actions for commercially sexually exploited children. The new law allows for triple the damages that defendants would otherwise be liable for where the conduct is 1) directed at minors, 2) minors suffer physical, emotional, or economic damage, or 3) the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the sex victim was a minor. The bill adds children to the class of people already protected and allowed to seek civil penalties or damages under the Civil Code Section 3345 (disabled persons and elders).  [TWEET THIS]

“This new law aims to be another deterrent for those in our community who would exploit children and pay for sex with a minor. It also provides funding for rehabilitation of sex trafficking victims so they can move past the pain and trauma they experience,” DA Summer Stephan said. “We have a duty to protect the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society and this bill holds individuals who would commit this kind of criminal conduct more accountable.”

There is an alternative damage provision for instances where damages cannot be proved, or where the alternative damage provision would be greater. In those instances, the defendant is liable for no less than $10,000 and no more than $50,000 for each commercial sex act.

“In San Diego alone, sex trafficking is estimated to be an $810 million a year industry and we can see that criminal sanctions are not enough to stop these reprehensible enterprises,” Assembly member Brian Maienschein said. “AB 2105 protects children from sex predators looking to make money off their suffering. It also provides a base statutory civil penalty of $10,000 to be awarded to minor sex trafficking victims. This new law deters child sex purchasers and provides a source of funds for the rehabilitation of victims of commercial sexual exploitation.”

Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry, and the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. California has the highest number of human trafficking incidents reported by the National Human Trafficking Hotline. In San Diego, the Human Trafficking Task Force works to rescue the girls and boys who are being sold for sex and trafficked across San Diego County. The most common form of sex trafficking includes entrapping children into prostitution for the financial benefit of gangs. Recruitment happens in schools and online through social media and gaming apps.

The University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University released a joint study that estimates there are anywhere from 3,000 and 8,000 victims trafficked each year in San Diego, which generates more than $800-million each year for human trafficking criminal enterprises.

If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking call the human trafficking hotline at 888-37-37-888, or text “BeFree.”


DA Will Fight to Keep Cop Killer Behind Bars

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan will again attend the latest Parole Board hearing for a defendant who shot and killed a San Diego police officer in order to bring a clear voice on behalf of the slain police officer’s family and keep a murderer behind bars. [TWEET THIS]

Officer Archie Buggs was 30-years old in 1978 when he was shot six times after he stopped a car driven by Jesus Cecena, a gang member in the Skyline neighborhood. Cecena fired five times at Buggs, then paused, walked toward the fallen officer and fired a final bullet into his head at point blank range. The officer died on the street, his hand still on his service revolver.

In the last four years, Cecena was approved for parole three times by the parole board but Governor Jerry Brown later overturned the panel’s recommendation in each case.  Cecena’s parole continues to be opposed by San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit, District Attorney Summer Stephan, and the San Diego Police Officers Association.

“This was a cold-blooded execution of an on-duty police officer that devastated the officer’s family, his department and our community,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “This crime was callous and inexplicably senseless. It demonstrated a total disregard for human life and disdain for those in a position of authority.”

Cecena was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on August 22, 1979. Since Cecena was 17 at the time of the murder, his sentence was reduced to  seven years-to-life in March of 1982.  He was denied parole 13 times. His unstable social history continued during his incarceration; he received more than ten violation reports for misconduct while in prison. Cecena was granted parole three times (in 2014, 2015 and 2017) and each time Governor Jerry Brown reversed the grant after the DA’s objections.

“To this day, Cecena has never accepted full responsibility for executing Officer Buggs and glosses over the full horror of his actions,” said Deputy DA Richard Sachs, who will argue against Cecena’s release. “Cecena’s words of purported acceptance ring hollow, and do not demonstrate that he has fully embraced the execution nature of this killing. Unless and until he faces that, he will continue to be unpredictable and dangerous.” [TWEET THIS]

[RELATED: SDPD Officer Archie Buggs Dedication Ceremony]

Justice Day at Alpha Project

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that her office is joining forces with criminal justice partners to help the homeless population currently living at the Alpha Project Shelter located in Downtown San Diego. The innovative “Justice Day” program is a collaborative effort between the District Attorney, Superior Court, Public Defender and the City Attorney.

A courtroom is essentially set up on site where residents have an opportunity to resolve court cases related to minor infractions and some misdemeanor conduct that was the result of circumstances surrounding homelessness. The program allows for court fines and fees to be deemed satisfied by recognizing their efforts in recovery. It also allows for a limited number of minor offenses to be dismissed in order to allow a path for individuals to move forward in life. To date, about 23 participants have been pre-screened and deemed eligible to participate in the program, based on their engagement with services at Alpha Project and their commitment to breaking the cycle of homelessness in their own lives.

“This Justice Day is one of the innovative ways that we help remove barriers and rebuild the lives of individuals who are homeless, by taking the Court directly to the bridge shelters,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “Today we help address outstanding citations or warrants that are just one more roadblock for someone who’s doing their best to turn their life around, get off the street, find a place to live and get a job.”

According to the most recent Regional Task Force on the Homeless Point-In-Time Count, almost two thirds of the unsheltered population has had some involvement with the justice system.

“One of the many missions of the Public Defender’s Office is to help those that have difficulty helping themselves. For many homeless clients, it is their past and not their present that is preventing them from escaping the cycle of homelessness. Something as simple as an unpaid trolley ticket could prevent the client from obtaining a driver’s license,” said Public Defender Randy Mize. “For these clients, being able to provide rehabilitation and a hand-up through Homeless Court, instead of incarceration, helps break down barriers to becoming a productive member of our community.”

“My Office has worked hard to develop innovative approaches that fill a critical void in our region’s approach to homelessness. Our San Diego Misdemeanants At Risk Track Program, which provides participants with tailored drug treatment programs, counseling, bridge housing, case management, and wrap around services, has helped our most vulnerable citizens get off the streets. Justice Day is yet another tool we’ll use to provide meaningful intervention and hope for those who need it most.”

Alpha Project is a nonprofit human services organization that serves over 4,000 men, women, and children each day. Part of the services offered by Alpha Project includes work, recovery and support services to homeless individuals who are motivated to change their lives and achieve self-sufficiency.

“Alpha Project would like to thank everyone involved with providing the Homeless Court session at the Temporary Bridge Shelter,” said Bob McElroy, CEO of Alpha Project. A lot of our residents will benefit from this service. This is a tremendous blessing”

The District Attorney’s Office has also dedicated two victim resource ‘navigators’ who are specifically tasked to be at the shelters and screen individuals who are victims of crime, connecting them to additional resources they may not have known about, such as victim compensation, mental health services and housing.

Separate from Justice Day, the District Attorney continues to participate in Homeless Court, which is part of the DA’s Collaborative Courts program.  Homeless Court continues to operate on a monthly basis at St. Vincent DePaul Village or Veterans Village of San Diego. On average, over 200 cases are addressed in Homeless Court for 60 participants each month. Collaborative Courts also participates in Stand Down, an annual summer event, which is a program that helps local homeless veterans get off the streets and back on track.

Beware of Medicare Card Fraud

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan today warned the elderly and disabled who receive Medicare benefits to protect themselves from scam artists who may try to obtain their personal identifying information. The warning comes as about 525,000 senior citizens in San Diego County begin to receive new Medicare Cards in the mail. Unfortunately, the new cards are also a new opportunity for scammers to take advantage of seniors and those with disabilities. [TWEET THIS]

“Ripping off hard working families won’t be tolerated in San Diego County,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “We’re here to help protect the benefits seniors have earned after a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice.”

San Diego County’s older population is growing; unfortunately, so are crimes against our older residents. Almost 23 percent of the population in our County is projected to be over age 65 by 2050, a 10 percent increase from 2015.

In the past few months, the District Attorney’s Office has stepped up its focus on preventing and fighting various forms of elder abuse—including financial fraud against seniors.  Since the start of 2017, the DA’s office has filed more than 100 cases involving theft from elder victims. In one recent case, the victim had their homes deeded away from them and sold without their knowledge.

New Medicare Card 2018

About 5.7 million people will receive new Medicare cards in California, including more than half-a-million people here in San Diego County. The new cards no longer have the recipient’s social security number on them, instead each individual will receive an 11-digit alpha numeric identifier. The cards remain red, white and blue and benefits are not changing in any way. The new cards come with information on how to use them and recipients can start using their cards as soon as they receive them.

Con artists are known to take advantage of moments like this when new cards or government programs are rolled out. District Attorney Summer Stephan had a specific warning today for seniors and some important information on how they can protect themselves from those who would take advantage of them.

Tips for seniors to protect themselves include:

  • When your new Medicare card arrives, keep it in a safe place.
  • Con artists may reach out and try to get your new 11-digit Medicare identifier so they can steal your identity and commit fraud…don’t give it to them.
  • There is no charge for your new card, so don’t pay anyone to send it to you.
  • Guard your Medicare card like it’s a credit card.
  • Don’t share or confirm your Medicare number or Social Security number with anyone who contacts you by telephone, email, or in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
  • Medicare will NEVER contact you (unless you ask them to) to ask for your Medicare number or other personal information or to send you a new card. Medicare already has your information.
  • Don’t ever let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number. If someone calls you and asks for your Medicare number or other personal information, hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE.
  • Give your Medicare number only to those you know should have it (doctors, pharmacists, or your health insurer).
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE to report suspected fraud. [TWEET THIS]

To learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft and health care fraud, visit Medicare.gov/fraud

Earlier this month, District Attorney Summer Stephan announced the formation and first meeting of an Elder Protection Council, a private/public collaboration designed to raise awareness, enhance prevention and improve protection for San Diego County’s elder population.

“Our society will be judged on how we treat our most vulnerable, including our children and our seniors,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “With this countywide initiative, we’re proactively responding to an increase in elder abuse crime as this population continues to grow.”

According to a recent SANDAG report, violent crimes against San Diego residents 60 years of age and older increased by 20 percent last year. The report shows there were 838 crimes against seniors including 13 homicides, 25 rapes, 210 robberies, and 590 aggravated assaults in 2017.

Additional research showed that while the increase may be due to the growing number of 60-year-old residents in our region – up 20% percent – it was not the sole reason. Seniors are targeted because they are less likely to report a crime against them. [TWEET THIS]

Taking the Fight Against Human Trafficking to Africa

Taking the Fight Against Human Trafficking to Africa

Foreign countries seek the expertise of San Diego County’s law enforcement from time to time and recently, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office brought its experience in fighting human trafficking to Africa. [TWEET THIS]

Two prosecutors from the DA’s Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Unit recently returned from a trip to Nigeria where they spoke with attorneys there about how the San Diego District Attorney’s Office is confronting sex trafficking.

Taking the Fight Against Human Trafficking to Africa. From left to right, Deputy Public Defender Jesus Romero, Deputy District Attorneys Marisa Di Tillio and Mary-Ellen Barrett.

Deputy District Attorneys Mary-Ellen Barrett and Marisa Di Tillio traveled to Nigeria along with the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office’s Deputy Public Defender Jesus Romero, who sat on a panel about reforming the Nigerian judicial system to something similar to what we have in the United States. The trip was sponsored and paid for by the Conference of Western Attorneys General.

Deputy DA’s Barrett and Di Tillio presented at two separate symposiums, one on transnational crime and wildlife trafficking, and the other on the effective administration of law. Their presentations focused on human trafficking and barriers to investigating transnational crime, as well as emerging trends in proving cases and efficiency in administration of justice. They also sat on panels where they answered questions about the task force and team approach to the investigation of crimes that traverse borders, which was a topic of great interest to the attendees.

The second symposium was attended by state lawyers for Cross Rivers state, including their Attorney General. Cross Rivers state, which is about twice the size of San Diego County, has 22 lawyers and 1,000 pending cases, both civil and criminal.

“By the end of the day, a comradery between prosecutors from different countries and different systems developed,” said Deputy District Attorney Mary-Ellen Barrett. “We are all trying to achieve justice for victims and for suspects. I was struck by how lucky we are at this office to have the resources and leadership to move the fight for justice forward.”

Deputy DA’s Barrett and Di Tillio were able to provide attendees with proof that the rule of law works to ensure an orderly and fair society and see that it is possible and productive to work with the defense to ensure better outcomes on cases. [TWEET THIS]

International Manhunt for Murderer

San Diego County’s top law enforcement official, District Attorney Summer Stephan, joined the U.S. Marshals Service, San Diego Police Department and Phoenix Police Department in asking for the public’s help to locate Raymond McLeod, who is wanted for the murder of Krystal Mitchell. [Watch the news conference here.] McLeod is believed to be on the run in Central America or Mexico.  His last reported location was in Guatemala in March of 2017, but he has also been spotted in Belize and in Mexico.


“We’re not going to let this defendant run from justice and get away with murder,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan.  “We’re asking anyone with information to come forward so McLeod can be captured, returned to San Diego and held accountable for his brutal crime. Let us not forget the innocent victim who lost her life.” [TWEET THIS]

On June 10, 2016, San Diego police officers responded to a 911 call of a woman not breathing inside of an apartment in the 7600 block of Mission Gorge Road in San Diego. The woman, later identified as 30-year old Krystal Mitchell from Phoenix, Arizona, was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. Detectives from the San Diego Police Department’s Homicide Unit responded to the scene and determined that Mitchell was last seen alive with her boyfriend (Raymond McLeod). Mitchell and McLeod, also from Phoenix, Arizona, had been in San Diego visiting friends.


McLeod is believed to have fled to Mexico after Mitchell’s death.  The District Attorney’s Office has charged McLeod with murder and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. Authorities are withholding details of the murder, but say there were signs of struggle at the murder scene. [VIDEO]

The victim’s mother, Josephine Funes Wentzel, is a former police detective who has been instrumental in helping authorities search for McLeod.  Wentzel has generated leads for law enforcement and helped spread word about the international manhunt on social media.  [TWEET THIS]

“Catching McLeod will not bring my daughter back, but would prevent this monster from killing someone else’s mother, daughter or sister,” Wentzel said.  “It would also mean that Krystal’s children can sleep at night, knowing he’s been stopped. McLeod has a history of extreme violence against women and even a small child. His tendency is to stalk his victims and strike when they least expect it.  He is a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment and I hope the public will take action and help us bring him to justice.”

The U.S. Marshals Service is leading the manhunt and is poised to follow up on any information about McLeod’s whereabouts.  Steve Jurman, U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force Commander, said, “The U.S. Marshals and all our partner agencies are using every resource to locate and arrest McLeod.  There is no better law enforcement tool than the public’s help and vigilance to locate fugitives from justice.  This murder was so senseless and violent that even McLeod’s friends have cooperated with police to help try to help.” [TWEET THIS]

“Raymond McLeod came to San Diego and committed a brutal crime,” said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit.  “McLeod fled San Diego and even the United States, however detectives in our Homicide Unit will continue working each and every lead in this case and will not stop until McLeod is behind bars.  Our partnership among multiple law enforcement agencies along with the public’s help will ultimately result in McLeod’s capture.” [VIDEO]


Raymond McLeod is a former United States Marine who may have access to weapons. McLeod is a white male, 34-years-old, 5 feet11 inches tall, weighs 245 pounds, and has multiple, recognizable tattoos on both of his arms. McLeod also goes by the nickname of “RJ” but may be using the name “Matt” or “Mateo” in attempt to hide his identity.  McLeod may have put on weight and is likely to have a beard.

Anyone with information on this murder or the location of Raymond McLeod is asked to call the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477, or log onto www.SDCrimeStoppers.org for information on how to send anonymous web and mobile app tips. Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward in addition to the U.S. Marshals Service who is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to an arrest in this case.

Anonymous email and text messages can be sent via www.SDCrimeStoppers.org. You can also download the CrimeStoppers app in order to send in a tip. [TWEET THIS]

DA Announces Countywide Blueprint Against Elder Abuse

The District Attorney’s Office unveiled the first ever San Diego County Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Blueprint that commits San Diego County law enforcement and community partners to a written set of goals and a coordinated community response to elder and dependent adult abuse, including model practices and response by law enforcement, prosecution and others. [TWEET THIS]


Because of a rise in elder abuse prosecutions as well as the impending explosion of the elder population, the District Attorney brought together countywide stakeholders in November of last year for a first-ever “think-tank” of experts, including professionals from all disciplines that serve as touchpoints for elder and dependent adults. Those experts identified gaps and needs in our community, and set goals for the future which resulted in the creation of the Blueprint.

“Our society will be judged on how we treat our most vulnerable,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “With this countywide initiative, we’re proactively responding to an increase in elder abuse crime as this population continues to grow. A coordinated response is needed now more than ever to protect seniors and keep them safe in our community.” [TWEET THIS]

Elder Abuse

In San Diego County, almost 23 percent of the population is projected to be over age 65 by the year 2050, which is a 10 percent increase from 2015. With the older population increasing, elder abuse is also on the rise.

In 2016, there were 780 violent crimes against senior citizens, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year and 37 percent from five years ago. These 780 crimes included 14 homicides, 24 rapes, 205 robberies, and 537 aggravated assaults. Between fiscal years 2015 and 2017, law enforcement investigated over 3,000 crime cases for abuse of elders 65 years and older. During that same time period, elder abuse cases filed by the DA’s Office and the San Diego City Attorney’s Office increased by 39 percent.

“What makes elder abuse so heartbreaking, and so difficult for outsiders to recognize, is that it often comes at the hands of caretakers or family members who have the victim’s trust,” said San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott. “We cannot protect elders from fraud, neglect, and abuse unless we recognize these crimes and are aware of the resources available to address them. That’s why regional cooperation and mobilization is so critical.”

Adult Protective Services has continued to receive an increased number of referrals from fiscal years 2014 to 2017.  They received 14,741 referrals in fiscal year 2016-2017 and handled 9,872 cases. Financial abuse was the most common form of abuse seen in their confirmed cases, followed by mental suffering and physical abuse.


“The huge growth in our senior population is already testing families, hospitals, care facilities and communities. And as the population grows, so does the potential for abuse and neglect,” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “The region needs a roadmap, a blueprint, to address the growing challenges facing vulnerable seniors and their families.”

“We cannot tolerate abuse of the elderly or vulnerable in any form,” said Chuck Matthews, Interim Director of the County’s Aging and Independence Services. “If you suspect abuse of any kind is occurring, we encourage you to call Adult Protective Services so that we may investigate and make sure no one is being taken advantage of or harmed in any way.”

This blueprint includes a coordinated response from all the agencies that serve and protect elders.  The document includes best-practice guidelines for dispatchers, first responders, follow-up investigators, prosecutors, and every agency in between. It also takes into consideration the various health challenges, such as Alzheimer’s or other related disorders and/or cultural issues facing our San Diego aging population.

“Based on the projected growth of the elder population, the Sheriff’s department is committed to utilizing all of our dedicated resources for the successful prosecution of those committing crimes against elders and dependent adults,” said Sheriff William Gore. “In partnership with all of the allied agencies, as well as the implementation of the San Diego Countywide Elder and Dependent Abuse Blueprint, we will ensure crimes against the elders and dependent adults will not fall to the wayside and will remain one of our top priorities moving forward.”

“Let this initiative serve as a warning to those who victimize elders and dependent adults that law enforcement will aggressively investigate these cases to the highest priority and hold them accountable to the fullest,” said Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter, who is the president of the San Diego County Police Chiefs Association.

The San Diego Countywide Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Blueprint will be implemented through the leadership of the many stakeholders who attended the March 1 Summit on Elder Abuse and Neglect, hosted by the District Attorney.  It will be a living document that will be added to over time, as our community partners learn even better or smarter strategies to address issues surrounding the protection of elders.

Anyone can report elder or dependent abuse or neglect, this may include physical, sexual, and financial abuse, mental suffering, neglect or abandonment by another, and self-neglect. You can report elder or dependent abuse to Adult Protective Services at (800) 510-2020, or your local police department.

Click here for more resources to prevent and watch out for elder abuse. [TWEET THIS]

Price Gouging is a Crime During State of Emergency

The wildfires throughout California and San Diego County have left many people without homes or required to evacuate their properties. In the wake of these wildfires, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan today issued a warning to businesses and scammers not to take advantage of consumers by price gouging during a state of an emergency – doing so can end in prosecution. During a declared state of emergency, it is illegal for a business to increase its prices for essential goods or services by more than 10 percent, unless they can show their own costs have been increased. Gov. Edmund G. Brown declared the state of emergency on December 7. [INFO EN ESPAÑOL]


“Price gouging during a state of an emergency is not only a crime, it is re-victimizing victims who may have lost everything in a wildfire,” DA Summer Stephan said. “Natural disasters are already devastating, so when businesses and scammers exploit consumers when they are vulnerable, law enforcement will not tolerate it.”

It is against the law to spike prices on:

  • Food
  • Goods or services used for emergency cleanup
  • Medical supplies
  • Home heating oil
  • Building materials
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Gasoline


In addition, it is a misdemeanor for a hotel or motel to increase regular rates by more than 10 percent during a declared emergency and for the 30 days following the state of emergency.


During a state of emergency, looting is a felony (2nd degree burglary) with a penalty of up to three years in state prison.

Avoid contractor scams:

Anyone should be extremely cautious if approached by aggressive agents, adjusters or contractors after a disaster. Most businesses are honest and have good intentions, but there are always bad actors waiting to take advantage of disaster victims. Working as an unlicensed contractor during a state of emergency is a felony. Keep these tips in mind when selecting a contractor:

  • Ask for proof of licensing such as a pocket license and a second photo ID.
  • Always verify that the license number matches the contractor you are dealing with.
  • Beware of scare tactics, odd calls or unsolicited contacts.
  • Make sure the contractor carries workers’ compensation and liability insurance.

Avoid debris-clearing scams:

In the aftermath of natural disasters, debris-clearing scams often surface. Do not provide payment upfront and be sure to ask where the debris is being taken. Scammers often ask for money up-front and then disappear. Sometimes they dump debris on a neighbor’s property or park, which may cause you to be responsible for the costs and penalties.

Avoid charity scams:

During a disaster we hear many pleas for donations but we have to beware of charity scams as well. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Bogus charities have names that sound similar to real charities.
  • Give to charities you are familiar with.
  • Beware of telephone solicitors who are unwilling to give their name and call back number.
  • Never give money to anyone sent to your home.
  • Never give out personal information such as credit card numbers or social security numbers over the telephone, unless you clearly know who you are doing business with.

The District Attorney’s Office has historically played a role in incidents of wildfires, including the San Diego County wildfires of 2003, 2007 and 2014. During those events, investigators from the District Attorney’s Office, the California Department of Insurance, the Contractors State License Board, and the Department of Motor Vehicles fanned out over fire-ravaged areas to warn homeowners to beware of would-be criminals who prey on victims of natural disasters. They posted signs warning unlicensed contractors that operating in a declared state of emergency area is a felony.

You can report suspected price gouging to the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (619) 531-3507, or:

California Department of Insurance

10021 Willow Creek Road, #100

San Diego, CA 92131

Helpline 1-800-927-HELP (4357)

Contractors State License Board

9246 Lightwave Avenue, Suite 130

San Diego, CA 92123





Victims of Las Vegas Mass Shooting Get Help from San Diego’s DA

The Las Vegas mass shooting undoubtedly left many victims in need of help and a variety of services to help them cope and recover. In response to the shooting, San Diego County District Attorney victim advocates traveled to Las Vegas to help. [TWEET THIS]

Two victim advocates from the DA’s Office joined other victim advocates and agencies from across the state of California and Nevada at the Las Vegas Family Assistance Center, which was operated by the American Red Cross from October 1 through October 20.

The DA’s victim advocates were there for one week, working 12 hour shifts assisting family members and victims obtain services such as crisis intervention, needs assessment, and assistance with filing Victim Compensation Program applications for funeral/burial expenses, medical expenses, wage loss, and mental health counseling.

More than 4,000 victims were assisted during the time the center was operating.

San Diego County residents affected by the Las Vegas mass shooting may qualify for local victim services and resources, including help paying for expenses associated with loss and recovery.

Many San Diego-area residents were at the concert and are victims of this tragedy. Some have created GoFundMe accounts and may not realize that, even though the crime happened in Las Vegas, they may be entitled to receive help from the state of California.

District Attorney Summer Stephan explains in this video.

Learn more, here.


[Pictured above, the two victim advocates who traveled to Las Vegas give presentation to the rest of the DA victim services team.]