From the daily archives: Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will present the State Employee Medal of Valor to 38 people during a 2 p.m. ceremony today at the Crest Theater in Sacramento.

The award recognizes state employees who acted at personal risk to save lives or property. The state has awarded 507 medals since the program began in 1959. Departments and agencies submit their nominations to the Department of Personnel Administration, which administers the program.

There are two types of awards. Gold medals recognize a special act, extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service, at great risk to their own life in an effort to save human life. Silver medals acknowledge a special service, extending above and beyond the normal call of duty or service, at personal risk to their own safety to save human life or state property. This link opens the DPA website that explains the awards in more detail.

The State Worker congratulates this year’s winners for their service and sacrifice, and we’re proud to present the list of honorees and what they did to merit this high honor:

Arthur R. Grijalva, of El Centro, Silver Award, and Tommy A. Neri, of El Centro, Pablo Diaz, of El Centro, Leonardo Antonio Necochea Sr., of El Centro, and Pedro Vasquez, of El Centro, Gold Awards: On June 24, 2010, directed freeway traffic away from a burning vehicle and rescued the trapped driver.

Read more:


Calexico, Calif. – U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Calexico station seized a large quantity of methamphetamine on Thursday with an estimated value of $1.25 million.

At approximately 8 a.m., a silver truck driven by a 33 year-old male approached the primary inspection area of the Interstate 8 checkpoint. A Border Patrol canine team alerted to the vehicle and agents referred the driver to the secondary inspection area. The driver, a Legal Permanent Resident, consented to a search of the vehicle. During the search, agents discovered several packages concealed in the dashboard area of the vehicle containing the methamphetamine.

The driver, narcotics and vehicle were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.


The Internet Crime Complaint Center has received many complaints from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams. Callers claim the victim is delinquent in a payday loan and must repay the loan to avoid legal consequences. The callers purport to be representatives of the FBI, Federal Legislative Department, various law firms, or other legitimate-sounding agencies. They claim to be collecting debts for companies such as United Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Net, and other Internet check-cashing services.

According to complaints received from the public, the callers have accurate data about victims, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, employer information, bank account numbers, and the names and telephone numbers of relatives and friends. How the fraudsters obtained the personal information varies, but in some cases victims have reported they completed online applications for other loans or credit cards before the calls started.

The fraudsters relentlessly call the victim’s home, cell phone, and place of employment. They refuse to provide any details about the alleged payday loans and become abusive when questioned. The callers have threatened victims with legal actions, arrests, and, in some cases, physical violence if they do not pay. In many cases, the callers harass victims’ relatives, friends, and employers.

Some fraudsters have instructed victims to fax a statement agreeing to pay a certain amount, on a specific date, via a pre-paid Visa card. The statement further declares the victim will never dispute the debt.

If you receive these calls, do not follow the caller’s instructions. Rather, you should:

  • Notify your banking institutions.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file.
  • Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger.
  • File a complaint at

Tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:

  • Never give your Social Security number—or personal information of any kind—over the telephone or online unless you initiate the contact.
  • Be suspicious of any e-mail with urgent requests for personal financial information. The e-mail may include upsetting or exciting but false statements to get you to react immediately.
  • Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that request personal information.
  • Ensure that your browser is up-to-date and security patches have been applied.
  • Check your bank, credit, and debit card statements regularly to make sure that there are no unauthorized transactions. If anything looks suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers.
  • When you contact companies, use numbers provided on the back of cards or statements

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a $67 million multi-state settlement with Bank of America for illegal activity by some of its employees in investing the proceeds of municipal bonds. This activity amounted to bid rigging, price fixing, and other anti-competitive practices that defrauded state agencies, local governments and non-profit groups.

“This settlement means that government agencies facing lower budgets will recover millions of dollars in restitution for money that they were deprived of by some unscrupulous bond-derivative investment advisors,” Brown said.

After an internal investigation, Bank of America voluntarily reported the scheme in 2004 to the federal Department of Justice and applied for the Corporate Leniency Program, which reduces potential criminal liability in exchange for cooperation. Throughout the Attorney General’s investigation, Bank of America cooperated in identifying California-based transactions and victims.

This action is part of a $137 million overall series of settlements agreed to by Bank of America with 20 states and federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission. California agencies and non-profits will receive about $6 million in restitution under today’s multi-state settlement.

The illegal activities date back at least to 1998, and they include rigging bids, compensating losing bidders, submitting courtesy bids, deliberately losing bids and agreeing not to bid. These schemes enriched the financial institutions and brokers at the expense of state agencies, cities, school districts and non-profits, who received lower rates of return on investments or paid higher rates to protect their funds.

The U.S. municipal bond market is large. Some $400 million in new tax-exempt bonds are issued each year, and the total market value of exempt bonds is almost $2.8 trillion. The bonds are an important source of funds for governmental and non-profit agencies. They are used for projects such as mass transit, construction of schools and street repair.

Today’s settlement is one of a string of contemplated actions against other bond brokers and major financial institutions that engaged in similar illegal practices.

The other states joining California in the settlement are Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.


Gift Watch 2010: Imperial Valley Mall Announces…
“Santa’s Secret List” – Predicts The Hottest Holiday Gifts
[EL CENTRO, CA] – Imperial Valley Mall today unveiled every parent’s answer to what should be the hottest-selling gifts for the 2010 Holiday season. There’s no doubt Santa researched the entire globe with help from elves on the internet to compile his list of perfect pleasers. Now Imperial Valley Mall is pleased to provide this list to parents everywhere.
“Santa’s Secret List confirms the continuing popularity of electronics. These toys represent the growing use of technology by kids of every age.” said Imperial Valley Mall General Manager Alicia Swaim.
Santa’s Prediction for the Top 10 Bestsellers for 2010 are:
1.Kinect for XBOX 360 – offers another wireless gaming experience that eliminates the need for gaming controllers. The Kinect is able to be connected to your current XBOX 360 console and is operated with voice commands. The Kinect is gaining popularity by detecting simple movements with the webcam style add on that will be sure to provide hours of wireless fun for the entire family.
2. Iron Man – Everyone loves a hero and one of the most popular heroes this season is Iron Man. Gift ideas include the newest Iron Man 2 Blu Ray or DVD release, Iron Man 2 Mega Power Action Figure: Rocket Boost, Iron Man 2 Radio Control Walking Iron Man, Iron Man 2 Helmets and more!
3.Games– Classic board games are also expected to be another hot gift idea this Holiday season. Enjoy a classic family tradition with the latest board games and newest twists on favorite classics. New this year is the Electronic Scrabble Flash Cubes that will be sure to provide hours of family fun for years to come! Other great games include: Monopoly, Connect 4, Life, Jenga, UNO, Operation and Yahtzee.
4. Electronic Readers– The perfect compliment for Holiday traveling, commuting and more are the electronic readers. New for the 2010 Holiday season is the new Nook Color electronic reader which offers a more vivid reading experience, where the display screen offers a full color display for your favorite reading materials. Other popular electronic readers include Kindle 2 and Kindle DX. Any of these light weight electronic devices offer the ability to download thousands of books, magazines and blogs. Select models also offer the ability to surf the web and to stay connected.
5. UGG® Boots-Fashionable, comfortable and ever so popular sheepskin footwear that is available in a variety of colors, styles and sizes. UGG® sheepskin footwear is available in boots, slippers and casual shoes that will delight those this season. The warm and cozy fleece lined footwear also help wick away water and will help keep feet dry and toasty during the colder Winter season.
6. My Pillow Pets – Another top gift idea on Santa’s Secret list is the ever so popular My Pillow Pets. Pillow Pets are snuggly plush companions that are not just great stuffed animals, but are also comfortable plush pillows perfect for naptime, traveling, or while watching your favorite television show or movie. Popular choices include: puppies, bears, lady bugs, monkeys, penguins and unicorns.
7. Jewelry– Another popular gift idea this Holiday season will be any item in the Jewelry category. Many retailers are offering attractive gift sets and fine jewelry gift promotions. Popular categories include: watches, birthstone, heart & mother/daughter pendants, bangle bracelets and diamond earrings.
8. LEGO Harry Potter Sets– With the release of the newest Harry Potter movie this Holiday season, another hot item includes the new Harry Potter LEGO sets. One of the newest LEGO releases this season is Harry Potter & Hagrid’s Hut. Other popular sets include: Harry Potter Hogwarts Express, Harry Potter Quidditch Match, Harry Potter Freeing Dobby, Hogwarts Castle and many more.
9. Video Games– While video games will remain another hot Holiday gift idea this season, many popular new releases this season include: Halo Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Fallout: New Vegas, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, Epic Mickey, Dance Central and Rock Band 3.
Please note: when looking at video games for gifts this season, be sure to note the age appropriateness for the gift recipient as some games will offer mature content that is not suitable for younger gamers.
10. Gift Cards– Gift cards are another hot Holiday gift item for the 2010 Holiday Season. According to the National Retail Federation, 23.8% of shoppers this year are expected to buy Visa/Mastercard/American Express gift cards this year. According to NRF President & CEO Matthew Shay, “With people focusing less on price and more on value this holiday season, Americans may choose to buy gift cards due to their convenience and popularity among gift recipients.” Total gift card spending is expected to reach $24.78 billion* *(according to NRF’s first holiday survey) and found that gift cards remain the most requested holiday gift, marking the fourth year in a row where gift cards have topped consumers’ Holiday gift lists.
The CBL Select Gift Card available for purchase at the mall office is always the perfect fit. Available in denominations between $20.00 and $500.00, CBL Select Gift Cards are easy to redeem and are accepted at any U.S. retailer that accepts American Express.
Many of the items listed above are available for purchase at many Imperial Valley Mall stores, including Dillard’s, Sears, Macy’s, JCPenney, Journeys, f.y.e., and GameStop. “We encourage shoppers to get a head start with their Christmas shopping,” said Swaim. “The selection is excellent right now.”  For more information, visit on-line at for additional information.
About Imperial Valley Mall:
Imperial Valley Mall is managed by CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. of Chattanooga, Tennessee, (NYSE:CBL). Imperial Valley Mall is a 762,637 square-foot regional mall with an outstanding anchor line-up including Dillard’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears and Cinemark, plus over 100 specialty shops, one-of-a-kind food court, restaurants and entertainment. Imperial Valley Mall is conveniently located just off I-8 at Dogwood. More information can be found at
Imperial Valley Mall • 3451 South Dogwood Avenue, El Centro, California 92243

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