State audits find spending abuse in LA-area city
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A state audit says Cudahy (CUD'-uh-hay) officials engaged in rampant credit card spending and the gritty Los Angeles suburb had virtually no controls to prevent misuse of taxpayer money.
State Controller John Chiang, who released audits on Cudahy Tuesday, also says two city entities must disgorge $23 million in redevelopment funds that were improperly transferred to them.
City officials requested the audits covering July 2010 to June 2012 after some of their predecessors were snagged in a federal corruption investigation.
Former Mayor David Silva, a former councilman and another official were convicted for their roles in the payment of cash bribes from a businessman in exchange for supporting a marijuana dispensary.
Cudahy is among a group of struggling cities near Los Angeles that have seen a string of corruption convictions.
Body of missing hiker found on Mount Tamalpais
MILL VALLEY, Calif. (AP) - Authorities say the body of a missing hiker has been found on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County.
The Marin Independent-Journal reports that the body of 33-year-old Magdalena Glinkowski was found Sunday, weeks after she had last been seen.
Marin County sheriff's officials say there were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play.
Glinkowski was reported missing in early April after a California State Park ranger found an abandoned car rented in her name in a lot near the Pantoll Campground.
A search on April 5 and 6 found nothing.
Authorities in recent days received a tip from a man who said he saw Glinkowski alive when he was going for a run on March 30.
The information helped authorities better target their search in recent days.
SAN FRANCISCO FIRE
Officials: Huge San Francisco blaze was accidental
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A massive blaze that barreled through an apartment building construction site in San Francisco last month was accidental, not arson, fire investigators said Tuesday.
The five-alarm fire on March 11 in the Mission Bay neighborhood began when a hot or smoldering object ignited wood between the top floor and roof of the six-story building, investigators said in a report.
The fire gutted the building and damaged three other structures. The report estimated damage at about $40 million.
Fire officials said a day after the fire that they were looking into preliminary reports that workers at the block-long site were doing torch work.
A more detailed report that could explain what caused the blaze is expected in the next couple of weeks, fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.
The fire created a plume of black smoke that was visible for miles and led to the evacuation of nearby buildings. A wall of the burning building collapsed about an hour after the fire began.
City officials said a catastrophe was narrowly avoided in the neighborhood near AT&T Park, home of the Giants.
About 150 firefighters were called in to contain the blaze.
Mother says police failed to track sex offenders
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A mother has blamed authorities for failing to do enough to track two sex offenders who are charged in the death of her daughter.
The two men wore GPS devices, but investigators say they didn't piece together a pattern of rapes and killings until at least four women were dead.
The situation has raised new questions about the effectiveness of the devices that are supposed to deter criminals.
Jodi Michelle Pier-Estepp said Tuesday that her daughter might still be alive if the suspects had been properly monitored.
Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was found dead last month on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant.
Officials say the GPS devices helped link suspects Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon to the deaths and pinpoint their movements.
Closing arguments held in Iraqi man's murder trial
EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) - Closing arguments have been held in the murder trial of a San Diego County man charged with beating to death his wife - an attack police at first thought was a hate crime against the Iraqi immigrant family.
U-T San Diego says the defense for Kassim Alhimidi argued Tuesday that he had no motive to kill his wife and loved her. But a prosecutor said the marriage was troubled and Shaima Alawadi wanted a divorce.
Jury deliberations are expected Wednesday.
The couple's eldest daughter found her mother in a pool of blood in their El Cajon (Kuh-HOHN') home in March of 2012.
A note found near the body read: "This is my country, go back to yours, you terrorist."
However, prosecutors say it was planted by Alhimidi.
LAPD chief apologizes over patrol car tampering
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and top aides have apologized for failing to promptly alert the civilian Police Commission that officers had tampered with patrol car audio-video equipment to avoid being recorded.
The Los Angeles Times says they also promised the commission Tuesday that they would monitor the problem more closely.
An LAPD inspection last summer found that about half of 80 patrol cars in a South Los Angeles patrol division were missing antennas on video cameras that help record what officers say. Antennas also were removed from at least 10 more cars in nearby divisions.
Beck notified the Police Commission president several months later but the full panel didn't learn about the problem until February.
Police officials say they've created new safeguards against tampering.
Woman pleads guilty to hospital baby theft
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A woman who snatched a newborn child at an Orange County hospital because she wanted her estranged husband to believe she'd given birth has pleaded guilty to kidnapping and burglary.
City News Service says 50-year-old Grisel Ramirez pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Ramirez and her husband had been estranged for several months in 2012 when she tried to rekindle the relationship by falsely claiming pregnancy - even sending him ultrasound photos of her own daughter's pregnancy.
Authorities say that August, Ramirez, wearing hospital scrubs and carrying a visitor's pass, went to the Garden Grove Hospital Medical Center and put a day-old girl in a tote bag. But the infant's bracelet set off an alarm before she could leave.
Former fire chief pleads no contest to radio theft
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A former Southern California fire chief has pleaded no contest to stealing more than $300,000 of radio equipment to sell on eBay and setting a fire in a bungled attempt to hide the theft.
Los Angeles County prosecutors say former Compton Battalion Chief Marcel Dione Melanson entered the no contest plea Tuesday to arson and embezzlement. He'll be sentenced to three years and four months in prison and must make restitution.
Authorities say Melanson stole nearly 100 city-owned radios and sold many of them. They also say Melanson set fire to radio equipment in 2011 in a failed attempt to cover up the theft.
ELKS LODGE FIRE
Fire destroys most of San Pedro Elks Lodge
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A huge fire destroyed most of the Elks Lodge in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, but no one was injured in the blaze.
Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey says more than 100 firefighters fought the flames in San Pedro for nearly two hours early Tuesday. The fire was knocked down about 4:45 a.m.
Much of the 34,000-square-foot structure was gutted, except an auditorium.
Investigators are looking for a possible connection to a small brush fire on the property on Sunday. Humphrey says the earlier fire appears to have been deliberately set.
City News Service says the lodge was built on an 11-acre hilltop site in 1967 at a cost of $648,000. Its fittings included chandeliers and stained glass windows from the original lodge, which was built in 1911.
UTILITY JOB CUTS
Report: California utility plans job cuts
LOS ANGELES (AP) - One of California's largest utilities is poised to cut hundreds of jobs.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that Southern California Edison is planning the reductions as it streamlines operations and outsources some operations.
Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles tells the newspaper Edison plans to cut 500 employees and as many as 500 contract workers beginning this summer. The figures were provided by Senate consultants.
Most of the layoffs would be at Edison's office complex east of Los Angeles. A labor official told the Times the cuts do not involve unionized workers.
In a statement, the utility acknowledged its plans for cuts, including greater use of outside vendors. It did not provide an estimate for the number of workers affected.
The company has about 14,000 workers.
HIGH SCHOOL HAZMAT
Gas smell prompts evacuation of Alhambra school
ALHAMBRA, Calif. (AP) - Classes have resumed at Alhambra High School following an evacuation prompted by a report of a gas smell.
Police and fire officials along with a hazmat crew swept the campus as a precaution Tuesday morning.
In a post on its Facebook page, Alhambra police said nothing was found that would indicate a critical or hazardous situation existed.
Students gathered for several hours on a campus ball field after someone reported smelling gas in a classroom before school started. They were let back inside around 10 a.m.
The investigation is ongoing.
During the evacuation police limited traffic on the streets surrounding the suburban school east of Los Angeles.
BODY IN FREEZER
California man finds body in abandoned freezer
CERES, Calif. (AP) - Police in Northern California say a body was found inside a freezer at an abandoned auto shop.
Carissa Higginbotham of the Ceres Police Department said the property owner found the body after opening the freezer while looking around the abandoned shop.
The owner told investigators he believes the people who ran the auto shop had abandoned it.
The Modesto Bee reports that the discovery was made at 3 p.m. Monday in an industrial part of town.
Investigators haven't determined the identity, age or gender of the body, and it was too early to say if foul play was involved.
Higginbotham says California Department of Justice technicians investigated the scene before the remains were taken to the Stanislaus County Coroner's Office for examination.
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