Booster club electrocution

News about an electrocution on a high school campus spread fast. Still, the details were conflicting.

Officials were quick to point out the injured men were not contracted to work by the school district. Still, they had set up scaffolding in the school’s football field and had been allowed to work inside of the campus without bother.

I heard the men had been working in Mission Viejo High School had been working for a member of the school’s booster club, and the banner they were trying to hang was for an upcoming tournament.

The issue set up a conflicting dilemma. Though school officials did not sanction the work, the company had been somehow allowed to go into the campus and hang the banner without a problem. Continue reading “Booster club electrocution”


Released from jail but still a suspect

Eder Herrera was in handcuffs hours after his mother and brother were stabbed to death in their Yorba Linda on Oct. 25, 2011.

Facing two charges of murder, the 24-year-old street sweeper maintained his innocence during the three months he spent behind bars.

Then, on Feb. 1, 2012, Itzcoatl Ocampo, a suspected serial killer charged with the deaths of four homeless men, told investigators he was also responsible for the deaths of Herrera’s family.

Ocampo described in detail how he snuck into the home with plans to kill the family. He told detectives he stabbed them multiple times with the same knife he used against the homeless men.  He also had plans to wrap an extension cord around Eder Herrera’s neck, but Ocampo said the youngest member of the family walked out of the house before the bloodshed began.

More than two years after the deaths, and after charges against Herrera were dropped, but Herrera is wondering why police and prosecutors still consider him a suspect.

Continue reading “Released from jail but still a suspect”

What happened to the hazmat inspections?

Flames shooting out of a house – or a massive brush fire – come to mind when thinking about covering a fire agency, yet firefighters are responsible for much more than putting out fires. When hazardous material are spilled on a roadway, or a dangerous chemical leaks in a factory, it is firefighters in the hazmat unit that respond in Orange County.

They are also responsible for thousands of inspections every year, including construction projects, smoke detectors, occupancy, and chemical permits.

Those inspections have been one of the main topics I have been covering in the last two weeks in connection with the Orange County Fire Authority, where officials discovered that half of the hazardous material inspections they were responsible for were not done. That may be a cause for concern, but there was more trouble with the agency when it was found the department took in the fees for these inspections, even though no one did them. Continue reading “What happened to the hazmat inspections?”

A family who’s waited years for justice

Juan Ramon Perez was killed in March 2002 after he lent a man his tools and asked to get them back. Since the shooting, his sister has not stopped calling investigators who are searching for the killer.

This was an effortless story, the type you merely stand back and let itself be told.

It’s the reason why I enjoy writing about crime: when you go just beneath the surface you can see a more complicated texture to life. There are hundreds of stories like this, but it is an excellent example of the hunger for justice in people, and their tenacity to maintain their loyalty to those they love, even after they pass.

What intrigued me was Patricia Perez. Here was a woman who for eight years (at the time the story was printed) had not missed a chance to call the detective who has been searching for her brother’s killer. For years she has received no answer, yet no one would question her judgement or love if she had grown disillusioned about hearing no news eight years after her brother – Juan Ramon Perez – was killed, and stopped calling.
Continue reading “A family who’s waited years for justice”

‘America’s Sheriff’: his life behind bars

Seems everyone in Orange County was waiting for this.

As time neared for disgraced former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona to surrender in federal prison, politicians and law enforcement officials alike were waiting for the word. Even after his conviction, the discussion with several people quickly turned to, “Will he ever see a day behind bars?”

Months passed as court proceedings continued, and the former sheriff remained free.

Mike Carona turned himself in to federal authorities in January 25 to begin a 5 1/2 year sentence. His prison is located more than 1,000 miles away from the county he patrolled, so there weren’t journalists there to chronicle his processing. But it may have gone something like this:

Carona’s new life: What can he expect in prison?

Former sheriff Mike Carona



Published Jan. 24, 2011

Former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona will have to give up his clothes, watch, and any toiletry articles when he walks into Englewood, Colo. Federal Correctional Institution this week.

Then he will be handed a razor, shaving cream, toothpaste, toothbrush, hand soap, shampoo and comb.

He can keep his wedding band, as long as it has no stones.

Orange County’s former top cop will then get an inmate identification card and handed a 52-page handbook outlining the rules, regulations, and day-to-day activities at the federal prison where he is expected to serve his 66-month sentence.

The low-security prison is located along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, about a dozen miles southwest of Denver.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the 40-acre double-fenced facility…(Read more, here)

Alleged FBI informant says he monitored local gyms

Shortly after Ahmadullah Sais was arrested in Feb. 2009, civil rights groups called into question FBI tactics in the case. Some of those worries, such as concerns that the FBI was specifically targeted Muslim and Middle Eastern men, were raised to new levels when a former FBI informant said he was instructed by his handlers to monitor local gyms and identify Middle Easter men from surveillance images.

Here is the story:

Alleged FBI informant says he monitored local gyms for FBI


Craig Monteilh




The Orange County Register

Published April 28, 2009

An Irvine man who claims to have worked as an FBI informant said he was asked by agents to identify photos of Middle Eastern men who worked out at Orange County gyms as part of an effort to identify terrorist cells in the U.S.

Craig Monteilh said he worked as an informant from July 2006 to October 2007. He said he identified hundreds of Middle Eastern men in pictures that appeared to be taken from surveillance footage from several O.C. gyms. He said agents asked him to act as a “magnet” for members of the Muslim community – work out with them, and provide information, such as names and telephone numbers to the FBI.

Agents were interested only in young Middle Easter men, Monteilh said, and when a picture was identified as someone that was not, “they (pictures) were discarded,” he said.

Officials at the FBI declined to address specific allegations, saying they could not comment on investigative techniques or ongoing investigations, but said suggestions that the agency may be racially profiling an ethnic group were absurd and unfair.

“To suggest that the FBI targets individuals based on their ethnicity is beyond absurd, and can unfairly damage the reputation of a community,” said Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI. “Investigations are structured to protect the civil liberties of all, and are conducted…(Click here, to read more.)

Man says he informed on Muslims for FBI

When Craig Monteilh went public as an informant for the FBI, it set in motion a series of events. As an informant, he helped to build the case against Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, but months later he would be working with Niazi’s attorney and the American Civil Liberties Union.

This was the first time he went public with his claims, and his work with the FBI. In the coming months, however, his attitude and his comments about working with the FBI changed drastically.

While first talking about the need for informants and the type of surveillance he was involved in, he would later issue a public apology to the Muslim community.

Here is the story:

Man says he informed on Muslims for FBI


Craig Monteilh




Published Feb. 26, 2009

IRVINE – For more than a year, Craig Monteilh pretended to be someone he wasn’t. He donned Muslim garb, told those around him he was embracing Islam and investigated the people who considered him a friend, he said.

From July 2006 to October 2007, his job was to infiltrate the Muslim community in Orange County and weed out any possible terrorist threats, he said in an interview Thursday.

The Irvine man – a convicted con artist – said he infiltrated local mosques under the persona of Farouk al-Aziz and recorded conversations about blowing up buildings and setting off explosives inside busy shopping centers. He said he did so under the guidance of agents from the FBI.

Several of the conversations he said he recorded were with Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, a Tustin man who was arrested Friday on several immigration-fraud charges. According to a federal indictment, Niazi lied in his application for citizenship and a U.S. passport by hiding links to terrorist organizations and suspects, including a brother-in-law suspected of being Osama bin Laden’s security coordinator.

Monteilh, 46, has been convicted of fraud and grand theft and recently served a prison sentence for conning two women out of more than $157,000. The Islamic Center of Irvine received a restraining order against him in 2007 after members complained that he was asking people “to join him a terrorist plot,” according to court documents.

Monteilh said he came forward as an informant in an effort to clear his name and have the restraining order lifted. He filed court documents this week in which…(Click here, to continue reading.)