From the monthly archives: October 2012

By Mario Conde

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors continues with the efforts of bringing the F-35 Jet to the Imperial Valley.

Supervisor Jack Terrazas made a presentation to the Board of Supervisors updating them their work.  The County of Imperial is promoting this area since valley is vast unobstructed, rural terrain and good air quality, military-friendly local community that the Imperial Valley’s Naval Air Facility El Centro offers an excellent location to home base the Joint Strike Fighter.

Terrazas explained that NAF-El Centro is an ideal environmental for aerial combat maneuvering, air-to-air gunnery, bombing practice and electronic warfare training. Terrazas mentioned that they had a lot of good support from County governmental agencies except for the Hotel industry that would benefit a lot from this project.

Imperial City Manager Marlene Best spoke about the visits to Washington and said that he County brings a lot of advantages to them since this is a growing community and the County have housing and will cost less to come here rather than other military bases in California.

“No other region in the United Sates more closely resembles the Middle East than the Imperial Valley.” Best said, “It’s the perfect training ground for our troops preparing for combat. Allied forces from around the world capitalize on NAF-El Centro’s unique environment to practice gunnery, bombing, carrier landings and air combat.” She said.

In related news, the County also authorized the Planning and Development Services Director to enter into a contract with Matrix Design Group for the preparationof the Joint Land Use Study NAF El Centro at at cost of $165,731.00. This project will be funded by OEA grant an in-kind match from local jurisdictions.

The NAF El Centro JLUS will include the jurisdictions of the County of Imperial, City of El Centro, City of Imperial, and the NAF El Centro located in the southeast corner of California, bordered by the County of San Diego, County of Riverside, State of Arizona and the Republic of Mexico. The County of Imperial is the project sponsor for this multi-jurisdictional planning effort.

The purpose of a Joint Land Use Study is to promote compatible civilian development patterns

near military installations by applying the local planning process to update the local general plans and supporting land use regulations. The JLUS will identify current and future encroachment sources, including new physical developments and potential natural environmental promotion such as conservation corridors, conservation easements, and designated wetlands.

 

By Mario Conde

The Calexico City Council met in special session last Monday to determine the future of the bus system in Calexico.

The Council decided after a long special session that they will give Calexico Transit System until October 16 to comply with all the requirements or the company will have revocation of their permit. Calexico Transit System that has been in operation in Calexico for many years and owned by the Castro family for more than 50 years. The company is now run by Councilman Luis Castro’s son, Jovan Castro. The police department ordered a suspension of operation since the company was not in compliance and did not have insurance since December 2011.

The Calexico Police Department recently conducted an inspection of the documents on file for the Calexico Transit System. Concerned about Calexico Transit System operating without valid insurance, Police Department officials contacted Jovan Castro on September 14, 2012. Jovan Castro then confirmed to police officials that the company lacked the insurance required under Calexico’s Municipal Code. The Police Department informed Calexico Transit System that if it continued operating without insurance, its drivers would receive citations for driving without valid insurance. On September 18, the Department also sent a letter notifying Jovan Castro that his company was in violation of the Calexico Municipal Code’s safety and licensing requirements and ordering him to cease operations.

Calexico Police Chief Neujahr reported that since receiving notice of this hearing, Calexico Transit System has submitted proposed insurance which has thus far been inadequate. In the first instance, it submitted an insurance certificate for $1 million in the name of Imperial Rapid Service. This was rejected for several reasons. First, it was for a lesser amount of insurance than Calexico Transit System had before its insurance expired, and much less than the minimum required by state law. Second, Imperial Rapid Service, Inc. is a suspended corporation, so the insurance contract with it would likely be unenforceable if someone were to be injured during a collision with one of their buses. Third, Calexico Transit System did not submit the actual policy for review, so the City could not determine whether or not the policy provided proper insurance coverage.

 

In the end, the Council voted 3-1 to give Jovan Castro 10 days to be in compliance with Mayor Pro Tem Maritza Hurtado voting against it. Before the closing of the meeting, Mayor Daniel Romero said that this was not political against Luis Castro but a protection to all the use the transportation service in Calexico.

 

09/27/12

For Immediate Publication: Holtville building permits made easy.

__________________________________________________________________________________

(Holtville, CA)

 

On August 23, 2012, the Holtville City Council approved an Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Imperial for the provision of building plan check and inspection services.

 

Under this agreement, building services, including plan check, building permit and inspection services will be available from Holtville City Hall.

 

“Our goal is to provide the highest quality customer experience for Holtville businesses and residents. Holtville is streamlining the development process with the intent of making it friendly for all users” noted Mayor Jerry M. Brittsan.

 

Under the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement, the City of Imperial will provide Plan Check and Building Inspection Services. The City of Holtville will be responsible for issuing building permits and the collection of fees. There are a number of potential development projects in the pipeline, including Baja Desert Tire, Keithly Williams Seed Company, Family Dollar Store and the Desert Vista residential development.

 

Under the new program, Holtville residents and contractors will be able to secure building permits without leaving Holtville. Permit Technicians at Holtville City Hall, located at 121 West Fifth Street, Holtville, CA 92250, will be available to meet with the public and provide assistance.

 

Staff has begun the transitioning process, and has initiated a series of coordination meetings with the City of Imperial’s Building and Safety Department.

 

The City has also met with representatives of the building industry to formulate a strategy for implementation of the new program. All fifty-two (52) of the City’s licensed contractors were invited to a public forum. The contractors that attended the meeting were generally optimistic about the changes to the program.

 

“I was present at the City of Holtville Contractor’s Workshop on September 20, 2012, I thought this was a very well organized method of communicating with the local contractors, regarding the issues we as contractors face while building in the city of Holtville. The workshop was focused trying to help the city better serve the building industry thru permit processing and inspecting. We discussed several issues brought up by the attending contractors, and the city was very understanding of the issues, and committed to try to work on them with us. One of the major points was the plan to contract the City of Imperial for building permits and inspections, I believe that this is a very good move because the City of Imperial understands the needs faced by a small city, and in their own city they strive to work with the applicants in explanation of the process and time frames.  I believe the city of Holtville will benefit from this partnership,” noted Oscar Grijalva, General Manager of Duggins Construction, Inc.

 

The City will also hold additional community education forums to educate Holtville residents, property owners, and handymen (who are limited to jobs less than $500) about the benefits of securing a building permit prior to initiating work on a construction project.

 

“A building permit is a form of insurance for a property owner. The permit process ensures that construction activities conform to code requirements and that basic life, health, sanitation and safety issues are properly addressed. The permit also provides the assessor with a means of tracking and recording investment in real property, which is of critical importance in the event of an insurance claim,” noted Holtville City Manager Alex Meyerhoff

 

Staff will also provide same day “Over-the-Counter” permits. The list of “Over-the-Counter” permits will be smaller permits, ensuring that the City will be able to turn-around the permit applications the same day. To ensure that permits for minor construction projects are available the same day, in most cases applications will be required to be submitted by 9:00 am.

 

_________________________________________________________________________________

For more information please contact Holtville City Hall, at 760-356-2912.

Alexander P. Meyerhoff, AICP

City Manager

City of Holtville

121 W. 5th Street

Holtville, CA 92250

 

Van Thu Tran was sentenced today in San Diego to 36 months in prison for her role in a scheme to cheat casinos across the country out of millions of dollars, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy for the Southern District of California.

In addition to her prison sentence, Van Thu Tran, 47, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John A. Houston in the Southern District of California to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $5,753,416 in restitution, payable to several casinos. The court ordered the forfeiture of her interests in various assets, including jewelry and bank accounts.

Van Thu Tran entered her guilty plea in San Diego on January 14, 2011.

In her plea agreement, Van Thu Tran admitted that in approximately August 2002, she, along with co-conspirators Phuong Quoc Truong, Tai Khiem Tran, and others, created a criminal enterprise defined as the Tran Organization, based in San Diego and elsewhere, for the purpose of participating in gambling cheats at casinos across the United States. In her plea agreement, Van Thu Tran also admitted that she and her co-conspirators unlawfully obtained up to $7 million during card cheats.

The investigation of the Tran Organization led to the filing of three separate indictments in 2007, 2008, and 2009. A three-count indictment was returned in San Diego on May 22, 2007, and unsealed on May 24, 2007, which charged Van Thu Tran and 13 others each with one count of conspiracy to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise; one count of conspiracy to commit several offenses against the United States, including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The indictment also charged five separate individuals each with one count of conspiracy to commit several offenses against the United States, including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to court documents, the defendants and others executed a “false shuffle” cheating scheme at casinos in the United States and Canada during blackjack and mini-baccarat games. Court documents also show that members of the criminal organization bribed casino card dealers and supervisors to perform false shuffles during card games, thereby creating “slugs,” or groups of unshuffled cards. Court documents also show that, after tracking the order of cards dealt in a card game, a member of the organization would signal to the card dealer to perform a “false shuffle,” and members of the group would then bet on the known order of cards when the slug appeared on the table. By doing so, members of the conspiracy repeatedly won thousands of dollars during card games, including winning several hundred thousand dollars on one occasion.

Court documents also show that the members of the organization used sophisticated mechanisms for tracking the order of cards during games, including hidden transmitter devices and specially created software that would predict the order in which cards would reappear during blackjack games.

To date, 42 defendants have pleaded guilty to charges relating to the casino-cheating conspiracy: Van Thu Tran, Phuong Quoc Truong, Tai Khiem Tran, Anh Phuong Tran, Phat Ngoc Tran, Martin Lee Aronson, Liem Thanh Lam, George Michael Lee, Tien Duc Vu, Son Hong Johnson, Barry Wellford, John Tran, Willy Tran, Tuan Mong Le, Duc Cong Nguyen, Han Truong Nguyen, Roderick Vang Thor, Sisouvanh Mounlasy, Navin Nith, Renee Cuc Quang, Ui Suk Weller, Phally Ly, Khunsela Prom, Hop Nguyen, Hogan Ho, Darrell Saicocie, Bryan Arce, Qua Le, Outtama Keovongsa, Leap Kong, Thang Viet Huynh, Don Man Duong, Dan Thich, Jimmy Ha, Eric Isbell, Brandon Pete Landry, James Root, Jesus Rodriguez, Jason Cavin, Nedra Fay Landry, Connie Holmes, and Geraldo Montaz. These defendants admitted to targeting, with the aid of co-conspirators, a combined total of approximately 29 casinos in the United States and Canada during the course of the conspiracy:

1) Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi;

2) Casino Rama, in Orillia, Ontario, Canada;

3) Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut;

4) Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Mississippi;

5) Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana;

6) Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi;

7) Isle of Capri Casino in Westlake, Louisiana;

8) Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Indiana;

9) Mohegan Sun Resort Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut;

10) Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas;

11) Resorts East Chicago Hotel and Casino in East Chicago, Indiana;

12) Sycuan Casino in El Cajon, California;

13) Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino in Brooks, California;

14) Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington;

15) Imperial Palace Casino in Biloxi;

16) Argosy Casino in Baton Rouge, Louisiana;

17) Trump 29 Casino in Coachella, California;

18) Isle of Capri Casino in Bossier City;

19) Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, California;

20) Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, California;

21) Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California;

22) L’Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana;

23) Nooksack River Casino in Deming, Washington;

24) Barona Valley Ranch Casino and Resort in Lakeside, California;

25) Caesars Indiana Hotel and Casino in Elizabeth, Indiana;

26) Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas;

27) Harrah’s Casino in Lake Charles;

28) Golden Moon Casino in Choctaw, Mississippi; and

29) Viejas Casino in Alpine, California.

Two other defendants, Ha Thuy Giang and Tammie Huynh, pleaded guilty to tax offenses stemming from the investigation, and Khai Hong Tran admitted to the offenses alleged in a 2007 U.S. indictment when he pleaded guilty to casino-cheating offenses in Canada.

On December 15, 2010, defendant Mike Waseleski, a former casino card dealer, was found guilty by a federal jury in San Diego for his role in the Tran Organization’s cheating scheme to steal approximately $1.5 million from Resorts East Chicago Casino.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s San Diego Field Office; the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; the San Diego Sheriff’s Department; and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Gambling Control. The investigation has received assistance from federal, state, tribal, and foreign authorities, including: the Ontario Provincial Police; the National Indian Gaming Commission; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington; FBI Resident Agencies in Gulfport (Mississippi), Tacoma (Washington), and Toledo (Ohio); the Indiana State Police; the Rumsey Rancheria Tribal Gaming Agency; the Sycuan Gaming Commission; the Barona Gaming Commission; the Mississippi Gaming Commission; and the Washington State Gambling Commission.

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