Ella M. got a call from her credit-card company asking whether she'd written one of their convenience checks to a certain Becky S. for $8,500. She hadn't. Ella is a disabled senior. Becky was her daily helper. The caller said the forged check hadn't gone through; it was too large.
Ella telephoned Apprehension, her only living relative, but said nothing to Becky. In the two days since failing to cash the check, Becky had been so nice: "She kept making me salads." Becky is an ex-dot-commer with an engineering degree and two bankruptcies. She says her strict Filipino Catholic family hates her for being gay. She'd borrowed money from Ella repeatedly, never repaying it. Now this. A nice detective in the Financial Crimes Division of Ella's local police force (whose surname is that of a famous Hispanic revolutionary hero; ironies glint at times like these) revealed where the attempted transaction occurred: across the street from Becky's other job. For an investigation to proceed, Ella would have to press charges. She refused.
Ella said she needed Becky and feared her, thus couldn't fire her: "She'll smash up the house." Mr. and Mrs. Apprehension boarded a plane, arriving at night. Becky was due the next morning. Ella made excuses for her: "I'll just ask her not to do it again." Ella is too disabled to enter the spare bathroom where Becky stored her own unpaid bills, casino matchbooks, shoals of lottery tickets: a gambling addict's wrack. Mixed in were Ella's credit-card bills and bank statements. She'd been stealing Ella's mail.
"How could this happen? I'm a businesswoman," Ella moaned. "There is no God."
When Becky arrived in her BMW SUV, Mr. Apprehension told her the jig was up, flashing the detective's business card: "He knows about you." Becky hung her head. Later, behind a closed door through which she thought no one was listening, she begged Ella to keep her. They spoke in the bloodcurdlingly intimate tone of confederates. As in: Okay, as soon as those two go.
This is the con artist at work. Sterner warnings were required. Threats: "You were captured on video." Apprehension went through Becky's trash after she'd finally gone (scot-free), after her replacement — a nice lady from an agency — arrived. A Bible was in it.
He claimed to be supplying the Nigerian government with medicine for AIDS patients, but Chuka Ogele was actually supplying Oakland and Houston street dealers with millions of dollars' worth of opiates. According to a US Department of Justice report, Ogele obtained nonprofit status nine years ago for his ludicrously named company, Internal Surplus Medical Products, then bought oodles of prescription painkillers from distributors, pretending to be a doctor. (A Richmond plastic surgeon let him use her license.) Ogele then "hired persons to sell the drugs on the streets." With the profits, the College of Alameda alum (go Cougars!) tried to buy a $1.3 million El Cerrito home. He was sentenced late last month to 37 months in prison, having been arrested when Houston airport cops "found $975,381 in cash in his luggage and 395 tablets of Vicodin on his person," sez the DOJ.
The customer always comes first
In the big February 21 prostitution bust that yielded 32 arrests, sheriff's deputies served search warrants at several Castro Valley businesses. Among these was Lake Chabot Spa, which offered much else besides "eyelash perms," according to its web site: "Our staff is well trained with the latest techniques and technology to provide you with a full-body and mind relaxing experience. Our facility has a gender-specific entry way, so your privacy and comfort is ensured. Our rooms also features private showers, so amenities are well prepared in each individual room. So please come stop by and visit our spa, we'd be honored to service you."
Driving while armed
El Cerrito cops pulled over a car on February 19. According to the log, its driver had a loaded handgun. Two fifteen-year-olds in another car they pulled over the next day had another loaded handgun. Near Coliseum station on February 23, a BART cop "was nearly struck by a weaving vehicle," reads the log. "The young male driver was severely intoxicated and could barely stand. He was transported for medical treatment and cited. The juvenile male passenger was also intoxicated and in possession of a loaded handgun."
Holla at yer boy
Given that Richmond already is considered a homicide hub peopled with gunslingers, what right-minded Richmonder would do something silly to worsen his burg's bad rep? Well — remember how a UC Riverside dropout was arrested last June on suspicion of having ignited a palm tree and planting firebombs in hopes of derailing graduation exercises? Prosecutors say Audley Yung did it to keep his mom from learning that he wouldn't graduate. Court records show that he allegedly wrote a letter claiming that he hated — and planned to kill — "rich white and Chinese kids." In late February, the Riverside County District Attorney's office revealed that Yung might take a plea deal this month. It also revealed that Yung is from Richmond! Hey, its motto is "City of Pride and Purpose."