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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Beauty schooler nabbed taking photos in bathroom

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
April 5, 2007

A Palo Alto man arrested on charges of illegally photographing a student in a Sequoia High School men’s room will return to San Mateo County Court on May 2 to face misdemeanor charges.

David Hill, 33, was arrested March 29 at the high school, where he was offering haircuts during a job fair, according to Redwood City Police Department Capt. Chris Cesena. Hill allegedly entered a men’s restroom and began photographing a male student, who reported the incident to school officials. They, in turn, called police.

Hill was arrested just after noon and taken to San Mateo County Jail, where he was cited and released, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. He has no record of prior offenses in San Mateo County.

When he returns to court, Hill faces two misdemeanor charges, one related to taking photographs in a bathroom or dressing room, and another related to harrassing a juvenile, according to Cesena.

“An adult did a stupid thing, which we quickly handled,” Sequoia High School District Superintendent Pat Gemma said. “We’re still trying to sort out what this guy’s purpose was. Now the courts will deal with him.”

Hill is a cosmetology student at College of San Mateo, according to Cesena. Officials at the college would not formally comment on the situation Thursday.

“We do not comment on matters that are being handled by the appropriate law enforcement agency,” said Beverly Madden, a spokeswoman for the college.

Officials at CSM are following disciplinary procedures, Madden added. Although the college’s student handbook does not explicitly address illegal activities performed off campus, students who violate CSM policy face disciplinary action ranging from removal of student privileges to suspension or expulsion.

In an unrelated case, San Carlos School District coach Neal Sato was convicted in 2006 on charges that he videotaped several female members of his volleyball team while they changed in his office. Last November, Sato pleaded no contest to the molestation of four 13-year-old girls connected with the videotaping plot. He was sentenced to six years in state prison, Wagstaffe said.

Sato, 35, of San Bruno, was alleged to have videotaped up to about 100 female students, many of whom could not be identified by investigators due to the quality of the video footage, as they changed clothes in his office in 2004 and 2005.

This article originally appeared in San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

April 5, 2007 at 10:20 PM

Pet store banned from selling animals

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
December 19, 2006

A pet store owner accused of housing animals in filthy, unhealthy conditions has been ordered not to sell any pets through December 2008.

A San Mateo County Superior Court decision Thursday forbids Mohammed Olfat, the owner of Laurelwood Pet Store in San Mateo, from selling any animals at his Hillsdale Road store until Dec. 13, 2008. In August, 289 animals were seized from the store after they werefound living in soiled cages, eating from food dishes containing feces and living in fish tanks without enough water, according to Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA officials.

This isn’t Olfat’s first offense — he served 14 days in jail after pleading guilty in March to charges that he mistreated and sold sick cats and dogs. He also spent five days in jail in 2004 on similar charges.

“There are people who need to go to jail and there are people who just need not to be around this number of living animals,” PHS director Ken White said. “This is a situation where you need to make sure no more animals get caught up in it.”

Olfat, reached at the pet store Monday, said the ban won’t hurt his business, which is primarily based on pet supply sales and an educational newsletter. He argued that taking the issue to court was unnecessary.

“If they had come to us in a nice way and told us, ‘Don’t sell that,’ it would have been fine,” Olfat said. “We didn’t really have to go to court — they just attacked us.”

Ongoing problems at the pet store have not stirred controversy among neighbors, according to Georgette Sarles, president of the Laurelwood Homeowners Association, who was relieved to hear the court’s decision.

“If they’re doing such a bad job of taking care of the animals, the best thing for the situation is that they’re prohibited from selling them,” Sarles said.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

December 19, 2006 at 10:28 PM

Posted in animals, Crime, San Mateo

Judge’s ruling places some constraints on raucous household

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
December 18, 2006

San Mateo won a partial victory in its fight to set limits on a local homeowner after a judge agreed that ongoing noise and alleged criminal activity coming from the house violated neighbors’ quality of life.

San Mateo Superior Court Judge Beth Freeman ruled Friday to place a civil injunction on Ohaiha Fonua Sr. and his home at 107 N. Grant St., but stopped short of evicting Fonua and his extensive family from living in the home, as San Mateo city officials had requested.

The injunction’s details will be finalized over the next 15 days and may include a curfew, along with a condition holding Fonua responsible for any criminal activity on the property, according to attorney Lance Bayer, who represented San Mateo in the four-day triallast week.

“We are pleased with … the recognition that a property owner has responsibility to maintain the property in a way that prevents public-nuisance activity,” Bayer said.

John Hartford, the attorney representing Fonua, did not return calls for comment Sunday.

Bayer called 14 witnesses who testified about ongoing activity at the North Grant Street home, including what were described as almost-nightly street parties, public drinking and drug use, heckling of police officers and multiple shootings and assaults. Hartford called two witnesses, including Olaiha Fonua Sr. and another member of the family.

One of Bayer’s witnesses, Tyrone Gadson, described an encounter in February 2004 with a crowd gathered in front of the house in which he was chased down the block and shot in the side. Two residents of the house, Jared Fonua and John Tonga, were arrested for Gadson’s shooting; Tonga was convicted of attempted murder, while Fonua was acquitted.

Freeman’s ruling is a relief to many San Mateo residents, including those in the North Central neighborhood where the Fonuas live, according to neighborhood representative and planning commissioner Bertha Sanchez. Residents there often tried to intervene, but failed to stem the problems on North Grant Street.

“I hope the city can continue to monitor areas and make sure they don’t get to this point again — or put pressure on landlords to consider the problems a particular tenant might have,” Sanchez said.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

December 18, 2006 at 9:37 PM

Posted in Courts, Crime, San Mateo

Family painted as criminally disruptive as hearing begins

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
December 12, 2006

Olaiha Fonua Sr.’s San Mateo home was not only ground zero for loud parties that bothered neighbors, but it also served as a “safe house” for criminal and gang activity, according to opening statements in San Mateo County Superior Court Monday.

Attorney Lance Bayer is representing the City of San Mateo in its effort to evict Fonua and up to 50 others for one year from a house at 107 North Grant St. — a last-ditch effort by the city to curb what police say are ongoing problems at the home. Neither Fonua nor any of the members of his extended family were present in the courtroom as Bayer called witnesses to the stand.

Among those witnesses was San Mateo Police Lt. Alan Parisian, who ran the police department’s street-crimes team in 2004 and has led the city’s effort to gather evidence against the house’s residents.

Parisian described loud parties in front of the house that could be heard up to a block away, and showed photos from MySpace in which members of the household stood in front of the house and made hand signs allegedly associated with the West Side Tongans gang. He also described short-term visits he said were consistent with narcotics sales.

“We’re dealing with a nuisance that stems from the property owner allowing this to be a party house in the worst sense,” Bayer said.

Attorney John Hartford, representing the Fonuas, has consistently declined to comment on the case, as have the Fonuas.

One of Bayer’s witnesses, Tyrone Gadson, described an encounter in February 2004 with a crowd gathered in front of the house in which he was chased down the block and shot in the side.

Two residents of the house, Jared Fonua and John Tonga, were arrested for Gadson’s shooting; Tonga was convicted of attempted murder, while Fonua was acquitted.

“The family feels that it can rule that area of San Mateo,” Gadson said. “I have friends who have been threatened, but I’m the only one who will not let someone push me off the block where I was raised.”

The court trial is expected to continue through Thursday or Friday, and will be decided by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Beth Freeman rather than a jury.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

December 12, 2006 at 9:40 PM

Posted in Courts, Crime, San Mateo

City’s case against Fonua family heads to trial

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
December 8, 2006

A court trial begins Monday in the city’s bid to oust a Tongan patriarch and his family from their North Grant Street home after family members were accused of “terrorizing” their neighbors and local police.

The City of San Mateo is seeking an injunction that would displace owner Olaiha Fonua Sr. and up to 50 people affiliated with his household for a year, and would require court approval before Fonua could lease or sell the single-family home at 107 N. Grant St., according to Lance Bayer, the attorney representing the city’s case. The move follows several years of ongoing reports of problems at the house, including large numbers of people living there and recurring problems with noise, trash and obscenities near the house, according to court documents filed by the city.

“The area was being terrorized, and they had neighbors … who wanted something to happen, but couldn’t come forward, out of fear,” according to Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Wagstaffe said some members of the family had lengthy rap sheets.

Some residents living near the house said the neighborhood has enjoyed a relative measure of peace since six members of the Fonua family have been arrested in recent years. Some are serving prison sentences for violations ranging from cocaine sales to attempted murder.

“It’s been quiet,” said Margie Perez, who has lived in an apartment across the street from the Fonuas for the past two years. “They stay on the property. They have friends over, but those don’t stay too long.”

Members of the family contacted Thursday declined to comment on the impending trial. Their lawyer, San Francisco-based John Hartford, did not return calls for comment.

When the trial begins Monday, Bayer expects to call a number of witnesses, particularly those from the San Mateo Police Department, who will provide evidence of the Fonuas’ alleged public nuisance activities.

“We expect to present evidence … based on the types of conduct, which involve violent behavior and quality-of-life concerns affecting the neighborhood andthe community,” Bayer said. The trial is expected to continue through the week.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

December 8, 2006 at 9:35 PM

Posted in Courts, Crime, San Mateo

Police: Gang enforcement paying off

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
September 5, 2006

With no gang-related homicides this summer — compared with 13 the summer of 2005 — the San Mateo County Gang Task Force is ready to proclaim its efforts a success.

The task force, which combines sheriff’s officers with police from agencies throughout the county, patrolled Peninsula streets every night and arrested more than 300 people between late May and late August. Officers believe this approach contributed to the reduction in violence they saw this summer.

“There’s always going to be gang activity, but we’ve done a good job of keeping on top of it,” Redwood City Police Department Capt. Chris Cesena said. “We haven’t had any homicides related to gangs, and I attribute that to the hard work of our teams.”

The shooting deaths of three men at Headquarters Bar in Redwood City in April are not believed to be gang-related, Cesena added.

Putting more criminals behind bars for gang-related offenses — and putting extra conditions on them when they’re released — has also helped curtail gang activity, according to Tim Gatto in the county Probation Department.

“We put extra probation conditions on them, like they can’t be a member of a gang or in the presence of any gang members, parolees or probationers,” Gatto said. Those restrictions prevent gang members from making plans.

Gatto recently interviewed more than a dozen gang members and came away with some potent advice: “One, who is 19, said, ‘Don’t waste your time on us; we’re already the way we’re going to be. Concentrate on the kids.’”

Many groups in San Mateo County are doing just that.

The San Mateo Police Activities League, for example, just received a $15,000 grant that will be used to teach kids and their parents about alternatives to gangs, according to PAL Director Mike Buckle. The first gang-awareness seminars will be held Sept. 13, 20 and 27 at the Shoreview Recreation Center.

Some of the PAL’s other programs, including a new boxing class, have been extremely popular with teens, Buckle said.

“It’s a challenge to find out what these kids want, but we’re not giving up,” project coordinator Eleni Aho said. The Tongan Interfaith Council has also recruited a number of former Tongan gang members who have turned their lives around.

“They will get the message out to these kids that gangs aren’t worth it in the long run,” she said.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

September 5, 2006 at 9:24 PM

Posted in Crime, San Mateo County

Memorial to mark anniversary of family’s grisly murder-suicide

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
August 16, 2006

One year after his close friend Tessa Richards’ murder, one thing still confuses 13-year-old Matthew Girouard: why her father killed her.

To this day, he longs to see her at school, misses her frequent jokes and wishes she were still rollerblading around the neighborhood.

“She was a good person,” Matthew said.

Friday marks the anniversary of the day that Anthony James Richards, 53, telephoned the San Mateo Police Department to report the murders of his daughters, Tessa, 13, Alexa, 17, and his wife, Nicole Marie Richards, 54, before turning a gun on himself. Tonight, friends and family will gather in memory of the Richards family’s lives.

“I wake up and they’re on my minds every day,” said Matthew’s mother, Carrie Girouard, a longtime friend and neighbor of the Richards clan. “It’s still so confusing — nobody will ever know why anybody would do that.”

After smothering his daughters, bludgeoning his wife and stacking their bodies in a backyard freezer behind their Maxine Avenue home, Anthony Richards wrote a note explaining that mounting financial pressures led him to kill his family, according to San Mateo police Capt. Mike Callagy, who led the investigation into their deaths. The event deeply shook neighbors, many of whom knew the Richards clan through church, youth sports and community groups like the Police Activities League.

“This was the ultimate tragic situation — a horrendous byproduct of domestic violence,” Callagy said. “The seemingly perfect family that seemed together on the outside was ripped apart on the inside.”

Their deaths have sent ripples through the community as friends and acquaintances struggled to make sense of the incident and move forward.

Officials at Bayside Middle School created a memorial garden in honor of Tessa, who would have entered eighth grade there this year. The Police Activities League collects donations in her memory that are used to help kids pursue her favorite sports — judo and deep-sea fishing, according to San Mateo police Sgt. Tim Sullivan.

Meanwhile, Alexa Richards’ MySpace page has turned into a virtual memorial, where friends continue to leave comments for the popular teen and swim-team member.

“It hurts alot, but I just try to remember all the good times,” one wrote.

Neighbors have also learned a hard lesson about isolation.

“It’s brought our little neighborhood closer. We’re always checking up on each other now,” Girouard said.

The Richards family memorial takes place tonight at 6:30 p.m. at 361 Belmont Ave. in Redwood City.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

August 16, 2006 at 10:23 PM

Posted in Crime, San Mateo

Kin offer Delgado support, Tongans sympathy

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
July 27, 2006

The family of an 18-year-old woman accused of causing the crash that killed two Tongan royals apologized to the Tongan community Thursday and said they pray daily to help that community recover from its losses.

“Our whole family is sorrowful … not a second goes by that we won’t think about what happened and how big of an effect it has had on all of us,” Edith Delgado’s older sister, Marivel Delgado, 19, saidat a press conference in San Jose.

Edith Delgado remains in prison on three charges of vehicular manslaughter associated with the deaths of Tongan Prince Tu’ipelehake, 56, Princess Kaimana, 46, and their driver, Vinisia Hefa, 36, of East Palo Alto.

Delgado’s attorney, Randy Moore, said he plans to appeal a judge’s July 13 decision to uphold Delgado’s $3 million bail, an amount Moore called “unconstitutional.”

By early next week, Moore plans to launch a Web site devoted to the case, at http://www.mooredelgadonews.com, with updates on the case.

Delgado was allegedly racing at speeds above 85 miles per hour on U.S. Highway 101 between Marsh and Willow roads when her Ford Mustang clipped the Tongans’ Ford Explorer, causing a fatal rollover. She faces up to eight years in prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Aaron Fitzgerald.

“She’s not doing so well,” Delgado’s brother, Juan, said Thursday. “I don’t think she is going to get over this.”

Her siblings painted her as a warm, kind, funny person with lots of friends who was excited about her job at Bank of America because her employers were going to help her finish high school and establish a career at the bank.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 20, according to Fitzgerald. CHP investigators are still hunting for the black Cadillac Escalade witnesses say was racing Delgado the night of the crash, according to Officer Ricky Franklin.

“People call in, but without a license plate number” the CHP

hasn’t had much luck tracking it down, Franklin said.

Meanwhile, many Peninsula Tongans traveled to the island nation for the funerals of Hefa and the prince and princess on July 21. The bodies of the royal couple were taken to the kingdom’s capital, Lapaha Village, where they were buried in the Langi Na Moala royal tomb. A 10-day period of mourning followed.

The royal family has said they forgive Delgado for her alleged role in the crash that killed the couple Tongans called “the people’s prince and princess.” But they support the legal process.

“Forgiveness does not close one’s eye to justice,” said Prince Tu’ipelehaka’s sister, Princess Siu’ilikutapu in an interview after the crash.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 27, 2006 at 10:10 PM

Summertime anti-gang efforts heating up

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
July 12, 2006

San Mateo County law-enforcement officials are out on the streets to prevent a repeat of last year’s spike in gang activity.

The summer of 2005 was a hot one for Peninsula gangs, sparking a wave of retaliatory violence that left several dead.

Last summer, the county’s gang task force — a consortium of 35 officers from 20 police agencies and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office — didn’t hit the streets until September. This year, it rolled out in May.

The group has already netted 90 arrests; nine real and replica guns; dealer-sized hauls of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine; and the identification of 46 new gang members, according to San Mateo County sheriff’s Capt. Don O’Keefe. As of 2005, there were more than 2,300 suspected or known gang members in the county, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Gallagher.

“We areout in front of this,” San Mateo police Capt. Mike Callaghy said.

Officers are seeing a gradual upswing in gang activity this summer, rather than a spike, according to county deputy probation officer Tim Gatto.

“We haven’t, thank God, had the critical incidents we had last year,” Redwood City police Capt. Chris Cesena said.

A grand jury report released last week said that a probation office program that placed officers in local schools has resulted in a dramatic reduction in violence.

City and county agencies contributed significant funding to anti-gang efforts last year. The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors set aside $500,000 to help the gang task force organize, and the Redwood City Council gave its police department $200,000 for additional officers last fall. But neither of those contributions has been renewed, according to Cesena and O’Keefe.

Meanwhile, officers are looking for more permanent solutions. In cities such as San Mateo and Redwood City, Police Activities Leagues offer summer programs to keep youths busy and out of trouble.

This summer, the probation department is working with the Tongan Interfaith Council to connect at-risk Pacific Islander teens with fun activities and mentorship arrangements. “We want kids to be drawn to these activities rather than ‘the dark side’ of gangs, drugs and violence,” county Chief Probation Officer Loren Buddress said.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 12, 2006 at 9:23 PM

Posted in Crime, San Mateo County

Police remain mum on fatal Redwood City shooting

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
July 10, 2006

Police released few details Sunday about a shooting that claimed the life of a Redwood City man.

Jeffrey Henderson, 49, was found shot dead shortly before midnight Thursday at the Broadway Towers apartments, located at 1107 Second Ave., according to a statement from Redwood City Police Department Sgt. Eric Stasiak. Initial reports pegged the death as a suicide, but police are now “definitely looking for a suspect,” Sgt. Alan Bailey said.

But officers are not releasing details about any possible suspects.

“The investigation has been a little on the hush side,” Bailey said.

When officers entered the apartment, they found Henderson dead on the floor from an apparent gunshot wound, according to Stasiak. No weapon was located at the scene. Coroners are still working to confirm the cause and manner of Henderson’s death, according to San Mateo County Deputy Coroner Jesse Busalacchi.

It isn’t clear whether Henderson was a resident at the building. His last known address is on McKinley Avenue, near Red Morton Park, according to voter records. Nobody answered the door at that address.

On-site property manager Melanie Medel said she was not contacted when the shooting occurred, adding that officials with the corporation that owns the building, Matteson Management, had told her almost nothing. Residents at Broadway Towers said Sunday they did not hear gunshots Thursday, nor were they aware anyone had died in the building.

Henderson’s death is the second shooting-related fatality in the Redwood City area in two weeks. Jamie Tejada, 22, was shot and killed at an apartment complex at 549 Hampshire Ave. on June 25. Broadway Towers is just two blocks from the Headquarters Bar, where 18-year-old Humberto Jesus Calderon Jr., 28-year-old Jesus Hernandez and 38-year-old Hemerenciano Mendoza were shot and killed April 16.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 10, 2006 at 9:59 PM