Santa Paula man pleads guilty in Russia investigation

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into interference by the Russian government in the 2016 Presidential Election took a decidedly local turn on Friday, Feb. 16, when it was announced that a Santa Paula man had pleaded guilty to charges of identity fraud.

Richard Pinedo

Richard Pinedo, 28, ran an online service called Auction Essistance, through which he bought and sold bank account numbers for users looking to avoid security measures put in place by digital payment services. The website offered services for, according to a cached version of the site, “people who have found out that eBay has suspended their accounts.”

Robert Mueller’s indictment alleges that from 2014 to November 2017, Pinedo created fraudulent bank accounts that were being used by Russians. Thirteen Russians and three Russian institutions have been charged with interfering in the U.S. political process.

Pinedo faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Oxnard parents charged with murder of 3-year-old daughter

It was a story that gripped the nation at the tail end of 2016: a missing 3-year-old and parents unable, or unwilling, to provide details to her whereabouts. Now, Mayra Alejandra Chavez, 26, and Omar Misael Lopez, 33, have been charged with second-degree murder over her disappearance.

Mayra Alejandra Chavez and Omar Misael Lopez

In 2016, social workers from the Ventura County Children and Family Services visited the home of Chavez and Lopez looking for their daughter, Kimberly. When the workers could not find her, they notified the Oxnard Police Department and an investigation was launched.

Chavez and Lopez had told social workers that Kimberly was living with relatives in Mexico, but were unable to provide proof, and both were taken into custody under civil arrest warrants.

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, Chavez and Lopez were charged with second-degree murder, and Chavez has also been charged with assault resulting in the death of a child and torture. Lopez is also charged with willful harm or injury to a child.

Both are being held at the Ventura County Jail with bond set at $5 million each. If convicted, Chavez faces a maximum of 47 years to life in prison; Lopez, 42 to life.

Murder-suicide suspected in Westlake Village

Sam Chiashiang Lai, 75, and wife, Caroline Minling Chiashiang Lai, 73, were found dead at their Westlake Village home on Friday, Feb. 16, the result of an apparent murder-suicide.

The shooting occurred in the upscale neighborhood known as Westlake Trails at approximately 5 p.m. Deputies on the scene determined that the man shot the woman before turning the gun on himself.

Ventura Promenade site of latest indecent exposure incidents

Another man has been arrested following allegations of indecent exposure, this time at the Ventura beach promenade.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, a 64-year-old Ventura resident was arrested at the Ventura beach promenade after he was reported for having exposed himself and involved in a lewd activity at the promenade, which sits at the 500 block of Harbor Boulevard.

Officers arrested the suspect and booked him into the Ventura County jail on suspicion of misdemeanor indecent exposure.

This is the latest in a series of incidents involving sex-related acts that have struck Ventura in just the last month. On Thursday, Feb. 15, a 29-year-old Carpinteria man is alleged to have approached a 17-year-old girl near South Wake Forest Avenue and Murrieta Street, where he asked her to engage in lewd acts. At approximately the same time, two women, aged 19 and 20, reported that a man exposed himself to them near Ventura College.

On the same day, a Port Hueneme man was arrested for allegedly exposing himself in a fast food restaurant. At 5:40 a.m., police responded to the restaurant on the 800 block of Ventura Road, where fast food employees said that the man had entered the restaurant, exposed himself and shouted obscene comments. The man was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor indecent exposure and found to have drug paraphernalia as well.

Ventura man sentenced for body in freezer

Michael Bresnak

Michael Bresnak, 54, has been sentenced to 18-years-to-life on Wednesday, Feb. 7, by a Ventura County Superior Court Judge for killing his mother’s boyfriend and stuffing his body in to a freezer, which was discovered in a storage facility in Ventura two years after the victim had been reported missing.

Bresnak was found guilty in December of the murder of 58-year-old Jeffrey Korber in 2011, the second time he stood trial for the offense after an 11-1 deadlock caused the declaration of a mistrial in 2016.

Korber spent two years in the freezer and was found wrapped in black plastic and duct tape, after detectives received tips from an informant and friend of Bresnak.