PLANADA DRUG STORE BURGLARY, CHASE ENDS IN SACRAMENTO

On May 30, 2018 at about 2:21 am, Deputy Chris Chilton with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office received a call to the San Joaquin Drug Store in Planada regarding a burglar alarm going off. Deputy Chilton arrived a short time later and saw a silver BMW on Sutter Ave driving slowly near the drugstore.

Two subjects were seen running on Sutter Ave near the vehicle and were picked up shortly after spotting Deputy Chilton’s patrol vehicle. Deputy Chilton attempted to stop the vehicle near the Valero gas station and the BMW failed to stop and a vehicle pursuit was initiated.

Deputies pursued the vehicle from Planada to Merced onto Highway 140 with speeds reaching 90 MPH. Deputies followed the vehicle onto north bound Hwy 99 and continued the pursuit until the California Highway Patrol (CHP) took it over in Livingston at Hammett Ave.

Deputies dropped out of the pursuit and returned to San Joaquin Drug Store to continue the investigation. Deputies learned the business had been burglarized and several opiate pharmaceuticals were taken. Deputies located a garbage can full of medication in the alleyway of Bigler and Sutter Ave. Deputies recovered more pharmaceutical medication in the field behind the store on Bigler Ave which made up most of what was stolen according to the owner of the store. A large yellow crowbar and one of the suspect’s phones was found inside the business.

Sacramento CHP later advised they were able to get the BMW stopped at Hwy 99 and Mingo Road in Sacramento. CHP used spike strips on a few different occasions to disable the vehicle and arrested four (4) occupants. The subjects arrested were a female driver indentified as 23-year-old Christina Gamez from Mendota, 21-year-old Andrion Navarrete Mendoza from Fresno, and 19-year-old Miguel Valencia from Fresno.

The fourth subject was a 17-year-old Hispanic male juvenile from Fresno. All subjects have been arrested and booked into the Merced county jail and juvenile correctional center.

NAMES OF MERCED HEAD-ON CRASH RELEASED

On May 29th,2018, at approximately 9:34a.m, Merced communication Center was advised of a head-on collision in the area of Yosemite Avenue, East of Kibby Road. CHP further advised a vehicle was overturned, one party had been ejected, and one subject was possibly deceased, officers from the California Highway Patrol Merced area responded to the scene and arrived at approximately 9:40a.m.

During the course of the investigation it was determined that the 1996 Nissan was traveling westbound on Yosemite Avenue. A male adult was a passenger on the Nissan. The identity of this passenger is currently unknown and listed as a “John Doe” A 2000 Honda was traveling eastbound on Yosemite Avenue. The driver identified as 46-year-old Brian Martin and right front passenger of the Honda was verbally identified as Michelle Crowder. Ms. Crowder’s city of residence is unknown and she is believed to be approximately 60 Years of age.

While traveling westbound on Yosemite Avenue the driver of the Nissan entered the eastbound lane and attempted to pass a commercial vehicle. For unknown reason, the driver of the Nissan failed to observe the close proximity of the Honda, which was traveling on the eastbound traffic lane. According to witness statement, the driver of the Nissan did not take any evasive action or otherwise attempt to avoid the Honda. As a result, the Nissan struck the Honda head on, resulting in the Honda traveling in a southerly direction off the south shoulder of Yosemite Avenue. The Nissan continued to overturn in a northwesterly and came to rest on the north shoulder of Yosemite Avenue.

Both Drivers were pronounced deceased at the scene. John Doe the passenger of the Nissan was transported to Mercy Community Hospital where he was pronounced deceased. Ms. Crowder, who sustained major injuries was transported by air to Memorial Hospital in Modesto, and John Harris 46-year-old driver of the Nissan according to comments from family on previous post.

The collision is under investigation and it is unknown if alcohol/drugs is a factor in this collision.

UPDATE ON FATAL HEAD-ON CRASH IN MERCED

On Tuesday May 29th, 2018, At around 9:34A.M, CHP responded to a head-on crash on Yosemite Avenue near Kibby road.

The driver of a Nissan Sentra was heading west on Yosemite Avenue the driver was trying to pass a big tractor-trailer and another car when he entered the eastbound lane of traffic and crashed head-on into a Honda sedan.

Both drivers from the involved vehicles were pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in the Nissan was rushed to an area hospital but died a short time later. The driver of the Nissan was about 40-years-old out from Atwater according to CHP officer Zungia, the driver of the Honda was said to be a 46-year-old man out of Merced.

The 70-year-old woman was flown to a trauma center with major injuries. The names are being withheld until families have been notified by law enforcement. Alcohol or drugs are not believed to be involved in this accident at this time. Stay tuned for further information once CHP releases names.

ABOUT 6,000 PLANTS, 129 POUNDS OF PRODUCT TAKEN BY SHERIFF’S

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Team was busy this weekend serving five (5) search warrants throughout the county. During the search warrants, the Marijuana Enforcement Team eradicated 5903 marijuana plants, destroyed 129 pounds of finished product, and seized four (4) guns.

Sheriff Vern Warnke wants to remind everyone that the Merced County Sheriff’s Office will be enforcing the cultivation laws regarding marijuana that the county has put in place starting in 2018. All outdoor marijuana grows are illegal and will be dealt with immediately and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Additionally, you are only allowed to grow 6 plants indoors. If you have questions about the laws regarding cultivation and possession of marijuana, please call the Merced County Sheriff’s Office 209-385-7445.

The new County Cannabis Ordinance details are as follows:
Personal Cultivation Restrictions reasonably regulated (Ord. 9.29.060):
**Personal use cannabis plants limited from twelve (12) to six (6)
**Cultivation can occur in either 1) within a single private residence; or 2) inside a fully enclosed and secure structure located upon the grounds of a private residence. Outdoor cultivation of any type, on any parcel is prohibited.
**Cultivation must comply with Building and Construction Code, Title 16.
**Cultivation cannot be conducted in a manner that constitutes a public nuisance.
**Enforcement – penalty/consequences for noncompliance unchanged from previous Medical Marijuana Cultivation ordinance
**Administrative Penalties for unlawful cannabis cultivation(Ordinance 9.29.083)
**All violations deemed a misdemeanor; Sheriff has ability to abate unlawful cannabis cultivation (Ord. 9.29.200)

ARE YOU A SELENA FAN? TRIBUTE TO BE HELD HERE IN MERCED

On Sun, 6/10, Selena – The Ultimate Tribute by Karla Perez will be closing out the FREE Table Mountain Casino Concert Series presented by Coors Light on the Outdoor Theatre Stage beginning at 7:30 p.m. Relive the great Selena Quintanilla with the live Selena – The Ultimate Tribute show by the talented Karla Perez.

Come out to the 2018 @Merced County Fair for this amazing performance to finish off this year’s concert series!

3,500 PLANTS AND 150 POUNDS OF DRIED MARIJUANA CONFISCATED

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office took down another illegal marijuana grow in the Ballico area of Merced County. On May 18, 2018, Deputies Ibarra and Bucio along with the rest of the Marijuana Enforcement Team served a search warrant in the 8900 block of East Avenue in Ballico.

During the service of the search warrant, Deputy Kent utilized the sheriff office UAV for security purposes and watched 11 individuals run from the property as deputies arrived. Two subjects were detained during the investigation and later arrested for the violations of H&S 11358 and MMC 9.29.060.

Deputies confiscated more than 150 pounds of dried and processed marijuana and eradicated 3,496 plants from two large green houses.

Sheriff Vern Warnke wants to remind everyone that the Merced County Sheriff’s Office will be enforcing the cultivation laws regarding marijuana that the county has put in place starting in 2018. All outdoor marijuana grows are illegal and will be dealt with immediately and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Additionally, you are only allowed to grow 6 plants indoors. If you have questions about the laws regarding cultivation and possession of marijuana, please call the Merced County Sheriff’s Office 209-385-7445. The new County Cannabis Ordinance details are as follows:

Personal Cultivation Restrictions reasonably regulated (Ord. 9.29.060):
• Personal use cannabis plants limited from twelve (12) to six (6)
• Cultivation can occur in either 1) within a single private residence; or 2) inside a fully enclosed and secure structure located upon the grounds of a private residence. Outdoor cultivation of any type, on any parcel is prohibited.
• Cultivation must comply with Building and Construction Code, Title 16.
• Cultivation cannot be conducted in a manner that constitutes a public nuisance.

Enforcement – penalty/consequences for noncompliance unchanged from previous Medical Marijuana Cultivation ordinance
• Administrative Penalties for unlawful cannabis cultivation(Ordinance 9.29.083)
• All violations deemed a misdemeanor; Sheriff has ability to abate unlawful cannabis cultivation (Ord. 9.29.200)

HE TRIED KILLING HIS 2-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER IN MERCED

Gerardo Ruiz-Lopez, 42, of Merced, was convicted of attempted murder and felony child abuse, by a Merced County jury on Wednesday afternoon, after he attempted to kill his two-year-old daughter in 2016, Merced County District Attorney Larry D. Morse II announced. Ruiz-Lopez began sending his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his daughter disturbing texts messages, followed by phone calls on July 10, 2016, while he had custody of their daughter for the weekend.

Due to the nature of the text messages and calls, the mother called the Merced Police Department to do a welfare check on Ruiz-Lopez and their daughter. Once the police arrived at Ruiz-Lopez’s home and could not get anyone to answer the door, they forced entry into the home because they feared the
child may be in danger. During their search of the home, they found Ruiz-Lopez and his daughter unresponsive and shut in the walk-in closet upstairs. Inside of the closet with them, were two five-gallon propane tanks that were
both freely releasing propane gas due to the safety lines being purposely cut.

Also in the closet were toys, a tablet and pillows. The officers immediately picked up the victim’s limp body and took her outside, where she received treatment and ultimately survived. When officers spoke to Ruiz-Lopez, he claimed that he did not remember sending the texts,
the calls, or taking the propane into the closet, however, the jury did not find that to be true. Ruiz-Lopez also attempted to plead insanity, and the jury found him not legally insane.

“I want to thank the police officer who acted quickly to save the child’s life,” said Deputy District Attorney Caleb Hegland who prosecuted the case. “I would also like to thank the jurors who gave their time and attention to this trial. The defendant is now facing a life sentence and will hopefully never have the chance to harm a child again,” he added. Ruiz-Lopez will be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 3 of the Merced County Superior Court and faces 7 years-life.

MAN ARRESTED FOR THROWING PUPPIES AGAINST WALL, WAS RELEASED FROM JAIL TODAY

Darryl Turner, was released from custody today, May 16, 2018, by Judge Shaver, over the strenuous objections of Deputy District Attorney Donna Bakich. Darryl Turner is charged with one felony count of cruelty to an animal, a misdemeanor vandalism and resisting arrest.

Turner was arrested May 7, 2018 after his mother called 911. According to his sister, Turner picked up a cage containing three German Sheppard puppies and threw the cage against the wall. The witness said the puppies cried out in pain as they hit the wall and fell to the floor.

Turner then grabbed his sister’s grown male German Sheppard by the collar and lifted it into the air, strangling it. She tried to take the dog away from him but he lifted it even further in the air. She reported she could hear the dog gasping for air and gurgling. When Turner heard his mother calling 911, he dropped the dog and ran out the door.

Turner was found by responding Deputies some distance from the house. When they tried to arrest him he resisted by trying to fight them. One Deputy was forced to use his Taser but the Taser had no effect. Deputies were finally able to control him.

In addition to felony cruelty to animals, Turner is also charged with a serious or violent prior conviction, Terrorist threats, from 2012. As a result, he is facing six years in prison if convicted. “Turner should have never been released from custody by the court. He is violent and society is not safe while he is out of custody. Anyone who is comfortable violently abusing animals is a serious threat”, according the Chief Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt.

HARBOR FREIGHT RECALLS CHAINSAWS, AFTER REPORTED INJURIES

Name of product:

Portland, One Stop Gardens, and Chicago Electric 14 inch electric chainsaws

Hazard:

The power switch can malfunction and allow the chainsaw to continue operating after the operator moves the switch to the “off” position, posing a serious injury hazard to the operator.

Remedy:

Replace

Recall date:

May 14, 2018

Units:

About 1,020,000

Consumer Contact:

Harbor Freight Tools at 800-444-3353 Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT, email at recall@harborfreight.com or online at www.harborfreight.comand click on “Recall Safety Information” on the bottom of the homepage for more information.

Recall Details

Description:

This recall involves two models of 14 inch chainsaws sold under three different brand names. The Portland and One Stop Gardens brand chainsaws have a green and black color scheme and  “Portland” printed on the blades. The Chicago Electric brand chainsaw has a red and black color scheme and “Chicago Electric” printed on the chainsaw handle. All recalled chainsaws were sold with a black blade guard. The model number is printed on a label on the bottom of the chainsaw.

Brand Model Number Color
Portland 67255 or 61592 Green and black
One Stop Gardens 67255 or 61592 Green and black
Chicago Electric 67255 or 61592 Red and black

 

Remedy:

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chainsaws and return the product to their local Harbor Freight Tools store for a free replacement chainsaw. Replacement units will be available starting May 21, 2018.

Incidents/Injuries:

Harbor Freight Tools has received 15 reports of chainsaws continuing to operate after being turned off by the operator, resulting in three laceration injuries including one serious injury to the arm requiring stitches.

Sold At:

Harbor Freight Tools stores nationwide and online at www.harborfreight.com from May 2009 through February 2018 for about $50.

Importer(s):

Harbor Freight Tools, of Camarillo, Calif.

Manufactured In:

China

Recall number:

18-155

13 MERCED COUNTY RESIDENTS ARRESTED, ON INSURANCE FRAUD

Thirteen people were arrested Friday following a lengthy investigation by the Merced County District Attorney’s office into an automobile insurance fraud ring involving 10 different insurance companies that paid out more than $430,000 in bogus claims, District Attorney Larry D. Morse II announced.

Last month, a Merced County Grand Jury indicted 21 people for their role in orchestrating staged auto accidents and vandalism and then submitting bogus claims. The scheme began in September of 2011 and continued through June 2016 during which time there were 20 fraudulent claims submitted to insurance companies for payment, Morse said.

The insurance fraud ring was brought to light in January 2016 when an investigator with the Special Investigation Unit of Allstate Insurance contacted Merced County District Attorney Investigator Sheri Carpenter regarding a claim that she believed was a staged accident. Carpenter started her investigation by running the names through an insurance database provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau which linked the claim to 19 other similar claims.

During the investigation it was discovered that some of the same vehicles were used for multiple claims, with the same damage being reported. The main method of theft, according to Carpenter, came from the alteration of hospital bills that were submitted by the suspects to the insurance companies for which they were paid directly. Carpenter found that many of the same bills were used in multiple claims with the names and dates of service being altered to reflect a new claim date. In some cases, she noted, the totals on the hospital bills were altered to reflect a larger amount so that the payouts to the suspects would be higher.

“Not only is insurance fraud a crime, it costs Merced County residents substantially more in premiums and insurance costs every year ,” Morse said. He praised the work done by Carpenter in “unraveling this sophisticated and far-reaching conspiracy to defraud insurance companies and consumers. Investigator Carpenter worked this complex case relentlessly for the last two years in addition to her other work and did an incredible job of putting all the pieces together. It was a first-rate effort,” Morse said.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), auto related insurance fraud, particularly staged accidents, are a significant component of the $30 to $32 billion lost to insurance fraud each year.

“Unfortunately, many individuals view insurance companies as their personal piggy banks and they engage in fraudulent behavior without any concern for the economic harm they cause all consumers,” said Frank Scafidi, public affairs director for the NICB. “NICB commends District Attorney Morse and the participating law enforcement agencies for their diligence and extensive investigative efforts in this case.” Joanna Tucker, 29, from Livingston, was described by Carpenter as the “ringleader” of the scam and directly involved in 19 of the 20 claims.

Deputy District Attorneys Walter Wall and Scott Drexel presented the case over several days to a Merced County Grand Jury last month which returned with 19 felony counts of insurance fraud and 17 felony counts of grand theft against Tucker. The grand jury also handed down indictments of 20 other defendants on charges of insurance fraud and grand theft.

Tucker’s boyfriend, Johnathan Huerta, 30, also of Livingston, was indicted on 10 felony counts of insurance fraud and nine counts of grand theft.

Investigators from the District Attorneys office, with assistance from Merced Sheriffs Department, Merced Police Department, Merced County Probation, Livingston Police Department, Atwater Police Department, State Parole and the Merced Area Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Team (MAGNET), arrested Tucker, Huerta and 11 other defendants in a coordinated sweep on Friday.

Tucker was being held on $500,000 bail. Huerta’s bail was set at $100,000, three defendants were already in custody outside Merced County on unrelated charges.

The following were taken into custody,Rhonda Valencia 45, Diana Tucker 26, and Freddy Barajas 29 all of Livingston; Jessica Valencia 27, Alejandro Cervantes 31, Patricia Diaz 31 and Angelina Galvan 35 all of Atwater; Britney Groves 29, Charlece Scott 27, and Monique Eguiluz 28 all of Merced.

The DA also issued warrants on the following individuals, Maria Hernandez, 59, Celina Garza-Hernandez, 27 and Sarai Bernal, 27 all of Merced; Rico Tucker, 28, Carlos Tucker, 26, Heena Birly, 25, and Jessica Barajas, 30 all of San Jose and Jairo Barajas, 29 of Livingston.