A Richmond man is behind bars after pistol-whipping his girlfriend with a replica handgun on Wednesday night, a police spokeswoman said on Thursday.

The victim and suspect were arguing at a home in the 500 block of Bissell Avenue when the man struck the woman in the head with what the woman believed was a handgun, Richmond police Sgt. Nicole Abetkov said.

The woman left the home and called police, who arrived a short time later and had to talk the man into leaving the house, Abetkov said.

He was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and taken to county jail.

Police later discovered that the weapon used in the assault was a BB gun, according to Abetkov.

The victim received medical treatment for her injuries and was released.

{ 0 comments }

Arcing electrical wires that were chewed by rats started a fire at a Novato market late this morning, a Novato Fire District battalion chief said.

The fire at the El Palmar Restaurant and Market in the 1100 block of Grant Avenue smoldered in the back wall of the market and burned debris and garbage inside the base of the wall, Battalion Chief and Novato Fire Marshal Bill Tyler said.

The fire’s toxic smoke damaged stored food and the Environmental Health Department was called to make an inspection, Tyler said.

Firefighters responded to a report of smoke at the market around 11:45 a.m. Employees from the market and patrons and employees of the adjacent restaurant were evacuated.

The fire response closed Grant Avenue between 1st and 2nd streets during the lunch hour, fire district spokeswoman Sandy Wargo said.

Firefighters used a thermal imaging camera to search through walls and the ceiling for additional flames. The blaze was under control at 12:24 p.m. No injuries were reported.

{ 0 comments }

Leaders of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations today decried vandalism that targeted a Santa Cruz mosque Thursday.

Zahra Billoo, the chapter’s executive director, said vandals spray-painted a Star of David and the number 26 on a door at the Islamic Center of Santa Cruz.

She said she had no idea what the number signifies, but speculated that the Star of David might be a reference to the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza.

“It’s so hard to say what it means even when symbols are left behind,” Billoo said. “They’re not necessarily symbolic of what you might think.”

Billoo said she was “surprised” and “horrified” by the act.

“So often, Islamophobia is something that many Bay Area Muslims think of as happening in other places,” Billoo said. “It’s not as common to have these things happen in California and especially not in the Bay Area.”

With the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, often known as ISIS, Billoo said she has noticed an increase in complaints of derogatory comments targeting individual Muslims in the area.

“We’re really hoping the investigation can help them figure out who did this and send a speedy message that this is not something that’s accepted or welcome in Santa Cruz or the Bay Area,” Billoo said.

Local police are investigating, she said.

{ 0 comments }

The California Public Utilities Commission at a meeting in San Francisco today imposed a $1.05 million fine as well as an additional potentially multimillion penalty on PG&E Co. for illegal judge-shopping in a rate case.

The decision, authored by Commissioner Carla Peterman, said PG&E “severely harmed the integrity of the regulatory process” by sending private emails to two commissioners and a top staff member that sought to influence the selection of an administrative law judge.

In addition to the fine, the decision requires PG&E shareholders to absorb the cost of rate impacts to customers of a five-month delay caused by investigation of the judge-shopping in a case concerning the rates to cover the costs of natural gas transmission and storage.

CPUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said that amount could be up to $400 million. The amount will be determined by the commission in a later decision after the rate-setting case is concluded next year.

PG&E spokesman Keith Stephens said the utility will appeal the decision.

“It imposes sanctions that aren’t warranted and that may go beyond the CPUC’s legal authority,” Stephens said.

Stephens said PG&E acknowledges that some of the emails violated the commission’s rules, but said the company has taken corrective actions, including firing three executives and creating a new position of a chief regulatory compliance officer.

“In our view, the CPUC’s decision doesn’t appropriately take account of these corrective actions,” Stephens said.

CPUC spokesman Christopher Chow said commission decisions can be appealed by first filing an application for rehearing before the commission and then by filing a lawsuit in the state Court of Appeal.

Commission rules prohibit utilities from sending private, or ex parte, messages to the commission concerning the selection of administrative law judges.

The back-channel messages were sent by since-fired PG&E vice president for regulatory relations Brian Cherry in January to Commissioners Michael Peevey and Michel Florio and to Peevey’s former chief of staff, Carol Brown.

In one message, Cherry referred to a prospective judge and told Peevey, “This is a problem. I hope Carol can fix it.”

In another, he complained to Brown that a different prospective judge “screwed us royally” in a previous case.

When a third judge, whom Cherry had requested, was finally assigned on Jan. 27, the executive wrote to Brown, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

At the same time that PG&E disclosed the messages on Sept. 15, it announced it had fired Cherry and two other vice-presidents. At the CPUC, Brown was removed as Peevey’s top aide but remained employed by the agency.

A different administrative law judge, Amy Yip-Kikugawa, was assigned to the rate case, in which PG&E is requesting approval for obtaining $1.29 billion in revenue from customers in its Northern California territory to pay for the costs of natural gas transmission and storage between 2015 and 2017.

The proceeding is now expected to conclude in August instead of the original date of March.

The fine ordered by the commission today includes $50,000 for each of 20 violations of the rule barring communications about judge selection, plus $50,000 for the violation of another rule requiring parties to show respect to judges.

The decision also bars PG&E from sending any individual communications to commissioners and their advisors on any aspect of rate-setting proceedings for at least a year.

Only three of the commission’s five members — Peterman, Catherine Sandoval and Michael Picker — ruled on the sanction.

Both Peevey and Florio have recused themselves from acting on the sanction or on the underlying rate case.

The proceeding considered only sanctions against PG&E. The commission rules prohibit messages from utilities to the commission about judge selection, but say nothing about communications in the other direction.

{ 0 comments }

A San Mateo man was arrested today on suspicion of swerving on to the sidewalk while driving under the influence and hitting three special needs students and a teacher, police said.

After an investigation into the Sept. 10 crash in the 300 block of West Hillsdale Boulevard, police obtained a $350,000 arrest warrant for the 53-year-old driver and he was arrested, police said.

The three teen boys and the student teacher, a 28-year-old woman from Belmont, were walking near Hillsdale High School as part of a school field trip at 11:17 a.m. that day.

They were part of a special education class of about 15 students and five teachers taking a walking field trip to teach the students about life skills.

The driver, a San Mateo resident, was headed west on West Hillsdale and veered onto the sidewalk, striking the three students and the teacher.

The teacher suffered head trauma and broken bones and the three students, ages 15, 16 and 18, suffered minor injuries including abrasions and lacerations.

They were all hospitalized with injuries not considered life threatening. The driver remained at the crash scene and was also taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

Police did not suspect that the driver deliberately swerved onto the sidewalk, but determined after an investigation that he had been driving under the influence and sought a warrant for his arrest.

Once the warrant was issued, he was safely taken into custody a few hours later.

{ 0 comments }

A federal grand jury in San Francisco has indicted 11 real estate investors on multiple charges of bid-rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Northern California, U.S. Department of Justice officials said.

The three indictments, filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, charge investors Michael Marr, Javier Sanchez, Gregory Casorso, Victor Marr, John Shiells, Miguel De Sanz, Alvin Florida Jr., Robert Rasheed, John Berry, Refugio Diaz, and Stephan Florida with participating in conspiracies to rig bids and defraud mortgage holders and others.

“Collusion at the foreclosure auctions created an unfair playing field where conspirators pocketed illegal payoffs at the expense of lenders and distressed homeowners,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney Brent Snyder. “The division will continue to investigate and prosecute local cartels that harm the competitive process.”

In one indictment, Michael Marr, Sanchez, Casorso, and Victor Marr are accused of colluding to suppress public auction prices for foreclosed homes beginning as early as June 2008 and continuing until January 2011 in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, according to the complaint.

Representatives from the office would not say whether Michael Marr and Victor Marr are related.

According to the complaint, the men agreed not to compete to purchase selected properties at public auctions, designated who among them would win selected properties and then refrained from bidding on those properties.

Those who refrained from bidding received a payoff, and then the men held second, private auctions, known as “rounds,” to determine the payoff amounts and who would walk away with the selected properties, according to the complaint.

Another indictment charged Alvin Florida Jr., Rasheed, Berry, Diaz and Stephan Florida in a similar bid-rigging scheme, which allegedly took place beginning in May 2008 and continued through December 2010 in Alameda County.

The third indictment charged Shiells and De Sanz in the same scheme beginning in June 2007 and continuing until January 2011 in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties.

Each bid-rigging charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to representatives at the Department of Justice.

The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the mail fraud schemes. Officials said the maximum fine for the bid-rigging charges could be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims, if either amount is greater than $1 million.

To date, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office have reached plea deals with 47 people who pleaded guilty to criminal charges as a result of the office’s ongoing investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public foreclosure auctions in Northern California, federal prosecutors said.

{ 0 comments }

car

car2

A window washer was taken to a hospital today with serious injuries after falling from the roof of an 11-story building in San Francisco’s Financial District this morning.

Fire crews responded at about 10:03 a.m. to reports that a worker fell from the building at Montgomery and California streets, fire officials said.

Bianca Bahman, 31, a pre-med student at San Francisco State University, was walking to the gym saw the man’s shadow as he was falling and then saw him land on a Toyota Camry approaching the intersection.

The car’s roof caved in and there was blood everywhere, Bahman said. She ran to the man to see if he was OK and said there was blood coming from his ears and he was gasping for breath as he rolled off the car onto the ground.

A coworker remained on the roof and Bahman said she could hear him screaming.

Fire officials said the man was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. San Francisco police Sgt. Danielle Newman said the window washer is a middle-aged man and the driver of the Camry was unharmed.

Bahman said a window washer’s platform was on the ground as she walked by and it appeared the two men were about to hoist it to the roof when he fell.

The Camry remained in the intersection just before 11:30 a.m. with glass all over. The intersection was closed to traffic as police investigated.

{ 1 comment }

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials arrested a man while serving a search warrant at an Oakland marijuana grow this morning, a DEA spokeswoman said.

The warrant was served in the 500 block of East 10th Street near Laney College between 11 a.m. and noon, DEA Special Agent Casey Rettig said.

Rettig said agents found about 500 marijuana plants at the location and arrested Kristopher Johanson, 45, of Oakland there.

As agents were serving the warrant, there was a vehicle crash in the area that injured a person also believed to be involved with the marijuana grow, Rettig said.

Oakland fire officials said that crash was reported at 11:41 a.m. and one person was taken to a hospital, but could not disclose the extent of their injuries.

The details of the investigation remain under seal and Rettig could not provide further details.

{ 0 comments }

A worker was transported to the hospital today with serious injuries after falling from the eighth story of a building in San Francisco today, fire officials said.

Fire crews responded to the report of a worker that fell from the building at 10:03 a.m. at Montgomery and California streets.

A fire department employee said crews transported the patient with serious injuries, but said she could not comment on the extent or nature of those injuries.

The employee said they do not yet know how he fell.

{ 1 comment }

A New Mexico man was arrested on suspicion of DUI after he was found sleeping in his car that straddled the two left lanes of U.S. Highway 101 in San Rafael early Thursday, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The engine of the 2014 Ford Focus was running, the automatic transmission was in drive and Michael Morgan, 29, of Crownpoint, New Mexico, had his foot on the brake when a U.S. Park police officer came upon the scene on northbound Highway 101 north of Manuel T. Freitas Parkway around 3:10 a.m., CHP Officer Andrew Barclay said.

Four CHP officers arrived to find Morgan asleep at the wheel and a right front passenger also sound asleep. The men were traveling from San Rafael to Sacramento, Barclay said.

When the CHP officers tried to wake Morgan up, he took his foot off of the brake and began driving forward. After he was told several times to stop, Morgan stopped the Ford and put it in park, Barclay said. He was then put in a patrol car and taken off of the freeway.

The officers tried to rouse the extremely intoxicated passenger with verbal commands and a sternum rub, but they could not awaken him. An officer then drove the Ford off of the freeway and called paramedics, Barclay said.

The passenger finally woke up and was taken by ambulance to a hospital because of his high level of intoxication, Barclay said.

Morgan was arrested on suspicion of DUI after he was questioned by the officers. He was booked into Marin County Jail on suspicion of misdemeanor counts of DUI and DUI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or greater.

Barclay said the CHP encounters drivers who fall asleep at stop signs but rarely on traffic lanes of freeways.

“It’s remarkable no one hit them,” he said. Barclay also said the bizarre incident is a reminder to drivers to be alert for drunken drivers during the holiday season.

{ 0 comments }

San Francisco business and city leaders are mulling a proposal to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to San Francisco in 2024.

San Francisco is one of four finalist cities considered for a U.S. bid to host the games.

The U.S. Olympic Committee will decide whether to submit San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston or Washington, D.C., as a possible site for the Olympics after the International Olympic Committee meets in December, according to a group in charge of developing San Francisco’s proposal.

The group, headed by San Francisco Giants president and CEO Larry Baer, former U.S. Olympic gold medalist Anne Warner Cribbs and entrepreneur Steve Strandberg, is working on a logistical plan for hosting the games, including necessary infrastructure improvements.

San Francisco’s bid is bolstered by recent and planned construction of new sports venues throughout the area, including the newly opened Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, new facilities at University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University and planned new stadiums for the Golden State Warriors and San Jose Earthquakes, organizers said.

The International Olympic Committee will decide on the 2024 site in 2017.

“We believe a San Francisco Bay Area Olympic and Paralympic Games would be an enormous success, and would benefit the region, the nation and the Games themselves, well beyond 2024,” Baer said in a statement.

Among the potential benefits, organizers say the Olympics would bring lasting infrastructure improvements and jobs in constructing those improvements.

“Hosting the Games would galvanize the Bay Area around some of our most pressing challenges,” Strandberg said. “In preparing for the Olympics, we would pull together to produce thousands of units of new affordable housing, improve our transportation systems, create new jobs and establish new parks and recreational facilities.”

{ 1 comment }

headLogo-can

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California, based in San Francisco, collected more than $327 million in criminal and civil actions in 2014.  That’s the fifth-highest amount of money collected by a U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said the vast majority of the money collected, about $321 million, was from criminal actions, while approximately $5.7 million was from civil actions.  Haag said her office collected millions from financial institutions and others who defrauded private citizens and the federal government.

According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the U.S. Department of Justice as a whole collected $24.7 billion in civil and criminal actions in the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30.

{ 0 comments }

Milpitas police are seeking potential victims of a 28-year-old man with at least five aliases who was arrested in connection with the sexual assaults of a teenager he met using social media.

John Molina was arrested by Milpitas police at a home on Pendragon Lane in East San Jose on Nov. 12 on suspicion of multiple sexual assaults on a 15-year-old victim.

Molina, whose middle name is Markandres, is being held on $150,000 bail at the Santa Clara County’s Elmwood Correctional Complex in Milpitas.

Police learned in October about a possible sexual assault in Milpitas and found that Molina had passed himself off as a student at Independence High School in San Jose and met the victim through a social networking site when the victim was 15 years old.

According to police, Molina deceived the victim as to his identity and then allegedly sexually assaulted the teen repeatedly over an extended period of time prior to his arrest.

Molina has ties to people in San Diego and Hawaii and has used five aliases, including Mike Velasco, Johnny Velasco, Johnny Andres Velasco, Johnny Mike Andres Velasco and Christian James Velasco.

Police are asking anyone with information to call them at (408) 586-2400.

{ 0 comments }

With winter approaching, boaters, fishermen and paddlers ought to take safety precautions while out on Bay Area waters, Coast Guard officials said Wednesday.

As temperatures are expected to decrease during the winter months, those planning a trip on the water are advised to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, officials said.

“A fall into cold water, like we have in the Bay Area, will cause you to gasp and hyperventilate, just like a cold shower or jumping into a very cold pool,” Coast Guard recreational boating safety specialist Paul Newman said in a statement.

“Without a life jacket on you’ll gasp underwater, possibly inhaling up to a quart of water in the first five seconds. This is when most people drown. A life jacket lets you float so you can catch your breath and survive,” Newman said.

A few safety tips from the Coast Guard include leaving a float plan with a trusted person and having a working marine-band radio or GPS on board. Mariners are reminded to listen to VHF-FM channel 16 in an emergency.

Boaters are also advised to be aware of their surroundings, such as staying updated on the weather and water conditions and to know their location, Coast Guard officials said.

People are also advised to be responsible by not boating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the Coast Guard.

{ 0 comments }

With a week left until Thanksgiving Day, the St. Anthony Foundation in San Francisco is hoping to reach its goal of collecting 1,500 turkeys and other items in time to serve the homeless.

Starting Saturday and continuing through next Thursday, volunteers wearing bright red coats will be standing on the curbside at 121 Golden Gate Ave. to accept donations, according to foundation spokesman Karl Robillard.

The curbside donation is scheduled on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

People can contribute canned goods, socks, hats, scarves, hygienic items, and monetary donations, Robillard said.

The nonprofit can accept more donations and volunteers since opening its new dining room in September, according to Robillard.

The organization expects to serve 4,000 meals on Thanksgiving Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The meal includes turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie.

About 180 volunteers are estimated to work in the dining room that day, according to Robillard.

{ 0 comments }