Benjamin Diaz

Thieves loot $40,000 of Luis Vuitton inventory from Neiman Marcus

Mar 8, 2013

CANOGA PARK  – Two men burglarized the Neiman Marcus store at the Westfield Topanga Shopping Mall in Canoga Park before dawn Thursday, making off with Luis Vuitton handbags and scarves with an estimated value of $40,000, police said.

Officers sent to the mall shortly before 5 a.m. in response to an alarm found a store window had been broken, said Los Angeles police Officer Sara Faden of the Media Relations office.

The suspects were seen getting into a silver four-door car, police said.

The men were described as being 20 to 40 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet tall and weighing about 180 pounds. One suspect wore a blue hoodie, gray jacket, black pants, white shoes and a mask and the other wore a gray hoodie, blue pants and black shoes, police said.

Anyone with information about the crime was urged to call detectives at the LAPD’s Topanga Station at (818) 756-4820.

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Lawsuit alleges Frank Ocean took credit, Grammy ‘Under false pretenses’

Mar 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A producer who claims to have collaborated with Frank Ocean on his Grammy Award-winning debut album sued the singer, his creative partner and record label today in Los Angeles, alleging they cheated him out of performance and production credits.

In the complaint, filed in Los Angeles federal court, producer- songwriter Micah Otano alleges that Malay — Ocean’s chief creative partner on “Channel Orange” — engaged in a “fraudulent scheme to deprive Otano of credit for his production and performance work” on the track “Lost.”

The album won the Grammy for best urban contemporary album last month, an award Malay shared in.

Attempts to reach Ocean’s management were unsuccessful after regular business hours.

According to the suit, which cites breach of contract, fraud, copyright infringement and other allegations, Otano co-created the song upon which “Lost” was based.

Otano also alleges he solely performed the lead synthesizer parts on “DayLight,” as well as piano and other parts, and collaborated with Malay on the drum programming — and all those performances were incorporated into the finished track.

“There is arguably no more shameful act — in either the music world or the non-music world — than to take credit for someone else’s hard work and talent, and then accept an award for that work under false pretenses,” according to the lawsuit, which also names UMG Recordings and Island/Def Jam.

Otano seeks general and punitive damages, profits and future royalties from sales of the album, and co-production credits on the song.

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L.A. special ed teacher attacked in hallway; Mom, daughters arrested

Mar 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A woman and her two daughters could face assault and battery charges for allegedly fighting with a teacher at John Muir Middle School.

The alleged attack on the campus at 5929 S. Vermont Ave. occurred about 9 a.m. Wednesday in a hallway, Monica Carazo of the Los Angeles Unified School District said.

Kiki Fowler, 33, and one of her daughters were arrested on suspicion of felony battery on school grounds with injury, Carazo said. Her other daughter was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, Carazo said.

The names of the daughters were withheld because they are juveniles. One is a student at  John Muir, Carazo said.

Fowler was being held on $20,000 bail, according to the sheriff’s department.

The three went to the school about 9 a.m. Wednesday, checked in at the office, then went to the special-education teacher’s classroom, where they attacked her in the hallway, Carazo said.

What motivated the fight was not disclosed. It was unclear what kind of injuries the teacher may have suffered, but Carazo said she sought treatment yesterday and did not come to work today. Her name was withheld.

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LAX modernizes international terminal; Gates to cut boarding times

Mar 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – An A-380 jumbo jet pulled into one of Los Angeles International Airport’s newest, state-of-the-art gates today as airport and airline officials today unveiled the north concourse and three of its newest gates at the soon-to-be expanded Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Singapore Airlines executives were on hand as the jumbo jet arrived at Gate 134 with the help of a new laser-guided docking system that automatically directs the airplane into position.

Two of the gates unveiled today are capable of receiving Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental and Airbus A-380 super jumbo jets. A total of nine of the 18 gates planned for the newly expanded international wing of LAX will accommodate these types of jets.

The modernized gates also feature three automated boarding bridges that will cut down on the time it takes passengers to get on and off of airplanes, and are outfitted with wireless Internet connection, as well as electrical and USB outlets that will allow passengers to charge electronic devices such as cellphones and laptops.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who joined airport officials today said LAX will soon be able to show the world Los Angeles at its best.

“We’re investing in LAX because it isn’t just a travel hub. It’s the gateway to the Pacific Rim and a central driver of our regional economy,” he said.

“With these modernizations at the New Tom Bradley International Terminal, LAX will showcase our city’s innovative spirit and ensure we remain competitive in the global market for years to come.”

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9th Circuit Appeals Court overturns dismissal of disabilities lawsuit linked to Chase bank in El Monte

Mar 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A federal appeals court ruled today that a Los Angeles judge erred when he dismissed a disability rights lawsuit brought against an El Monte bank by a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair for mobility.

Plaintiff Ricardo Murillo alleged that the Chase bank branch violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and state law by not providing “full and equal” access to teller windows for those using wheelchairs when he tried to cash a check there in March 2011.

In granting Chase’s dismissal motion, U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real found that Murillo had not stated a claim for relief under the ADA because the complaint, which was filed in July 2011, did not allege that he was unable to cash the check or was an account holder at Chase.

A representative for Chase Bank said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

According to the ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Real was mistaken when he dismissed the claim.

The lawsuit “alleged that Murillo personally encountered the alleged ADA violation — a lack of wheelchair-accessible teller stations — while attempting to cash a check at the Chase branch,” according to the appeals panel.

“The complaint also connected the alleged violation to Murillo’s disability, quadriplegia,” the unanimous decision states. “This suffices to state a claim for relief under the ADA.”

The panel vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded the case back to Real for further proceedings.

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Garcetti, Greuel clear primary to compete in May runoff election

Mar 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel, who led the field of mayoral candidates in fundraising, were preparing today for a May 21 runoff in the race to become the city’s next chief executive.

The results of Tuesday’s primary election went pretty much as expected, with Garcetti and Greuel jumping to early leads in the eight-candidate race and never relenting, but both falling short of the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.

Councilwoman Jan Perry was a distant third in the race, followed by businessman Kevin James.

Garcetti and Greuel easily outpaced their competitors in primary election fundraising, with each collecting more than $4 million.

James and ex-tech executive Emanuel Pleitez rounded out the list of the more widely featured candidates; while Yehuda “YJ” Draiman, Norton Sandler and perennial candidate Addie M. Miller were also vying for the job. Greuel, Garcetti and Perry formed a trifecta of sitting elected officials who touted their experience in the public sector while facing two self-described political outsiders in James and Pleitez.

James was the sole Republican in the non-partisan race and would have been the first openly gay mayor if elected. Greuel would be the city’s first female mayor.

“You know, ladies and gentlemen, we are just 11 weeks from electing a mayor for all of Los Angeles so no part of our city is left behind,” Greuel told supporters last night in downtown Los Angeles. “And yes, we’re 11 weeks from making history, electing the first woman mayor, and of course, first mom for the mayor of the greatest city …

“Los Angeles deserves tough and strong leadership, a leader tough enough to weed out waste, fraud and abuse at City Hall and bring our fiscal house in order. I am that leader.”

At his election-night party in Hollywood, Garcetti rallied his supporters by echoing a theme of his campaign — job creation and development in his 13th District. He also touted his “record of real pension reform, of responsible budget cutting, of getting ourselves through tough times so that we could protect core services that people depend on in our neighborhoods.”

“It’s why this district is ranked number one by the Chamber of Commerce in job growth in the midst of a recession,” he said. “I’d like to say we accomplished this because of great leadership, but we didn’t, at least not in the singular sense. We did it because leadership, we understood, doesn’t just exist up here at a podium. But it’s out there on the streets. It’s every block and every street and every neighborhood in this city that is waiting to be unleashed. The creativity and the genius that is Los Angeles, we will bring back, and that’s what I’m going to do as the next mayor of Los Angeles.”

The city’s looming $200 million-plus budget deficit in the upcoming year is arguably the most pressing issue on tap for L.A.’s next chief executive. Along with ballooning pension costs, the future mayor will be faced with a shortage of funds that could jeopardize critical services in years to come.

During the campaign, Greuel, a former councilwoman, boasted experience in both the public and private sphere, having spent five years as an executive at animation company DreamWorks.

She was noted for declaring, with some dispute from opponents, that as city controller she dug up $160 million in “waste, fraud and abuse.” She was also fond of plugging her time as a deputy mayor in Tom Bradley’s administration.

Greuel took hits from opponents over her financial backing by unions such as the IBEW Local 18, which represents Department of Water and Power workers, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the police union. A recent tally put union contributions to a super PAC supporting Greuel’s campaign at $2.5 million.

Later today, the Service Employees International Union will announce its endorsement of Greuel in the runoff election.

Meanwhile, a promise by Greuel to increase police ranks by 2,000 officers was slammed by her opponents as unreasonable, if not suspect, given the city’s budget and the types of groups funding her campaign.

Greuel, 51, tried to counter the perception she would bow to union pressure by promising not to raise salaries for DWP workers if the city still faces a deficit next year.

“We are going to cross the finish line with Wendy,” city Police Commissioner John Mack told the crowd at Greuel’s election-night party.

He added that Greuel was “deeply committed to making sure our mosaic of a city will be at the table.”

Garcetti, a native of Silver Lake, ran a campaign that sporadically took advantage of his show biz connections, whether it was getting an endorsement from comedian Will Ferrell or accompanying electronic music D.J. Moby on the keyboard at a fundraiser.

Garcetti comes with an Ivy League resume that includes undergraduate and graduate degrees from Columbia University and a year studying as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, and later the London School of Economics. He is also noted for having traveled to 80 countries, including on charity and relief missions.

Garcetti, 42, has had to counter claims that he helped contribute to the budget deficit by voting to raise salaries for public safety and other city employees.

Some observers have blamed an early lack of tough budget-related decisions on then-Council President Garcetti and his penchant for consensus- building, which is normally considered an attribute but can also be ammunition for opponents equating it to an unwillingness to stand-up to powerful entities like city employee unions.

During the campaign, Garcetti touted his role in the redevelopment of once-blighted areas of Hollywood, as well as his record on environmentally friendly policy-making — such as solar-energy initiatives — and his endorsement by the Sierra Club.

As the primary election neared, however, Pleitez filed ethics complaints alleging Garcetti held shares in billboard company Clear Channel and The Home Depot while voting on council items involving both. Garcetti has denied any conflict of interest.

Greuel criticized the development of Hollywood, saying it brought traffic and air pollution to the area. A petition was also circulated urging Garcetti to withdraw shares he has in oil company Venoco.

Unlike Greuel, Garcetti swore off independent contributions throughout much of his campaign, and as a result trailed in spending power. A PAC supporting Garcetti was recently formed, not for the primary election, but for the May 21 general election.

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L.A. city attorney seeks minimum 90-day locked rehab in Lindsay Lohan driving case

Mar 1, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A hearing is set today in the case of troubled actress Lindsay Lohan, who is awaiting trial later this month on three misdemeanor counts stemming from a car crash last June.

Lohan’s new attorney, Mark Jay Heller, has said he expects Lohan to attend the hearing, although she is not required to.

The 26-year-old actress was charged Nov. 29 by the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office with one misdemeanor count each of willfully resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer, providing false information to an officer, and reckless driving. The misdemeanors each carry potential jail terms ranging from three months to a year.

Lohan is accused of lying to the police by telling Santa Monica officers she was not driving a Porsche that rear-ended a truck on Pacific Coast Highway June 8 as she headed for work on the TV film “Liz & Dick.”

Lohan was already on probation in connection with her no contest plea in May 2011 to a misdemeanor grand theft charge involving a necklace she took from a Venice jewelry store, and now stands accused by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office of violating the terms of her probation.

There have been conflicting reports about whether there was a settlement in the works with Lohan, who is set to go on trial March 18.

“We’ll come together on Friday and see where we are,” Heller said earlier this week.

While Santa Monica city prosecutor Terry White and Heller have discussed a possible plea deal, the L.A. city attorney, won’t accept any deal of less than 90 days in a locked rehab center, a source familiar with the prosecution told the Los Angeles Times.

In the event Santa Monica’s prosecutor agrees to a lesser sentence, L.A. prosecutors will probably object and ask that Lohan be sentenced to 90 days for violating the terms of her probation, the source said.

In a letter to White and Spencer Hart of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, Lohan’s attorney wrote last month that his client had asked him to “facilitate an in-person meeting with both of you, not to discuss the merits of her defense or the details of her case, but rather for Lindsay to introduce herself to both of you and express her sincerest desire to share her thoughts and help in the process of our determining what the best course would be for her future and to personally affirm her commitment and dedication to fix the problems.”

In a court document filed last week, Lohan’s attorney contended that the actress was not advised of her Miranda rights and was questioned at Santa Monica Hospital after she invoked her right to have an attorney present following the crash.

In his motion, Heller asks that any statements from Lohan or photographs of her be suppressed and seeks the dismissal of two of the charges — willfully resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer and giving false information to a police officer — “on the basis that the Santa Monica Police Department officer was not acting or engaged in the lawful performance of his duties, and was acting unlawfully.”

The defense lawyer also asked in his motion for a continuance in the case to allow him time to get medical records he has requested.

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Ex-president of school-workers association arrested for embezzlement

Mar 1, 2013

HUNTINGTON PARK  – Detectives today arrested a Huntington Park man for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from the California Schools Employment Association’s general fund while serving as the organization’s president from 2005-2012, authorities said.

Rodolfo Sanchez, 47, was taken into custody at his home this morning and was booked on suspicion of grand theft embezzlement, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported. Bail was set at $100,000.

The CSEA represents custodians and other non-teaching staff employed by the Lennox School District. The alleged theft was uncovered by a routine audit, officials said.

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Washington DEA, LAPD arrest 41 in 2-state Oxycontin drug ring

Mar 1, 2013

LOS ANGELES – Dozens of people were arrested Thursday in the Los Angeles area and in Washington state for their alleged role in a drug ring peddling the pain medication  Oxycontin, authorities said.

“Members of this ring regularly circulate between Los Angeles and Spokane to fuel their customers’ insatiable appetite and pharmaceutical addiction,” said Matthew G. Barnes of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Seattle office.

In the Los Angeles area, authorities arrested 28 people on federal charges, two of whom were already in custody on state charges. In Washington state, 12 people were arrested on federal charges in Spokane, and one was arrested in Mountlake Terrace.

Also, three people were arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department on state arrest warrants in a “separate but related investigation,” officials said.

The names of the suspects were not immediately released.

“Today’s operation is another fine example of the outstanding partnerships that have been forged between agencies who are committed to ridding our communities of violent organized criminals who prey on our city,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. The enforcement action stemmed from a 32-count federal indictment handed down in the Eastern District of Washington in January. The indictment charges numerous people with criminal violations relating to the distribution, possession and attempted possession of oxycodone hydrochloride in violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act.

Some of the people named in the indictment face potential mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years in prison, officials said. Also, federal authorities have filed a notice of criminal forfeiture seeking a money judgment of $20 million, which is alleged to represent the amount of proceeds obtained as a result of the charged controlled substances offenses.

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‘Hobbit’ trilogy release dates stretch fans’ wait time

Mar 1, 2013

BURBANK – “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” the final film in Peter Jackson’s trilogy adaptation based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic book, will be released on Dec. 17, 2014, instead of its previous scheduled summer slot, Warner Bros. Pictures announced today.

The second film in “The Hobbit” trilogy, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” will be released at the end of this year — on Dec. 13.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was released during the 2012 holiday season and went on to become a billion-dollar global blockbuster. The three films in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy also had holiday releases.

“We’re excited to complete the trilogy the same way we started it, as a holiday treat for moviegoers everywhere,” said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.’ president of Domestic Distribution.   Warner Bros. has handled worldwide theatrical distribution of all three films in the trilogy, which are productions of New Line Cinema and Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures.   The three films tell a continuous story set in Middle-earth 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team also brought to the big screen.

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