Illegal Pharma, Counterfeit Goods Seized in Search

Source: Board of Equalization  |  2016-07-01
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The California Attorney General’s Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement (TRaCE) Task Force served seven search warrants in the capital region turning up hundreds of boxes of foreign pharmaceuticals and thousands of articles of suspected counterfeit clothing.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the California Department of Public Health’s Food and Drug Branch, Franchise Tax Board, and Department of Justice eCrime Unit assisted in the June 21, 2016 operation that involved more than 50 agents and investigators.

“The trafficking of counterfeit goods poses a triple threat,” said Ryan Spradlin, the special agent in charge who oversees HSI operations throughout northern California. “Such activities deliver shoddy and often dangerous goods into the economy, rob Americans of good-paying jobs, and generate proceeds that are often funneled back into other criminal enterprises. HSI will continue to work with its enforcement partners to combat the distribution of counterfeit products, like those seized in Sacramento yesterday, that could put unwitting consumers at risk.”

“This action was a big blow to the underground economy in Northern California, and that makes yesterday’s raid a win for our whole state,” said Board of Equalization Chairwoman Fiona Ma, whose district includes West Sacramento, one of the communities where the raids occurred. “I want to thank the hardworking agents and investigators who spent months of painstaking work in shutting down these illegal operations.”

“Illegal activities hurt legitimate businesses and inflict unfair costs on law-abiding Californians,” said Board of Equalization Member George Runner.  “Law enforcement deserves a huge thank you for their ongoing efforts to fight the underground economy.”

This warrant follows months of investigation into the sale of illegal foreign prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and counterfeit clothing by a couple and their adult son. Inside the family’s homes and three area businesses – Fashion Moda in North Highlands, Victoria’s Health Products in Citrus Heights, and Elena’s Health Products in West Sacramento – investigators discovered and confiscated the foreign pharmaceuticals, clothing, and more than $10,000 in cash.

The Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement Task Force (TRaCE) is comprised of public officials from the California Department of Justice, Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Employment Development Department, Department of Motor Vehicles, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the Santa Ana Police Department.


Freedom Makes America Great

By Bryan Golden  |  2016-07-01

On Independence Day, we celebrate the gift of freedom given to us by the founders of our great nation. Freedom is as precious as life itself. However, its true value is rarely appreciated unless it is either threatened, or lost.

The United States is the only country established exclusively on the principle of individual liberty as an unalienable right. The founders of America recognized freedom as a fundamental human right, not something bestowed by an individual or group. Our Constitution was written specifically to protect our rights and freedoms from being usurped by power hungry tyrants.

We have more rights and freedoms than anywhere else in the world. Our freedoms are rights, not privileges granted by government. Our freedoms are the envy of the world. Every item in the bill of rights is a precious jewel designed to ensure the immortality of our liberty.

The power of freedom is unlimited. Free people build, create, and invent. Everyone’s life improves as the result of freedom. You have the freedom to benefit from your hard work. You have the freedom to ignore naysayers

Freedom is the foundation of America’s greatness. Freedom is opportunity. Freedom has created the highest standard of living in the world. Freedom is responsible for amazing discoveries, inventions, and innovations. Freedom unleashes the human spirit to improve life.

Even when living in a free country, there are people who voluntarily give up their freedom. They do this by giving others the power to make decisions for them. This approach is fraught with peril because no one cares as much about your well-being as you do.

Our founders understood the tactics used by oppressors to enslave a population through the suppression of freedom. America’s founders knew tyrants have an attitude that they are above the law and better than others. Our founders foresaw that authoritarian individuals would inevitably come along, intent on stealing power and wealth from the people.

The process of confiscating your freedom involves deceptive scare tactics. The power hungry claim to know what’s best for you. The erosion of your freedom is expedited by polarizing the population, splitting them into groups which are pitted against each other. Then freedom can be taken from each group under the pretext of protection from the other groups.

When all freedom has been taken from you, compliance is what remains. Life in a tyrannical, totalitarian society consists of misery and suffering. Tyrants consider the Constitution and your freedoms as an impediment to their accumulation of absolute power. Tyrants believe they are above the law. Tyrants feel they know best and are intent on imposing their will on you.

The destruction of America occurs when elected representatives or governmental agencies act illegally in defiance of the Constitution. The destruction of America takes place when these people refuse to enforce existing, duly passed laws, while imposing their own unconstitutional decrees.

Freedom is the arch enemy of tyrants. Individual liberty is a roadblock to a tyrant's ascension to power. In order for tyranny to succeed, liberty must be destroyed. When liberty is destroyed, America is destroyed.

Nothing surpasses the gift of freedom where each individual has the right to determine their own life. What is the alternative? Is it being told what you can and cannot do? Is it having some person or government deciding what, and how much you are permitted to have?

Freedom is your right. It's not a commodity granted to you by someone else. Yet, freedom can be compromised by the malicious actions of others. The typical approach to confiscating your freedom is to start small by taking seemingly inconsequential freedoms under the guise of fairness, safety, or security. Then, piece by piece, your freedoms are eroded until they cease to exist.

Your freedom is not free. Countless people have given their lives so that you may live free. If you are not vigilant, you will lose your freedom. Freedoms lost are extremely difficult to get back. If you don't recognize how precious your freedom is, and speak out against anyone trying to take it, you will lose your freedom. Freedom makes America great.

Bryan is the author of “Dare to Live Without Limits.”Contact Bryan at Bryan@columnist.com or visit www.DareToLiveWithoutLimits.com - 2016 Bryan Golden


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Gasoline Tax Reduced Before July 4 Weekend

Source: Venus Stromberg, California State Board of Equalization  |  2016-07-01

The California State Board of Equalization (BOE) announces that the state excise tax on gasoline will drop by 2.2 cents per gallon on July 1, 2016. This will lower the excise tax rate from 30 cents to 27.8 cents per gallon for the 2016-17 fiscal year, effective July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.

“Californians have another reason to celebrate during Independence Day weekend,” said BOE Member Runner. “This gas tax rate cut comes right on time for those hitting the road during the holiday.”

The Board approved the 2.2-cent tax rate reduction at its February 2016 meeting. The Board has been tasked with adjusting the excise tax rate on gasoline since 2010, when two pieces of legislation (AB x8 6 and SB 70, collectively known as the fuel tax swap) took effect. The Board sets the rate annually so that over a three-year period, no more or less revenue is collected under the fuel tax swap than would have been collected under the prior gasoline tax structure. The excise tax on gasoline goes to the State Transportation Fund for the construction and maintenance of public roads and mass transit.

Although Californians will pay less in state excise tax on gasoline starting July 1st, this may not necessarily translate to lower overall prices at the pump. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, factors such as crude oil prices, refining costs, and distribution and marketing costs also affect gasoline prices. Crude oil prices—which are affected by worldwide economic growth, regional economies, supply and demand—are the largest component of United States gasoline prices, as explained in the latest issue of BOE’s Economic Perspective.

The latest issue also highlights the strong relationship between U.S. gas prices and California gas prices, and California’s gas price is one of the biggest components in setting the excise tax rate annually. U.S. gas prices have declined 37 percent from June 2014 to May 2016, and California’s gasoline excise tax rate has decreased every year since fiscal year 2013-14. Gasoline purchases in California also have increased, with the latest data showing that gasoline consumption for the fourth quarter of 2015 was the highest since 2007.


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FBI Announces $50,000 Reward to Identify East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer

Source: Gina B. Swankie, Federal Bureau of Investigation  |  2016-06-29

40 Year-Old Cold Case Unites Law Enforcement Agencies in the Hunt for Subject Who Stalked Citizens in Multiple California Counties

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, and Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department held a press conference to announce the launch of a reward and national campaign to help identify the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer, a violent serial burglar, rapist, and murderer who terrorized multiple communities in California throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

The digital media campaign includes the launch of a webpage, www.fbi.gov/EastAreaRapist digital billboards throughout the country; social media outreach on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube; and audio broadcasts via podcasts and radio PSAs. The public can play an active role in helping law enforcement find the subject by sharing links to the website and official social media content.

Law enforcement asks the public to consider the following information when reviewing information about the case:

  • Did they live in one of the areas of criminal activity and remember someone in the area who matches the physical description of the subject or may have been known to spend a considerable amount of time in the areas?
  • Have they discovered a hidden collection of items among the belongings of a friend or family member—notably coins and jewelry—as described on the FBI webpage about the crimes?

The subject, who may be 60-75 years old now, was described as a White male standing approximately five feet, ten inches tall, with blond or light brown hair and an athletic build. He may have had an interest or training in military or law enforcement techniques as he was familiar and proficient with firearms.

People who know the subject may not believe him capable of such crimes. He may not have exhibited violent tendencies or have a criminal history.

Detectives have DNA evidence from some of the crime scenes which can either positively link or exclude a suspect. This enables investigators to quickly exclude innocent parties and the public should not hesitate to provide information—even if it is the name or address of an individual who resided in the areas of the crimes—as many parties will be quickly excluded by a simple, non-invasive test.

Between 1976 and 1986, this single subject committed 12 homicides, approximately 45 rapes, and multiple residential burglaries in the state of California. All of the crimes have been linked by DNA and/or details of the crimes. His victims ranged in age from 13 to 41 and included women home alone, women at home with their children, and couples.

The subject was active in the greater Sacramento area from June 1976 to February 1978. Burglaries and rapes began occurring in the Sacramento area during the summer of 1976. During these crimes, the subject would ransack the homes of his victims and take small items such as coins, jewelry, and identification. These cases include the homes of families, couples, and single women; burglaries in a neighborhood tended to precede clusters of sexual assaults. On February 2, 1978, Rancho Cordova couple Sergeant Brian Maggiore and his wife, Katie, were on an evening walk with their dog, chased by the subject who overcame the couple, and shot at close range.

His activity continued primarily in the East Bay Area of Northern California in 1979 and, by October 1979, his activity escalated into rapes and homicides/attempted homicides along the California Coast with homicides in Goleta (October 10, 1979, December 3, 1979, and July 27, 1981), Ventura (March 16, 1980), Laguna Niguel (August 19, 1980), and Irvine (February 6, 1981 and May 5, 1986). During the commission of the homicides, the subject tied up both victims, raped the female victim, and then murdered the couple.

After July of 1981, no associated incidents are known to have been reported for five years. In 1986, an 18-year-old woman was raped and murdered in Irvine. No additional crimes have been connected to the subject after this incident.

A graphic illustrating the general location of these crimes is available on the FBI’s webpage.

Law enforcement is seeking any information that may help identify the subject, dubbed the “East Area Rapist” in Sacramento. He has also been called the “Original Night Stalker,” “Diamond Knot Killer,” and, more recently, the “Golden State Killer.” Individuals with information about the subject may call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324). Additionally, information may be submitted to the FBI’s online tip line, tips.fbi.gov.


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Oldest Living Female Veteran Honored by American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary

By Elise Spleiss  |  2016-06-28

Balmer holds a plaque recognizing her as the oldest living female member of the American Legion.  Her nephew, Ken Hicks holds her certificate of lifetime membership. 
--Photo by Brenda Hicks

Lynn Balmer is 108 years old, going on 109.  She was recently honored as the oldest female veteran still alive in the United States, and the oldest living female member of the American Legion in the country.

Balmer was a Lieutenant in the US Coast Guard, working Intelligence during WWII.  She was a high school math teacher in 1942 in Albany, CA when she answered the call by her government for mathematicians able to read and interpret weather maps and charts. She worked out of a secret base in Connecticut helping to safely navigate US ships on the least dangerous route from the United States to England. Upon discharge in 1945, she moved to Seattle, Washington where she met and married her husband, Charles Balmer.

Balmer was honored in April by American Legion Post 709, Rancho Cordova where she is a member, as the oldest living member of the American Legion.  She is also the oldest American Legion Auxiliary member in the United States, receiving a lifetime membership from Auxiliary Unit Citrus 637.  Niece Brenda Hicks of Citrus Heights describes her great aunt as still being “as bright as can be.”

Lynn was also a professional ice skater, performing in the Ice Capades before and after WWII.

Balmer’s nephew, Ken Hicks of Citrus Heights, describes his aunt as “an extremely sharp woman.”

She now resides in a care facility in Chico, CA.  As a graduate of Chico State University, Balmer also holds the distinction of being the oldest living graduate of any of the California State Universities.  She will be 109 in September.


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Officer Involved Shooting in Carmichael

Source: Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department  |  2016-06-24

At 11:00 p.m. on June 18, 2016, a Sheriff’s deputy observed a vehicle driving erratically in the area of El Camino Avenue and Walnut Avenue in Carmichael. The deputy attempted to pull over the suspect vehicle when a pursuit ensued. The pursuit continued for approximately four to five minutes, with the suspect vehicle reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour in residential areas.

The suspect turned south on Horton Lane south of Sutter Avenue. The roadway turned into a dead end, where deputies exited their car and gave commands for the suspect to exit the vehicle. The suspect then put his car in reverse and began to accelerate. A deputy fearing for the safety of the officers behind the suspect’s vehicle discharged his firearm at the suspect. The suspect sustained gunshot wounds and was taken out of his vehicle. Deputies immediately began life saving measures. Sacramento Metro Fire responded and pronounced the suspect deceased at the scene.

The identity of the suspect in this case will be made available by the Sacramento County Coroner’s office, after notification has been made to his next of kin.

The investigation into the incident will be conducted by the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau and Professional Standards Division, which is standard practice for any officer-involved shooting that occurs in the Sheriff’s Department’s jurisdiction. The deputy involved in the shooting is a 12 year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department. In accordance with the Sheriff’s Department policies and procedures, the deputy involved in the shooting will be placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation. The deputy is currently assigned to the field services division.


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Two Dogs and One Bird Perish in Arden-Area House Fire

Source: Michelle Eidam, Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District  |  2016-06-22

Four fire engines, two trucks, two medics, and two battalion chiefs worked quickly to search for victims, extinguish the fire, and protect nearby homes.

Wednesday, June 15th, around 9:30 this morning, Metro Fire crews were dispatched for a kitchen fire on the 2100 block of Red Robin Lane in the Arden area. Strong winds blowing through windows quickly spread the kitchen fire to the rest of this small house, and fire crews arrived to find a home well-involved with fire.

Four fire engines, two trucks, two medics, and two battalion chiefs worked quickly to search for victims, extinguish the fire, and protect nearby homes. Their strategic fire attack successfully contained the fire to the house of origin, with minimal charring to the exterior of an adjacent home. Firefighters pulled two dogs and one bird out of the fire and attempted to resuscitate them, but they did not survive. The cause of the fire was determined to be unattended cooking, with total damage estimated at $50,000.

Our thoughts go out to the resident who lost her pets and much of her home today.

Cooking remains the number one cause of home fires, causing more injuries than any other type of fire. Knowing what to do can make all the difference. Never leave unattended food cooking on the stove, even for a short time. If you encounter a small grease fire, leave the pan where it is, turn off the heat, and put a lid on it. If you can’t get a lid on the pan, use a fire extinguisher or call 911. For more information, check out www.metrofire.ca.gov.


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Women’s Empowerment Gala Raises $200,000 to Help Homeless

Source: Kristin Thébaud Communications  |  2016-06-22

Women’s Empowerment graduates celebrate at the organization’s 15th Anniversary Gala in May. The event raised $200,000 to help Sacramento homeless women find homes and jobs. 
--Photo by Dylan Tyagi

More than 500 local residents joined with 100 formerly homeless women to raise a recordbreaking $200,000 at Women’s Empowerment’s 15th Anniversary Gala in May. Funds raised will benefit the local nonprofit job training and empowerment program for women who are homeless and their children. The event, which also honored the group’s 1,322 graduates, included opportunities for community members to mingle with graduates who wore evening gowns donated by the community. Guests enjoyed a formal dinner, live and silent auctions, live music and stories from women who are no longer homeless.

“When we started this organization 15 years ago, we never could have dreamed that we would raise $200,000 at this beautiful event that doubles as a way to celebrate all of the amazing women in Sacramento who have broken the cycle of homelessness for their children,” said Lisa Culp, founding executive director, Women’s Empowerment. “The Sacramento community outdid themselves this year in showing their support for local women who are working so hard.”

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Women’s Empowerment was recently featured on NBC’s TODAY Show and CNN’s Impact Your World for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The 2014 Organization of the Year has graduated 1,322 homeless women and their 2,750 children. Last year, 93 percent of graduates found homes and 83 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded solely through private donations from the community. To donate online: www.womens-empowerment.org


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Man Wanted for Four Sacramento Area Bank Robberies

Source: FBI Special Release  |  2016-06-22

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seeks assistance from the public to identify an armed and dangerous individual who has robbed several Sacramento area banks. Thus far, the subject has been linked to four robberies in the Sacramento area:

  • April 25 2016:
    West America Bank
    located at 1610 Arden Way in Sacramento
  • May 29, 2016:
    US Bank
    located at 3320 Arden Way in Sacramento
  • June 11, 2016:
    US Bank
    located at 4040 Manzanita Avenue in Carmichael
  • June 15, 2016:
    Bank of the West
    located at 2581 Fair Oaks Boulevard in Sacramento

The robbery subject is described as an adult male who may be in his 20’s or 30’s. He stands approximately six feet tall with a very slender build. The man has worn a variety of clothing and has concealed his hair or lack thereof by wearing a shoulder-length, red-brown wig or white straw fedora hat that had a band with three alternating stripes. He has also worn glasses with tinted lenses. Photos of this suspect are available on the FBI’s Wanted Bank Robber website: https://bankrobbers.fbi.gov/robbers-container/2016-06-17.8143564404.

During the four robberies, the man either brandished a black handgun or threatened a gun before and demanding money from tellers. After receiving money, the subject stowed the funds in a bag. During the April 25, 2016 and May 29, 2016, robberies, the individual used a tan fabric tote with a stiff, round handle. During the June robberies, the man used a royal blue fabric bag.

In addition to the FBI, the bank robberies are being investigated by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and Sacramento Police Department.

Individuals with information about this man may call their local FBI office or 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-885-5984). Tips may also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov. If the subject is spotted in the community, the public is urged to call 911 and not approach the individual. Wanted fugitives, bank robberies, and other cases in need additional information from the public are posted for viewing on the FBI Sacramento Division’s Most Wanted page.


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Bill to Keep Drones Out of Emergency Zones Passes Assembly Committee

Source: Senator Ted Gaines Office  |  2016-06-15

Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) has announced his Senate Bill 807, which would protect forests, property and the lives of citizens, firefighters and emergency personnel from drone interference, passed out of the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection.

“To think that someone would interfere with firefighting or emergency response situations to get a sneak peek or to post a drone video on YouTube is an outrage that is deserving of punishment and condemnation,” said Senator Gaines. “I look forward to Senate Bill 807’s continued support as it makes its way through the Assembly.”

Senate Bill 807 will grant civil immunity to any emergency responder who damages an unmanned aircraft in the course of firefighting, air ambulance, or search-and-rescue operations. The bill stems from alarming reports of private, unauthorized drones causing mission-critical aircraft to be grounded during firefighting and medical response operations, putting pilots, firefighters, civilians and property at unnecessary risk.

Senator Gaines believes drones hold great promise for wildfire suppression and other emergency services when used properly by the appropriate agencies, but does not want rogue drones to interfere with the most effective response to time-sensitive crises.

“California’s dangerous wildfire season is upon us, and I want everyone to know that interfering with firefighting or other emergency activities is reckless and wrong. Let’s get the word out as far and wide as we can – immediately – to help keep our people and emergency personnel safe,” said Senator Gaines. “But this bill will help ensure our skies are protected. People can replace drones, but we can’t replace a life. Public safety should be our absolute number one priority.”

Senator Ted Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra and Siskiyou counties.


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