Thursday, April 30, 2009


*Over $500,000 in jewelry recovered along with application for "Real Housewives of Orange County"

SANTA ANA - A husband and wife accused of living a lavish lifestyle of high-end cars, vacations, and shopping which was financed by committing more than $38 million in premium insurance fraud were arrested yesterday. This is the largest known Workers' Compensation Insurance fraud case in California's history. This case was investigated by the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) and the Orange County Premium Fraud Task Force, a collaboration of investigators from the OCDA, Department of Insurance (DOI), California Employment Development Department (EDD), Franchise Tax Board, and Contractors State License Board.

Michael Vincent Petronella, also known as Michael Constantine, 50, and his wife Devon Lynn Kile, 44, both of Laguna Hills, are charged with 106 felony counts including conspiracy to commit a crime, grand theft, insurance fraud, filing a false tax return, willfully failing to file or filing fraudulent tax returns, misrepresenting facts to State Compensation Insurance Fund, making fraudulent statements, making false statements to discourage an injured worker from claiming benefits, misrepresenting facts to workers' compensation insurance company, and failing to file a return with the intent to evade tax. The defendants both face sentencing enhancements and allegations for aggravated white collar crime over $2.5 million, $500,000, and $100,000. If convicted on all counts, the defendants each face a sentence ranging from five years and four months up to 102 years in state prison. Petronella and Kile are being held on $10 million bail each and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond.

Following a 2-year investigation by the OCDA with assistance from several agencies (listed above), Petronella and Kile were arrested at approximately 7:00 a.m. yesterday, April 29, 2009, at their Laguna Hills home. A search of six locations including two residences, two businesses, a storage unit and a Certified Public Accountant's office turned up more than $500,000 in jewelry, $51,000 cash, and an application from Kile to be featured on the Bravo series Real Housewives of Orange County.

The couple, who live in Laguna Hills, own five properties in California and Texas, and multiple luxury vehicles including a Bentley, two Ferraris, and a Range Rover. Between 2005 and 2007, Petronella and Kile are accused of claiming less than $290,000 of income on their tax returns, but spending more than $2.1 million on their American Express credit card for personal items. They are accused of spending thousands of dollars on jewelry, shoes, clothes, and other personal items at stores including Balenciaga, Bloomingdale's, Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Gucci, Kitson, Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom, Yves Saint Laurent, and others.

"Controversial" Law Appears to Work

Guy Shoots, Woman Dies

MIAMI, Florida -- The DA does not plan to file charges against a Florida orange grove owner who fatally shot a 21-year-old woman, properly stating that he is protected under the state's "no retreat" law. Police said Nikki McCormick accompanied Phillips as he attempted to steal the SUV from a barn in an orange grove near Wahneta, Florida, before daylight Tuesday.

Grove owner Ladon "Jamie" Jones opened fire as the SUV approached him, according to an affidavit released by the Polk County Sheriff's Office. Phillips fled; McCormick was shot in the head and later died.

Authorities said Jones is protected by Florida's "no retreat" law, which gives him the right to use lethal force if he reasonably believes his life is in danger. The Media has clamored to describe the law as "controversial" or "extreme," but in fact it is neither. The law codifies the history of self-defense and is, in fact, a correct interpretation of the common law. What it also does is act as one of the few laws that takes power, previously held to be only the privilege of the government and not of the people, and returns it to the citizen. While the hand-wringers in the media and "progressive" states fret over a law that is so basic in its moral application, I do not. Two people tried to steal Mr. Jones car. When, in Mr. Jones' car, they drove straight at Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones shot and killed one of them. What is "controversial" about that?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Phil Spector Guilty

There you have it. Predictably, he was remanded into custody where he will remain for quite some time. The lesson here: always be the first trial lawyer, never the second. Re-trials stink for the defense. Just ask the Menendez brothers.

Verdict in Spector Case

Jury Reaches Verdict in Phil Spector Case

Phil Spector is on trial for the shooting death of 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson. His first trial ended with a deadlocked jury, although the majority was convinced he was guilty.

The jury in the murder trial has signaled it has reached a verdict. More as it develops. . . .

Friday, April 10, 2009

It's Official--Murder Charges

According to the OC DA, three counts of Murder and one Count of felony fleeing the scene of a collision will be filed against Andrew Thomas Gallo, the guy who was allegedly driving under the influence with a suspended license while on probation for a prior DUI and hit and killed Nick Adenhart and two others on April 9, 2009. He will be arraigned on Monday, April 13, 2009.

Having been in that court all morning, I can report it is absolutely abuzz about this case. Monday will be a madhouse. As usual, extraordinary cases make for bad law in the ordinary cases. Look for all sentences on DUIs to increase in the coming months.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tragedy Portends Pitchfork Justice--OC Style

Angels rookie Pitcher Nick Adenhart, 22, was a hard-throwing pitcher who, through hard work and dedication, rehabbed from arm surgery to make it to the Bigs. Tragically, he and two others were killed when, according to Fullerton Cops, a minivan ran a red light at a Fullerton intersection and broadsided the small Mitsubishi sports car the budding baseball star was riding in. The driver of the minivan, Andrew Thomas Gallo, 22, of Riverside, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, hit and run and manslaughter. Murder charges will likely follow.

Gallo was driving on a suspended license after a previous drunken-driving conviction, Hamilton said. Court records from Orange and Riverside counties show that a man named Andrew Gallo was convicted of driving without a valid license, burglary and possession of a controlled substance, among other charges, in 2004 and 2005.

It will take a Herculean effort by Gallo's lawyer (likely the Public Defender) to simply ensure that he gets a fair trial. He will likely not be offered any plea bargain by the OC DA and most judges will be looking to give him the maximum possible sentence, due to the media attention and public outcry. Pitchfork Justice? Grab your torch, this is Orange County.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

OC Sheriff Arrested, In Custody in Riverside

An Orange County Sheriff's deputy is locked up today on suspicion of raping a child under age 14, Riverside County Sheriff's and jail officials said.

Deputy Wilbert Dale Garcia, 49, was arrested about 4 p.m. Friday during a traffic stop in Murrieta, and remains locked up today.

"He was arrested following an investigation," said Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Matt Diaz in a phone interview. "He was a 19-year veteran of law enforcement."

Garcia was held today on three offenses — one count of continual sexual abuse of a child and two counts of aggravated child sexual assault, a jailer said in a phone interview.

“The Wildomar Police Department is not releasing the protected identity of the victim in this investigation,” Diaz said in a statement. He said deputies “are reviewing evidence in this continuing investigation to determine if other victims exist.”

Orange County Sheriff's personnel were on hand to take Garcia into custody as his car was stopped at the corner of Washington Avenue at Nutmeg Street in Murrieta.

Garcia remained locked up today on $250,000 bail, sheriff's and jail officials said. Garcia has been placed on administrative leave and the OC Sherriff's is beginning its own personnel investigation.

"It's disturbing when anyone gets arrested for the crimes alleged," said Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. "It's especially disturbing when it's a law enforcement officer."
Amormino said Garcia had been stationed as a patrol deputy in South County and has spent his 19 years in law enforcement as an Orange County deputy.