Ex- Clerk Accused of Fixing Cases for Bribes

     SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) — Federal prosecutors indicted a former Orange County Superior Court clerk accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to resolve dozens of criminal and traffic cases without judges’ approval.
     A 38-count grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday morning alleges that former clerk Jose Lopez, 36, of Anaheim, “fixed” criminal cases and traffic tickets.
     Lopez allegedly charged as much as $8,000 to make charges go away. The clerk used the money to open a restaurant in Garden Grove, fund vacations abroad and take trips to Las Vegas, prosecutors claim.
     Of 1,034 cases that Lopez made go away, 69 were misdemeanor drunk-driving cases, 805 were traffic-related infraction cases and 160 were other misdemeanor cases, according to the indictment.
     Lopez, who worked as a clerk from 2008 to 2015, allegedly worked with 11 other middlemen to solicit bribes at car and truck clubs and car dealerships in Orange County.
     Ten of the conspirators are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana.
     Another defendant, Luis Alberto Flores Guillen aka “Bills,” 26, of Santa Ana, will likely surrender Wednesday, according to prosecutors.
     Augustin Sanchez Jr., 32, of Santa Ana, is reportedly out of the state. He will be taken into custody in the “near future,” the Central California U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
     In a prepared statement, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said Lopez and his co-defendants had “compromised the entire justice system in Orange County.”
     “The racketeering indictment charges the former court clerk with accepting bribes to falsify court records on the court’s computer system,” Decker said. “Some of the records indicated that a case had been resolved, when no such action had been approved by any judge of the court, and some records included signatures that appeared to be those of officers of the court, but were in fact forged. This defendant allegedly assumed the roles of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to line his pockets in a staggering abuse of his position.”
     Lopez altered nearly 1,000 criminal cases by keying information into the court’s computer system to make it look like those accused had paid criminal penalties, completed community service or already served time in jail, Decker’s office says.
     Lopez also allegedly tampered with records to make it appear that defendants in reckless driving cases had avoided criminal charges by entering a plea.
     Eleven other defendants are facing RICO charges for their part in a five-year scheme that involved 139 “overt acts,” Decker’s office said in a news release, including the creation of “official court documents that memorialized actions that simply never occurred.”
     Lopez allegedly threatened the middlemen he had enlisted to solicit bribes and told members of his family to state that they had invested money in his restaurant.
     The scam came to end in 2015 and the court began to reopen some of the cases.
     Investigators are still determining the total amount of money that Lopez allegedly took.
     The indictment alleges racketeering, money laundering, witness tampering and bribery.
     Lopez and his co-conspirators each face a maximum sentence of 20 years for racketeering and 20 years for witness tampering.
     The defendants each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for bribery.
     Decker’s office released the following list of defendants: Ricardo Quinones, 32, of Santa Ana; Juan C. Rosas Santillana, 32, of Chino Hills; Ramon Salvador Vasquez, 27, of Santa Ana; Manuel Galindo Jr., 26, of Santa Ana; Gibram Rene Lopez aka “Ivan,” 26, of Anaheim; Agustin Sanchez Jr., 32, of Santa Ana; Luis Alberto Flores Guillen aka “Bills,” 26, of Santa Ana; Oscar Centeno aka “Mosquito,” 26, of Santa Ana; Javed Asefi aka “Joey,” 43, of Ladera Ranch; Jeff Reynes Fernandez aka “Lean,” 24, of Fullerton; and Jesus Saldana, 28, of Garden Grove.

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