Voodoo fails to help thieves

DOWNEY - A man charged with real estate fraud who engaged authorities in a high-speed pursuit and used voodoo to influence the outcome of his case has been convicted, the District Attorney's Office announced last week.Deputy District Attorney Eugene Hanrahan of the Major Fraud Section said jurors deliberated for four days before convicting Ruben Hernandez, 34, on May 5. Hernandez, owner of Downey Motorcars, was found guilty of four counts of filing a false application and three counts of grand theft. Jurors deadlocked on one count of evading arrest and two counts each of filing a false application and grand theft. Co-defendant Joel Rodriguez, 44, owner of Coast to Coast Mortgage in Downey, was convicted of six counts of filing a false application and five counts of grand theft. The jury deadlocked on one count of grand theft. As to both defendants, jurors found true a white-collar crime allegation that the loss was more than $500,000 and an excessive-taking allegation that the loss was more than $1.3 million. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito said Hernandez and Rodriguez will be sentenced on June 2 in Department 110 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Hernandez faces a maximum prison term of 13 years. Rodriguez could be sentenced to a maximum term of 14 years, four months. Prosecutors said Hernandez purchased six properties using false social security information and bank statements. Rodriguez used false social security numbers to purchase two properties, obtain home equity lines of credit and open a bank account. Rodriguez was arrested shortly after the case was filed in January 2008. Hernandez, however, eluded authorities. About a year later, Investigator David Ishibashi of the District Attorney's Office, Investigator Steve Louie of the Department of Motor Vehicles and Deputy U.S. Marshall Sal Reyes tracked Hernandez down to a bungalow in Pasadena. On Feb. 12, 2009, as Hernandez and his wife, Aida Gutierrez, 24, were coming out of their driveway, authorities moved in. Hernandez, ultimately, was arrested after engaging investigators in a mile-long, 80-mile-per-hour pursuit. When authorities executed a search warrant on the home where Hernandez was staying, they discovered a voodoo shrine, the prosecutor said. The shrine included various artifacts and voodoo dolls - dunked head down in cups of water with pins in the eyes - featuring the names of the prosecutor, the investigators assigned to the case and the case number.

********** Published: May 14, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 4