Jiminez Sentenced on Felony Embezzlement Charges
Statement from Inyo County District Attorney Tom Hardy.
At a sentencing hearing on Thursday, June 18, 2015 local businessman Jose “Jay” Jiminez was placed on five years of formal felony probation and ordered to serve 240 days in the Inyo County Jail for embezzling from a now-deceased client who had given him a power of attorney. He must serve an actual 90 days, and may apply for electronic monitoring for the balance of his sentence. The court set restitution in the amount of $79,449.76. He is also forbidden from acting as a fiduciary and from managing money or property on behalf of other individuals during the term of his probation, and may not engage in the tax preparation business.
The case began in August, 2012, when the Ombudsman’s Office received a complaint on behalf of the victim and a criminal investigation was initiated by the Bishop Police Department. The investigation discovered that in November, 2011 Jiminez was granted power of attorney by the victim in the case. This gave Jimenez access to the victim’s bank and credit card accounts. Jimenez used the power of attorney to pay bills for victim; but he also used the accounts to fund his businesses, Jimenez Tax Service and Petite Pantry, as well as pay personal bills. In March, 2012, Jimenez also sold victim’s mobile home for forty thousand dollars ($40,000.00). Jimenez received seventeen thousand dollars cash ($17,000.00) and a 2004 Hummer valued at approximately twenty-three thousand dollars ($23,000.00). Jimenez apparently pocketed the cash – records indicate it was not deposited into any account owned by the victim – and took possession of the Hummer.
Mr. Jiminez had previously entered a “no contest” plea to a felony embezzlement charge.
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Inyo Supervisor honor the Board of Education
Inyo Supervisors thanked Superintendent Dr. Terry McAteer and the Inyo County Board of Education for their contribution to Inyo’s Libraries. Dr. McAteer, through the Inyo County Office of Education committed $150,000 to upgrade and improve the Bishop and Lone Pine libraries. Inyo County Administrator Kevin Carunchio was thankful for the opportunity to honor Dr. McAteer and the Inyo County Board of Education, “Board action yesterday was long overdue. Dr. McAteer and the entire Inyo County Board of Education have been big supporters of the Inyo County free library system. Patrons of the library in Bishop or Lone Pine have seen the fruits of their labors. Those libraries look fantastic with the infusion of money from the office of eduction and Dr. McAteer. Its been a big collaborative process with library director Nancy Masters. Tuesdays proclamation was a small but sincere gesture from the board.”
In other action from this weeks board meeting, Inyo Supervisors were asked to rule on a request for a salary increase from Treasurer-Tax Collector Alisha McMurtrie. McMurtrie has been elected to the office three times and was asking for her salary to be brought in line with the County Assessor and Auditor-Controller. The board denied the salary adjustment, which would have elevated McMurtie’s monthly pay from $7,807 to $8,934. Carunchio indicates the timing of the request was a big consideration, “The board fully recognized and thanked the treasurer-tax collector for the many, many improvements she has brought to the office, in service to the county, and tax payers. The board indicated that they would like to consider the mater of a pay increase a little later in the year when the county has gotten through the budget process.”
The next meeting for the Inyo County Board of Supervisors is set for July 7th.
Cover photo by Arnie Palu, left to right, Alden Nash (area 1 board member), David Hefner (area 2 board member), LeeAnn Rasmuson (area 3 board member), Mary Kemp (area 4 board member), Ted Pederson (friends of the mt whitney fish hatchery), Illissa Twomey (Inyo County Office of Education), Chris Langley (area 5 board member). photo taken at the Community Star Awards held May 19th.
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DWP issues statement
The June 4th Inyo/LA standing committee meeting was dominated by a shared sense of cooperation between Inyo County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Working through another year of drought the two parties agreed to reduce water to the McNalley enhancement/mitigation project and Warren Lake while securing irrigation water through July.
In response to the June 4, 2015 Inyo County/Los Angeles Standing Committee meeting, The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has issued the following statement:
“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is pleased with the outcome of the June 4 Standing Committee meeting. In these times of unprecedented drought, we are encouraged by the collaboration exercised by the Inyo County community. This shared sacrifice by all, including the City of Los Angeles who itself is receiving an 85 percent reduction in LA Aqueduct water this runoff year, will allow local ranchers the ability to irrigate their lands through July. LADWP and the other MOU parties are working toward finalizing an agreement (hopefully by early THIS week) that will save up to 4,000 AF of water toward additional irrigation in the Owens Valley. If additional water savings are realized on Owens Lake this Fall and are agreed by Great Basin, State Lands, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, then more water can be made available for continuing irrigation into August and later into the irrigation season. We look forward to continued constructive collaboration with the community and more positive outcomes from future negotiations.”
The next Inyo/LA standing committee meeting is set for July 24th in Los Angeles.
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Shepherd Pass Remains Identified
The body that was located off the Shepherd Pass trail has been identified as 37-year old man, Kenneth Pledger, from Colorado City, AZ. According to the Inyo County Sheriffs Department, at this time the cause of death has not been determined.
Back on Monday, May 18th, 2015 Inyo County Sheriff’s Dispatch received notification of a deceased person off the Shepherd Pass trail at about the 12,000′ elevation level. The information shared with the Sheriff’s Office from the reporting party was that it was evident that the person had been deceased for some time.
Due to the demanding and steep terrain, it was determined that a helicopter recovery would be the safest mechanism to remove the body. Several attempts were made, but due to the recent storm activity in the High Sierra’s the recovery mission had to be held off until the morning of Wednesday May 27th. CHP Helicopter H-80 out of Apple Valley was utilized. Inyo SAR members were able to safely secure the remains for transport to the Lone Pine Airport where they were met by the Inyo County Coroner’s Office.
cover photo by inyo county sheriffs department
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Standing Committee talks irrigation
The mood was light and casual Thursday as the Inyo/Los Angeles Standing committee discussed serious business. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 11am in the Independence board of supervisors chambers, but the pledge of allegiance did not start the session until 11:22. After the delayed start there was little tension in the meeting, as Inyo and LA representatives agreed on all fronts.
The session opened with the two parties agreeing to a reduction in water supplied to the McNalley ponds and pasture enhancement/mitigation project. Inyo Water Department Director Bob Harrington noted that the potential pumping wells that could supply the project are in “off” status, and Owens River diversions are not a viable option.
LADWP Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta presented the grim numbers associated with runoff and operations. Yannotta relayed the fact that the anticipated runoff for the first 6 months of the water year are at 25% of normal, and just 36% for the entire year. Yannotta notes this is less than half the flow of the worst year on record.
The operations and runoff update led into the big item before the standing committee, that being irrigation. Back on On April 27th the LADWP had written ranchers notifying them that all irrigation would end on May 1st, that order was later lifted. At the time the LADWP’s spokesperson Amanda Parsons said, “Collaboration with local partners” will allow the LADWP flexibility with how they distribute water for in-valley uses. Thursday LA indicated they are able to continue irrigtion to local leases due to approximately 2 thousand acre feet in savings at Owens Lake and by adding 3 thousand acre feet from pumping. Yannotta indicates the pumping plan is “conservative, and will not affect vegetation or groundwater levels.” Yannotta also noted there is an additional 3 thousand acre feet stored in Crowley Lake that will be released for irrigation.
Staff from both LA and Inyo County indicated they are continuing to work with Memorandum of Understanding members to shift water from the Lower Owens River Project and Owens Lake. The Sierra Club, California fish and wildlife, the state lands commission, the Owens Valley Committee , and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District are all a part of the MOU group. All MOU members need to sign off on any changes. Between the Lower Owens River Project, Owens Lake, and not supping water to Warren lake, the best estimates show four thousand acre feet of water could be shifted to irrigation. Between projected savings and the revelations of an additional 3 thousand acre feet at Crowley Lake, irrigation water will flow until august. This was certainly good news for ranchers who were in attendance. Supervisor Matt Kingley was relieved to provide some bit of assurance to local ranchers, “We have bought time, but that’s really important for lease holders, our ranchers. To know that their irrigation is good through the end of July, except for those on creeks that may dry up, that we have no control over.”
Overall, a clear feel of cooperation dominated the day, as light rain fell in Independence. “I think the tone of the meting was really positive, obviously we have tough issues we are trying to work though with the city. One thing that I think is important to recognize is that we are all working sort of on one common goal, and that is to figure out the best way to use the water that we have to the best advantage of everyone here in the Owens Valley.” Said Kingsley.
The next standing committee meeting is set for July 24th, in Los Angeles.
cover photo by Gary Young
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Inyo/LA Standing Committee meeting Thursday
The Inyo County/Los Angeles Standing Committee meets Thursday, June 4th in the Board of Supervisors Room, Independence. Thursday’s agenda includes a runoff and operations update looking at “Water availability for Owens Valley and Los Angeles”. There are two action items before the Standing Committee, the first looking to approve a program for reasonable reductions in irrigation water supply for Los Angeles owned lands in the Owens Valley, for recreation and wildlife projects, for projects implemented as part of the Inyo/Los Angeles Long Term Water Agreement, projects associated with the 1997 memorandum of Understanding, and for enhancement/mitigation projects.
The second action item is asking the Standing Committee to consider the approval of reductions in water supplied to the McNally Ponds and Pasture Enhancement/Mitigation Project.
Time will also be set aside for public comments. The Thursday Inyo/Los Angeles standing committee meeting will begin at 11am in the Board of Supervisors Room, County administrative center, 224 North Edwards Street, Independence.
cover photo by Gary Young
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Inyo County Solar Workshops begin
Two solar workshops are being held this week. Inyo County is conducting the public workshops to provide and gather information on the Owens Valley Study Area (OVSA) and solar energy development. The public workshops will provide information on the OVSA, and information collected to date will be on display. The workshops will also provide the opportunity for participants to ask questions and provide comments and information about the Owens Valley Study area.
Tuesday, June 2nd. 6-8pm, City of Bishop, City Council Chambers, 377 west line st.
Wednesday, June 3rd. 6-8pm, Statham Hall, Lone Pine, 138 North Jackson Street.
The agenda for both workshops will be the same and the public is welcome to attend each. For more information contact the Inyo County Planning Department, 760-878-0263, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
cover photo by Gary Young
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Incident on North Pa Ha leads to arrest
28-year old Gabby McDarment Jr was taken into custody Friday, May 29th. According to the Inyo County Sheriffs department, units were sent to the 300 block of North Pa Ha lane just after 4:30 Friday afternoon. Sheriff’s personal and Bishop Tribal Police responded to the scene. According to Inyo County Undersheriff Jeff Hollowell the initial call for services indicated, “A male subject had broken into the residence and was threatening to harm the occupants”. The subject, McDarment Jr, was taken into custody, transported initially to Bishop’s Northern Inyo Hospital, cleared and transferred to Inyo County Jail. The suspect was booked on suspension of attempted murder and battery causing serious bodily injury. According to Undersheriff Hollowell, McDarment Jr is being held in Inyo County Jail with bail set at $510,000. The investigation continues.
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Bishop Resident Steven Bencoma Convicted on Felony Criminal Threats Charge
According to Inyo County District Attorney Tom Hardy, on Thursday, May 28, following a three day jury trial held in the Superior Court of California, County of Inyo, Bishop area resident Steven Bencoma was convicted of a felony charge of making criminal threats. After the jury verdict, Assigned Superior Court Judge Christopher Yeager made “true findings” that Mr. Bencoma had previously served a term in prison, and that he had previously suffered a prior “strike” conviction. The jury deliberated for approximately one hour before returning its verdict. The case is now set for sentencing in Independence on June 16, 2015. Bencoma is facing up to seven years in state prison.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Dee Shepherd following an investigation by the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department.
cover photo by Gary Young, (Inyo County Courthouse, Independence)