A former Orange County Superior Court clerk has been charged on suspicion of “fixing” drunken driving cases for bribes as high as $8,000, and 11 others were charged in connection with the scheme, U.S. Attorney’s Office officials announced Wednesday.
According to the federal indictment, hundreds defendants had charges dismissed, fees reduced or avoided jail time in drunken driving cases by paying money to the clerk, identified as Jose Lopez Jr., 36, of Anaheim.
Lopez is also suspected of creating records to indicate a defendant pleaded guilty to reckless driving and that DUI charges had been dismissed, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In other cases he allegedly made it seem that second-time DUI offenders had served jail time when they had not. During a five-year period, Lopez resolved more than 1,000 cases, including 69 DUI incidents, the news release said.
Officials believe Lopez used the money from the bribes to pay for international vacations, trips to Las Vegas and opening a restaurant in Garden Grove, among other things.
Those who paid the bribes were solicited by “team of recruiters” who have also been charged, according to the Department of Justice. They are:
- 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, also known as “Ivan,” 26, of Anaheim,
- Oscar Centeno, also known as “Mosquito,” 26, of Santa Ana,
- Javed Asefi, also known as “Joey,” 43, of Ladera Ranch,
- Jeff Reynes Fernandez, also known as “Lean,” 24, of Fullerton,
- Jesus Saldana, 28, of Garden Grove,
- Luis Alberto Flores Guillen, also known as “Bills,” 26, of Santa Ana and
- Agustin Sanchez Jr., 32, of Santa Ana.
Guilen was expected to surrender Wednesday. Sanchez is believed to be out of state, but is expected to be taken into custody.
All those who were arrested were arraigned Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.
The men are charged with participating in a conspiracy to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.
Lopez was also charged in connection with five counts of money laundering.
Asefi was charged on suspicion of making false statements to the FBI during their investigation of the scheme.
Vasquez was also charged with witness tampering and conspiring to tamper with witnesses.
Santillana and Fernandez also face witness tampering charges.
Each defendant could face up to 20 years in prison for the RICO charges, officials said. The money laundering and witness tampering charges also carry a 20-year sentence, and the bribery charges carry a 10-year sentence.
The case was investigated by the FBI and IRS and will be prosecuted by U.S. Attorney’s Office.