An Orange County Superior Court clerk was indicted last week for “fixing” over 1000 criminal cases for a five-year period ending in the spring of 2015. Using a network of seven “recruiters” the former clerk, identified as 36-year-old Anaheim resident, Jose Lopez Jr. solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes officials said.
“Mr. Lopez used his position of trust for personal gain and, in the process, conspired with others to pervert the legal system,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Today’s arrest should send a message that fixing tickets and tampering with witnesses is taken seriously by law enforcement and corruption by public officials will result in serious consequences.”
The federal racketeering indictment alleging the corruption by Lopez was issued on Wednesday followed by the arrest of ten defendants, all with charges connected with the bribery scheme. Two additional defendants are also expected to be taken into custody.
All 12 defendants are charged with conspiring to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). This charge outlines 139 overt acts that outline bribe payments and official court documents that memorialized actions that simply never occurred.
- Ricardo Quinones, 32, of Santa Ana;
- Juan C. Rosas Santillana, 32, of Chino Hills;
- Ramon Salvador Vasquez, 27, of Santa Ana;
- Manuel Galindo Jr., 26, of Santa Ana;
- Gibram Rene Lopez, also known as “Ivan,” 26, of Anaheim;
- Agustin Sanchez Jr., 32, of Santa Ana;
- Luis Alberto Flores Guillen, also known as “Bills,” 26, of Santa Ana;
- Oscar Centeno, also known as “Mosquito,” 26, of Santa Ana;
- Javed Asefi, also known as “Joey,” 43, of Ladera Ranch;
- Jeff Reynes Fernandez, also known as “Lean,” 24, of Fullerton; and
- Jesus Saldana, 28, of Garden Grove.
Lopez is accused of improperly and illegally resolving cases with terms favoring hundreds of defendants. The 38-count indictment alleges that Lopez accepted cash bribes as high as $8,000. Hundreds have had charges dismissed, fees reduced and/or avoided jail time. He also allegedly changed case information to show that the defendant had paid the required fees or had performed community service. Illegally created records indicated that the defendant pleaded guilty to reckless driving and that their drunk driving charges were dismissed in order to avoid drunk driving consequences.
“The racketeering indictment charges the former court clerk with accepting bribes to falsify court records on the court’s computer system,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Some of the records indicated that a case had been resolved, when no such action had been approved by any judge of the court, and some records included signatures that appeared to be those of officers of the court, but were in fact forged. This defendant allegedly assumed the roles of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to line his pockets in a staggering abuse of his position. Very simply, he compromised the entire justice system in Orange County.”
During the Spring of 2015, the court learned of the misconduct and took the steps necessary to reopen many of the cases. It was also learned that Lopez forged signatures of prosecutors and along with other members of the conspiracy, to persuaded witnesses to lie about the scheme to police. The indictment states that it is also believed that Lopez used the bribes to go on international vacations, take trips to Las Vegas and to open a restaurant in Garden Grove.
“This investigation demonstrates IRS Criminal Investigation’s ability to trace the cash payments made to Jose Lopez and uncover the disposition of those funds,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony J. Orlando. “IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to bring to justice those who have enriched themselves in this scheme and in the process corrupted the Orange County Superior Court.”
Lopez was also charged with five counts of money laundering, Vasquez with conspiring to tamper with witnesses and witness tampering. Santillana and Fernandez were also charged with witness tampering. Asefi is facing charges to making false statements by the FBI. If convicted the RICO conspiracy, each would face a maximum 20-year federal prison sentence. The money laundering and witness tampering also each carry a maximum 20-year sentence, while the bribery charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
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