A federal judge held a hearing Thursday in a tent outside a skid row women’s center to discuss the increasing homeless population in Los Angeles and seek solutions on how to address the crisis.
U.S. District Judge David Carter oversaw the first court session of 2021 in a 10-month attempt to settle a federal lawsuit seeking to compel Los Angeles city and county officials to quickly address the homelessness crisis.
The plaintiff is the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights — a coalition of nonprofit organizations, service providers, small-business owners, residents and community leaders — that has thus far won an agreement between the city and county to provide 6,700 beds, 6,000 of which are due in two months.
About 8,000 beds are already in place for the needy, but bureaucratic tangles and neighborhood resistance to interim or supportive housing have continually blocked the path forward, according to the L.A. Alliance.
Last Friday, Carter visited Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles to see first-hand the living conditions of thousands of unhoused Angelenos.
Carter called the crisis “an ever-increasing spiral of death,” calling upon Los Angeles officials to address the increasing situation across the city.
In a letter on Sunday, Carter stated that “while some ad hoc efforts were made to respond to the crisis presented by the storm,” it was through the efforts of Councilman Kevin de Leon, Union Rescue Mission, the Downtown Women’s Center and other nonprofits “that additional suffering and loss of life was averted. These conditions cannot be allowed to continue.”
While in past months the court has focused on relocating the homeless away from freeways, “nothing substantial has been done to remediate the appalling and dangerous conditions in Los Angeles’ Skid Row,” Carter wrote, noting that 1,383 homeless persons died in the city and county of Los Angeles last year, a 32% increase of the number of homeless deaths recorded in 2019.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin blasted the city and county as “structurally incapable” and not “nimble or forceful enough” to adequately respond to the homelessness crisis, and called for a judicial consent decree under Carter’s supervision to compel immediate action. If the parties agree, such a decree would end the lawsuit with a settlement giving Carter power to order the city and county to build shelters and provide services.
Dozens of projects spanning Los Angeles are moving forward to bring over 7,000 housing units for those experiencing homelessness in the next three years.
In an update to the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday, Ann Sewill, general manager of the Housing and Community Investment Department, discussed the status of Proposition HHH, which was approved by voters in November 2016.
The proposition was designed to increase supportive housing production from 300 units a year to 1,000 every year for 10 years.
Sewill said the city is working on 124 Proposition HHH-funded projects, with a total of 7,961 in the pipeline — 961 more than the initial goal of 7,000. Those include:
— seven facilities, with 489 units, completed and occupied or have people moving in;
— 44 facilities, with 2,779 units, currently under construction;
— 16 facilities expected to close construction financing by spring 2021;
— 28 facilities expected to close construction financing by the end of 2021; and
— 29 facilities still assembling financing but expected to close by the end of 2022.
Officials expect to have all 7,961 units completed by 2024.
The average Proposition HHH subsidy is $135,000 per unit, Sewill said, but there is additional funding from the county, state and other sources.
“Each of these requires its own application, and the process of securing and complying with the requirements adds costs and time to the process. We estimate that the additional cost may be as much as $50,000-$80,000 per unit in extra time, carrying costs, legal costs and requirements,” she said.
“But the net gain is about $210,000 a unit, so not only does this make the city’s dollars go further and produce more homes here, but in truth, many of the requirements help make the developments more stable.”
As an example, she said tax-credit programs require higher energy efficiency, which adds construction costs but reduces operating costs over the project’s lifetime.
One of the projects already finished is a tiny home village in North Hollywood, created in partnership with the nonprofit Hope of Valley and L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian.
Ken Craft, CEO of Hope of Valley, said this innovative project is the first of its kind in Los Angeles, but won’t be the last.
“This is the very first tiny home community in the City of Los Angeles,” Kraft said. “Personally and for Hope of the Valley, we are honored to the provider for the first one. I believe in this model, this will be a viable, sustainable for many people who are coming off the street.”
A January 2020 count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found there were more than 66,400 homeless people living in Los Angeles County – – the largest single concentration in the state. That included more than 41,000 within the city limits. Both figures were up more than 12% from the previous year. The annual count was not done last month because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Note: City News Service contributed to this report.
Vineland Boys Gang Member Sentenced To 31 Years Racketeering, Attempted Murder
A member of the San Fernando Valley-based Vineland Boys street gang was sentenced Thursday to 372 months in federal prison for committing multiple felonies, including the attempted murders of three rival gangsters.
Jesus Gonzalez Jr., 28, “Lil Chito,” “Gunner” and “Chuy,” of Sun Valley, was sentenced by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
Gonzalez pleaded guilty on Jan. 22 to five felonies: one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, two counts of violent crime in aid of racketeering, one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and one count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
According to court documents, to consolidate control over their “territory” in Sun Valley, North Hollywood and Burbank, the Vineland Boys shot and brutally assaulted rival gang members, controlled and conducted drug and firearms trafficking activity, and extorted money in the form of “taxes” from drug dealers, and trafficked narcotics.
Gonzalez conspired with Vineland Boys members and associates to engage in acts of racketeering in the form of attempted murder and drug trafficking. Gonzalez admitted that he was involved in multiple gang-related shootings, including a December 2015 shootout in South Los Angeles with rival gang members.
In early April 2016, Gonzalez shot and severely wounded one victim and injured others in a drive-by shooting outside a party in Sun Valley after Gonzalez believed the victim had insulted the Vineland Boys gang, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
A few weeks later, Gonzalez stalked and shot a rival gang member on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, firing several shots at close range at the victim, who survived. In May 2016, Gonzalez and other Vineland Boys members drove next to a vehicle in North Hollywood near Lankershim Boulevard, and Gonzalez confronted and shot the other vehicle’s passengers because he believed they were rival gang members.
Gonzalez also sold methamphetamine and illegally sold numerous firearms, including an AR-style rifle bearing no serial number – commonly known as a “ghost gun” – that he sold in May 2016 outside a McDonald’s restaurant in San Fernando.
In January 2019, a federal grand jury indicted 31 Vineland Boys members and associates. So far, prosecutors in this case have secured 17 convictions and multiple prison sentences exceeding 10 years, according to the DOJ.
Two San Fernando Valley Men Sentenced For Counterfeit Passport, Green Card Scheme
Two San Fernando Valley men who participated in an extensive scheme that produced and sold counterfeit identity documents – including United States passport cards, Social Security cards and driver’s licenses – each received federal prison sentences on Monday.
Carlos Ayala Hernandez, a.k.a. “Juan Juarez,” 45, of Granada Hills, was sentenced Monday to 30 months in federal prison by United States District Judge John F. Walter.
The other plaintiff in the case, Miguel Juarez Guerrero, 24, of Van Nuys, was also sentenced Monday to 20 months in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hernandez pleaded guilty on April 27 to one count of conspiracy to produce, transfer and possess false identification documents, and one count of being an illegal alien in possession of firearms.
Guerrero pleaded guilty on May 3 to one count of conspiracy to produce, transfer and possess false identification documents, and one count of producing false identification documents.
From January 2016 to January 2021, Hernandez, Guerrero and Nestor Perez, a.k.a. “Daniel Perez,” 32, of Van Nuys, operated an illegal business in which they manufactured and sold false identification documents.
These counterfeit documents included U.S. passport cards, lawful permanent resident cards, more commonly known as “green cards,” employment authorization document cards, Social Security cards, and driver’s licenses purporting to be from multiple states.
At the direction of – and in exchange for payment from – Hernandez and Guerrero, Perez manufactured the counterfeit identification documents at a Van Nuys apartment. Perez made the bogus documents using personal identifying information – including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers – of real persons After manufacturing the phony documents, Perez provided them to Hernandez and Guerrero, who then sold the documents to others.
In January 2021, law enforcement executed search warrants on Hernandez’s residence and the Van Nuys apartment. In Hernandez’s residence – where Guerrero also lived – law enforcement found firearms, assorted ammunition and $40,483 generated from the false identification document scheme.
At the Van Nuys apartment, officers also found a robust counterfeit document lab, including approximately 243 completed false identification documents, approximately 1,000 fraudulent authentication seals, 14 printers, a scanner and an ultraviolet light used to test the security features on counterfeit ID documents.
Hernandez, a Mexican national, admitted in his plea agreement that he knew he was an illegal alien in the United States, including during the times he possessed the firearms.
Perez pleaded guilty on April 12 to one count of conspiracy to produce, transfer and possess false identification documents, and one count of producing false identification documents. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 19.
Three Encino Residents Found Guilty Of $18 Million In COVID-19 Loan Fraud
A federal jury has found three Encino residents guilty of criminal charges for scheming to submit fraudulent loan applications seeking millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds.
Richard Ayvazyan, 42, Marietta Terabelian, 37, and Artur Ayvazyan, 41, were found guilty at the conclusion of an eight-day trial on Monday, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
All defendants were found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud, eight counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Additionally, Richard Ayvazyan was found guilty of two counts of aggravated identity theft. Artur Ayvazyan also was found guilty of one count of aggravated identity theft. Vahe Dadyan also was found guilty of one count of money laundering.
On June 28, the jury found the defendants must forfeit bank accounts, jewelry, watches, gold coins, three residential properties and approximately $450,000 in cash.
According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendants used fake, stolen and synthetic identities – including the created identities of “Iuliia Zhadko” and “Viktoria Kauichko” – to submit fraudulent applications for PPP and EIDL loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under federal law.
In support of the fraudulent applications, the defendants often submitted false and fictitious documents to lenders and the SBA, including fake identity documents, tax documents and payroll records, prosecutors said.
The defendants then used the fraudulently obtained funds as down payments on luxury homes in Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert. They also used the funds to buy gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, fine imported furnishings, designer handbags, clothing, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The conspirators obtained more than $18 million in COVID-relief funds, according to the DOJ.
United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson has scheduled a Sept. 13 sentencing hearing, at which time each defendant will face decades in federal prison.