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Prosecutions

DNA Convicts Man in 1980 Slaying, Rape of Silver Lake Woman

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LOS ANGELES — A 60-year-old man was convicted today of murdering a Silver Lake woman nearly 40 years ago, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours before finding Harold Anthony Parkinson guilty of one count of first-degree murder. The panel also found true a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape.

Parkinson faces life in state prison without the possibility of parole when he is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 2.

Deputy District Attorney Lowrie Mendoza of the Sex Crimes Division prosecuted the case.

On Aug. 30, 1980, Parkinson fatally stabbed and beat Stephanie Sommers, 36, inside her apartment in the 3500 block of Marathon Street.

Forensic evidence from the crime scene was linked to Parkinson who is currently serving a 15-years-to-life sentence in Chuckawalla Valley State Prison for an unrelated 1981 murder in Los Angeles.


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Prosecutions

D.A. Trying to Reduce Jail Population During Pandemic

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District Attorney Jackie Lacey

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced today that she has directed her deputy district attorneys to take steps to reduce the number of people both in local jails and courthouses as part of her office’s response to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“I have asked my attorneys to consider the health risks in every decision they make,” District Attorney Lacey said. “I have directed them to consider ways to keep nonviolent felony and misdemeanor offenders out of our jails and courthouses during this pandemic.”

District Attorney Lacey instructed her managers during a March 16 video chat to delay the filing of new cases and re-evaluate pretrial cases to allow nonviolent offenders who do not pose a danger to the community to remain outside the criminal justice system during this national emergency. She urged them to look at both the pending charges and the defendant’s criminal history to determine their risk to the community at this time.

In keeping with that directive, District Attorney Lacey is working with Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Public Defender Ricardo Garcia and Alternate Public Defender Erika Anzoategui to review approximately 2,000 cases involving in-custody defendants using the same standards to determine if they are a risk to public safety or can be safely returned to the community on their own recognizance while awaiting trial. If they cannot reach an agreement on a particular defendant, the court will review the case and make a determination.

Earlier, in a March 14 email to all employees, District Attorney Lacey directed her deputy district attorneys to consider whether a defendant is considered by health officials to be at a high risk of exposure to coronavirus as a factor in either setting bail or agreeing to a defendant’s release on his or her own recognizance.

To help further reduce the jail population, District Attorney Lacey has instructed her deputy district attorneys to not request that defendants be remanded on probation or parole violations on nonviolent and non-serious crimes unless the defendant has demonstrated that he or she is a danger to the community.

She has recommended that deputy district attorneys use the Proposition 115 guidelines that allow law enforcement officers to testify to witness statements at preliminary hearings in an effort to reduce the number of civilian witnesses having to appear in courthouses during the pandemic.

District Attorney Lacey also has directed Head Deputy District Attorneys to expand the use of the existing Pre-filing Diversion Program (PDP). This program diverts people from entering the criminal justice system on specified misdemeanors and felonies by opting for office hearings as opposed to criminal filings.

As for setting future court dates, deputy district attorneys were advised against objecting to continuances unless necessary to prevent a serious case from being dismissed.

Additionally, deputy district attorneys were informed that they should concur with requests for general time waivers and continuances of jury trials for an extended period of time for out-of-custody defendants.

As to community service, including work performed through the California Department of Transportation, deputy district attorneys were directed to temporarily suspend or extend pending due dates for completion and not use these options at this time unless completion dates may be extended beyond the usual due dates. In addition, they are being directed to agree to put progress reports over for several months.

District Attorney Lacey also has released new Fraud Alerts warning consumers about coronavirus-related scams and price gouging and posted a video message addressing the impact of the coronavirus on her office’s operations. They may be viewed at http://da.lacounty.gov.

In an effort to reduce the spread of this disease, District Attorney Lacey has implemented alternate work schedules for all of her 2,200 employees. This includes flexible work schedules and using technology so that attorneys and other staff members may work remotely.

Employees have been encouraged to prepare for trials, interview witnesses, conduct legal research and, in some cases, even file criminal cases remotely, when possible.

No District Attorney employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19. In an abundance of caution, all employees making reports of possible exposure to the coronavirus are assigned to telework until the guidelines provided by the county’s Public Health Department for a safe return to work are followed.

District Attorney Lacey continues to work closely with county and court officials to determine how best we can continue to maintain public safety during this public health crisis.

“We have a constitutional duty to serve the public by keeping the residents of Los Angeles County safe from violent crime, even during national emergencies,” District Attorney Lacey said. “I want to thank the people in my office for their dedication and cooperation during these unprecedented times.”

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Prosecutions

WeHo Man Admits to Modern Art Fraud Scheme Using Fake Works

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Handcuffs

LOS ANGELES — A West Hollywood man has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges that he sold bogus art he claimed was created by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. He also admitted using fake paintings as collateral for loans on which he later defaulted, and using fraudulent pieces for fraudulent write-offs on his income tax returns.

Philip Righter, 43, was charged on March 10 in United States District Court with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud. In a plea agreement also filed today, Righter agreed to plead guilty to the three felony offenses.

In total, Righter’s scheme attempted to bilk victims out of well over $6 million, and he caused losses of at least $758,265. Additionally, his fraudulent tax returns cost the United States more than $100,000, according to the plea agreement.

From 2016 until June 2018, Righter executed a scheme to defraud people, businesses and the United States by using counterfeit and fraudulent art that he asserted was genuine. Righter supported these false claims with fraudulent provenance – or chronology-of-origin – documents that he had created.

Before August 2016, Righter generally conducted these fraudulent transactions in his own name. But after the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department interviewed him about bogus Keith Haring art he attempted to sell to a Miami art gallery, Righter began using the names of other people to execute his scheme, court documents state.

In order to make the fake artwork appear authentic, Righter ordered and used embossing stamps that appeared similar to the authentic stamps used by the estates of Basquiat and Haring authentic art by these artists. Righter admitted he used these stamps on provenance documents that he created and were later used to deceive his victims into believing the artwork was legitimate.

For example, Righter fraudulently used without authorization the name and signature of Gerard Basquiat – father and previous administrator of the artist’s estate – on fraudulent provenance documents, court documents state. Righter also falsely used the identifications of the estates of Basquiat and Haring, falsely used the names of these two artists, and falsely used the name of a legitimate gallery where Basquiat art was previously sold.

In furtherance of the scheme, Righter obtained and attempted to obtain numerous loans by using the fraudulent art and accompanying fraudulent provenance documents. For example, in October 2016, using another person’s name, Righter contacted a victim about a loan in which a purported original drawing by Basquiat would be used as collateral. Righter created a fraudulent certificate of authentication letter that purportedly came from Basquiat’s estate. The victim wired a $24,000 loan, on which Righter later defaulted. After Righter’s default, the victim attempted to auction the piece, but the auction house determined the piece was fraudulent, and the victim lost $24,000.

Righter also sold or attempted to sell numerous pieces of fake modern art. In August 2017, using another person’s name, Righter listed a purported 1983 piece of art by Basquiat with the word “Samo” written on it with an art sale website and he provided fake provenance documents. The website sold the piece for $50,000. In 2018, after the piece was determined to be fraudulent, the website had to refund the purchase price to the buyer.

Righter also admitted that he knowingly and willfully included a false W-2 and a false donation of fraudulent art to a charity on his 2015 federal income tax return, which resulted in him fraudulently receiving a refund of $54,858. Righter then signed and filed a false 2015 amended tax return, which claimed a false casualty and theft loss of $2,575,000 related to artwork he claimed had been stolen. In truth, the artwork was fraudulent and had no value. This bogus amended tax return resulted in false carryback loss refunds for 2012, 2013 and 2014 totaling $52,485, according to court documents.

Once he enters guilty pleas to the three charges, Righter will face a statutory maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison.

Righter also currently faces charges in the Southern District of Florida for an approximately $1 million attempted art fraud on the Miami gallery. A hearing in that case is scheduled for March 11.

The FBI’s Art Crime Team, the Los Angeles Police Department, and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this matter.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark A. Williams and Erik M. Silber of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.

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Assault & Battery

Female Motorist Charged With Assaulting People at Taco Truck

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LOS ANGELES — A 25-year-old woman accused of assaulting people at a taco truck with her vehicle last August has been charged, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has announced.

Amber Rose Darbinyan of Los Angeles faces three felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon, a car, one felony count each of hit-and-run driving resulting in injury to another person and vandalism over $400 damage, as well as three misdemeanor counts of battery.

Darbinyan pleaded not guilty today. The defendant is scheduled to return to court on March 27 for a preliminary hearing setting in Department 37 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

On Aug. 25, 2019, Darbinyan and other patrons were parked in front of a taco truck in Hollywood when she allegedly rammed her vehicle against a car that was blocking her path, prosecutors said.

If convicted as charged, the defendant faces a possible maximum sentence of eight years and four months in state prison.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, Hollywood Station.

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