RIVERSIDE – A Riverside attorney and his accomplice girlfriend were arrested on Thursday night after months of extortion of small minority-owned businesses authorities said.
During the months of April to June 2016, Rogelio Morales, 39-years-old, and Mireya Arias, 32-years-old, both of Riverside, went to nearly a dozen hair salons and dry cleaning businesses in Riverside County. During their visit, they requested services from the businesses and days later Mr. Morales would deliver court documents to the business. The court documents said that Arias was suing for violations of the Gender Tax Act of 1995. In addition, the documents alleged several business and professional codes were violated with damages ranging from $20,000 to $123,000.
Through investigation, authorities learned that all of the businesses were Hispanic or Asian owned. The owners would contact Morales since he was the contact on the documents or Morales would contact them with an out-of-court settlement offer of around $10,000. The investigation also determined that the couple entered the businesses with the intent of extortion.
Eventually, one of the victim businesses hired attorneys. Both the victims and their advocates believed they were targeted because they were small immigrant-owned businesses. A community activist who is also an attorney organized a protest at Morales’ law firm to bring attention to his actions. Following that, she began to receive threats and posts to her professional social media account from various social media accounts later linked to Morales and his law firm, the Law Offices of Rogelio V. Morales. The activist/attorney sought and obtained a civil harassment restraining order due to the threats of harm made toward her. The threats continued in violation of the restraining order, he also continued to contact the attorneys representing the victim business with threats of litigation if the victims do not pay $10,000. The threats continued until December 2016.
After an intense investigation, detectives submitted their criminal case on March 15, 2017, to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. The submission lead to arrest warrants being issued for both, Morales and Arias. Both suspects were arrested when they returned to the Riverside home on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Morales and Arias were booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center in the City of Riverside for multiple counts of extortion and burglary.
If you have information about this investigation, or if you have been similarly victimized by Mr. Morales and the Law Offices of Rogelio V. Morales, please contact Detective David Smith at (951) 353-7103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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