Several alleged fentanyl dealers face federal charges for Southern California overdose deaths

Federal prosecutors said Thursday that they have filed charges against 11 alleged drug dealers in cases in which a dozen people died of fentanyl overdoses throughout Southern California in an effort to curb a growing number of deaths caused by the powerful synthetic opioid. Named in 11 separate indictments, the individuals facing drug charges related to the deaths were William Vaughn Fulton, 39, of Torrance; Alexander Declan Bell Wilson, 20, of Rolling Hills; Sean Robert McLaughlin, 47, of Aliso Viejo; Jason Amin Soheili, 26, of Laguna Hills; Michael Boukhanian, 42, of Northridge; Tobin Oliver Wood, 49, of Costa Mesa; Calvin Chi, 28, of Hacienda Heights; Edwin Lopez, 21, of Riverside; Saied Ziafathy Nobar, 57, of the Rancho Park neighborhood of Los Angeles; Amir Ziafathy, 33, of Granada Hills Marcos Isaac Rodriguez, 27, of Costa Mesa. One other man, Bradley Shepley, 35, of Westlake was also charged with distributing heroin that also led to a person’s death. Federal agents arrested six of the defendants this week, while others were taken into custody over the past few months. Attorneys for the defendants could not be reached immediately…

A look at what’s ahead in the California governor recall effort

Dialing in a recall The effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom will likely be voted on this fall. It will be the sixth recall ballot in state history. The effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom needed 1.49 million signatures turned in by the March 17 filing deadline. At least 1.71 million signatures were verified by the deadline. Voters who signed the petition have until June 8 to request removal. If enough signatures remain, the election is likely to take place in October or November. Newsom was elected governor in 2018 with 61.9% of the vote. This recall effort is the first of six attempts for Newsom to be potentially voted out on a ballot. It was filed on Feb. 13, 2020, by Orin E. Heatlie and 124 others. The recall ballot would have two parts; first, voters would be able to vote “yes” or “no” on whether to remove the governor from office; second, voters will have the option to vote for other candidates. If the majority of voters answer yes to the first question, the candidate who receives a plurality of that vote would…

Blighted apartment complex in San Bernardino receives $2 million makeover

An apartment complex riddled with blight and woefully located near an elementary school underwent a $2 million transformation after the city of San Berardino shut it down last March for posing a public health hazard. Berto Ramos and Manuel Ramirez of HomeVestors franchise located in San Bernardino took on the task with their “We Buy Ugly Houses” mentality. Before and after of the interior. Built in the 1960s, the complex spent years in a state of disrepair as one of the area’s most troublesome residential properties. So far beyond code that apartments were left with no running water, windows or electricity, the City had forced the mostly absentee previous owner to surrender the property. Ramos and Ramirez purchased it and completely renovated it to not only meet code but to also reach the highest level of quality in local rentals. In addition to a new water and sewer system and heating and cooling upgrades, each unit now has its own heating and air conditioning system, water source, and shutoff valve. Before and after photos of the courtyard. “This property had been a challenge for the City on…

Cargo continues to explode as Ports of LA, Long Beach have another record-breaking month in April

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles had yet another record-setting month in April, officials there reported this week, maintaining a remarkable streak of record-breaking months that began last summer. A day after the Port of Long Beach announced April was another record-breaking cargo month compared to last year, the Port of Los Angeles on Thursday, May 13, reported similar double-digit gains over April 2020 figures. The numbers, in part, can be explained by the dismal import figures seen in the early months of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic initially hit and caused a widescale economic shutdown — tempering, somewhat, the year-over-year comparisons. But the trend also reflects what is an unprecedented online spending spree by consumers who have coped for more than a year with restricted lifestyles, with most social activities and entertainment options canceled until earlier this year and still not fully back to normal. During the pandemic, consumers have spent their money on home repairs (including setting up home offices), gardening, cooking and exercise — and have done so by flooding online shopping sites. “We are in the midst of our…

Riverside County coronavirus hospitalizations remain stable

Riverside County coronavirus hospitalizations have been stable for the past few weeks, although in recent days the total has edged up slightly from last week’s lows. The number of patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, fell to 63 on Thursday, May 6, the fewest recorded since March 30, 2020, state data show. Hospitalizations stood at 75 on Wednesday, May 12, the most recent date for which numbers were available. That’s well below the century mark, which was last reached April 7, data show, and represents a dramatic decline from the holiday-season surge that overwhelmed medical centers. The number of patients peaked at 1,671 in early January. Of those in the hospital Wednesday, 18 patients were undergoing treatment in intensive care units. That’s down from a high of 380 in January. Here are the latest numbers, according to county and state public health officials. Riverside County Confirmed cases: 299,565 total, up 152 from Wednesday, averaging 89 reported per day in the past week Deaths: 4,594 total, up 1 from Wednesday, averaging 1 reported per day in the past week Hospital…

Southern California small businesses applaud Newsom’s relief plan

Struggling small-business owners throughout Southern California are applauding Gov. Newsom’s plan to expand a grant program aimed at keeping them afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many mom-and-pop businesses have been hammered by costs associated with on-again/off-again closures and constantly shifting safety guidelines aimed at protecting employees and customers. On Thursday, Newsom said he will ask state lawmakers to add $1.5 billion to a program that gives free grants of up to $25,000 to small businesses. It would supplement the program’s $2.5 billion in existing funding, boosting the total to $4 billion. Jeanie Viveros, who co-owns Tiddlywinks Toys & Games in Orange along with her husband Gilbert, called Newsom’s plan “great news.” “We’re still not operating up to where we were in 2019, so we could use whatever money is available to help us with marketing and promotions,” she said. A fixture in Old Towne for eight years, Tiddlywinks sells classic-style toys, games and puzzles. The 2,300-square-foot shop was in the process of boosting its online presence when COVID-19 hit. “We started that literally weeks before, and when the pandemic hit that pushed us to go full-blown,”…

Children 12 to 15 now receiving coronavirus vaccination in Inland counties

Riverside and San Bernardino counties began offering the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to children ages 12 to 15 first thing Thursday, May 13, and children began showing up that day. Ethan Lim, (right) 14, reaches for his Covid-19 vaccination card from his mother San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Rancho Cucamonga Sports Center in Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG) Ethan Lim (left), 14, receives his Covid-19 vaccination card from LVN Desiree Smith after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Rancho Cucamonga Sports Center in Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG) Ethan Lim, (right) 14, checks in for his initial dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination with his mother San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford at the Rancho Cucamonga Sports Center in Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG) Ethan Lim, 14, receives his first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine from LVN Desiree Smith…

Security officers call for better COVID-19 protections at St. Mary’s in Long Beach, other Dignity Health hospitals

St. Mary Medical Center did not provide its security officers with adequate protection against the spread of the coronavirus, said a complaint filed this week with the state’s worker safety agency against Dignity Health, the Long Beach facility’s operator. Dignity Health has denied the allegations. But the Long Beach workers and security officers from other Dignity Health hospitals gathered outside St. Mary’s on Thursday, May 13, to call on the health care behemoth to improve working conditions at its medical facilities across California. The workers said the experiences the Long Beach officers faced were not exclusive to St. Mary’s. Vice Mayor Rex Richardson speaks during a press conference in Long Beach on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Healthcare workers at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach gathered to support security officers who say they faced unequal treatment and lack of protections, allegations that operator Dignity Health denied. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG) Healthcare workers at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach gathered to support security officers who say they faced unequal treatment and lack of protections, allegations that operator Dignity Health denied. The press…

Nonprofit representing George AFB families to pay nearly $10,000 to resolve misappropriation claim

Eight people who contend they were exposed to toxic chemicals while living at the former George Air Force Base will divide a $9,600 judgment against an Ohio nonprofit organization that allegedly misappropriated funds earmarked for federal damage claims. Summit County, Ohio, Judge Kelly McLaughlin, in a ruling late last month, said the Military Accountability and Transparency Alliance had failed to respond to a lawsuit filed in November. As a result, the plaintiffs’ allegations that MAATA’s officers used funds for unauthorized travel reimbursements, hotel stays, Amazon purchases and ATM cash advances are “confessed” to be true, McLaughlin said. The eight plaintiffs, who each paid $1,200 to MAATA to file damage claims with the Air Force’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, will each receive about $800 after legal fees are deducted. MAATA President Lisa M.Tichenor did not respond to requests for comment. However, last year she described the allegations from the plaintiffs as baseless and “sour grapes.” “All expenses were discussed in detail with them in advance,” she said in an email to the Southern California News Group. MAATA aims to help veterans, their spouses and dependent children…

San Bernardino County coronavirus hospitalizations stabilize

In a sign that coronavirus hospitalizations continue to stabilize, fewer than 70 people with confirmed cases have been treated in San Bernardino County for eight consecutive days. There were 66 people in the hospital with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, on Wednesday, May 12 — the most recent day for which numbers were available, state data show. Of those patients, 18 were undergoing treatment in intensive care units. For the past five days, hospitalizations have remained lower than at any time during the pandemic except for March 29, 2020 — the first day of recordkeeping — when 33 patients were treated for confirmed COVID-19 cases, state data show. And on that day many more patients were suspected of having the disease. San Bernardino County hospitalizations peaked at 1,785 in early January and the number of intensive care patients reached 363. Here are the latest numbers, according to county and state public health officials. San Bernardino County Confirmed cases: 296,839 total, up 57 from Wednesday, averaging 74 reported per day in the past week Deaths: 4,510 total, up 9 from Wednesday, averaging 7 reported…

What it’s like to go to a Laker game during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things, and sports is one of them. The Laker game experience was much different compared to normal times, and it started even before I entered Staples Center. At the entrance, you are required to show proof you are vaccinated or had a recent negative COVID test. There are no bags allowed and any purchases made inside are currently contactless (no cash). Once inside, it felt like a ghost town. Usually before a game everyone is walking around, getting food, etc, but this was not the case. As it got closer to game time, it got a bit more crowded, but it still felt very quiet. Speaking of the game, a lot was different from that standpoint too. When in your seats, no food or drinks were allowed. You must wear your mask at all times. If you refused, you were given a warning by an usher (which a lot of people in our section were). Each seat is also marked with a big “Ticketed Seat” sign which makes seat hopping nearly impossible, which is one positive thing…

Carl Love: Jacob’s House in Temecula adds solar power with help from its friends

This home offers shelter for families of local hospital patients. From left are Jared Slusser, owner of the Temecula-based Transform Power; Shawn Nelson, former Temecula city manager; and Richard Valdez, project manager for Jacob’s House. Transform Power offered free and discounted materials to bring solar power to the home. (Courtesy of Richard Valdez) It has provided respite to more than 1,000 people from 42 states and 11 countries since it opened in 2013. Families are asked for a donation of $20 a night for the services. If they can’t pay, it’s free. Richard Valdez, project manager for Jacob’s House, says many of the guests don’t even know where Temecula is when they are notified that a loved one has been hospitalized locally. “The front-line team at Jacob’s House takes them under their wings and makes their lives as comfortable, peaceful and restful as they can,” he said. “That’s the real magic.” Yet finances have always been a struggle for the nonprofit organization, said Shawn Nelson, Temecula’s former city manager. The dramatic savings of solar power would certainly be a boost, but how to pay for…

Jurupa Valley’s La Rue Street was named for early settler

La Rue Street in Jurupa Valley, which is located off Mission Boulevard between Riverview Drive and Pacific Avenue, was named for Scott La Rue. La Rue was a member of an early Riverside family. The intersection of La Rue Street and La Canada Drive is seen in Jurupa Valley. La Rue Street was named for early settler Scott La Rue. (Photo by Kim Jarrell Johnson, Contributing Photographer) According to Ida Parks Condit, in her book, “Jurupa Peace and Friendship,” Scott La Rue was born in Franklin County, Indiana, in 1874. His father, Seneca, came to California in 1850 at just 18 years old to try and make his fortune in gold mining. After several years he went back to Indiana, where he married his wife, Samantha,  and started a family. However, Seneca couldn’t get California out of his mind and, in 1877, the family moved to Riverside. The La Rues purchased a large piece of property at the corner of Riverside and Arlington avenues, where today the 91 Freeway crosses Arlington. Seneca La Rue had an important role in Riverside history as he was a…

Murrieta Boy Scout completes Eagle Scout project

A Murrieta Boy Scout found an idea for his Eagle Scout project at his grandfather’s residence. Jake Otjen recently finished constructing four raised garden beds for his grandfather and others who live at Vineyard Place, a memory care community in Murrieta. “Jake has given the residents a true gift, especially in this time of pandemic when outdoor activities are even more important,” Chris Balmes, life engagement director for Vineyard Place, said in a news release. “Many of our residents used to garden earlier in their lives and the raised beds allow them to continue this pursuit they love so much.” Related Articles How to attend three Twilight Jams at the Asistencia in Redlands Community brings inspiration for this Lake Elsinore artist Newsom channels some Californians’ frustrations about freeway trash, pitches $1.5 billion cleanup Murrieta’s city manager named Woman of the Year for 67th Assembly District Students learn to scout filming locations at Norco workshop

Bruce Varner, prominent Inland Empire attorney, philanthropist, dies at 84

Bruce Doyle Varner, a prominent Inland Empire attorney and philanthropist who lived in Redlands and helped advance cancer research at UC Riverside, has died. He was 84. Varner was a founding partner in the law firm of Varner & Brandt, which has offices in Riverside and Ontario. Bruce and Nancy Varner are seen at daughter Nicole Orue’s wedding Nov. 15, 2014. (Courtesy of Nicole Orue and Amelia Lyon Photography) Bruce Varner is seen in 2006. Varner, a prominent attorney and philanthropist, has died at 84. (File photo by David Bauman, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG) Varner & Brandt founding partner Bruce Varner is seen in June 2011 in the company’s conference room in Riverside. (File photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG) Bruce Varner, a prominent Inland Empire attorney and philanthropist who helped establish an endowment at UC Riverside for cancer research, has died. (Courtesy of UC Riverside) Varner served on the UC Board of Regents, having been selected by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 and confirmed to a 12-year term. A $1 million gift from Varner and his wife, who died in June 2019, helped establish the Bruce…

Inland Empire cities got name-checked in ‘Inlandia’ anthology

In reading “Inlandia,” the 2006 literary anthology of essays, stories, poems and more about the Inland Empire, and the subject of a recent column, I made note of some of the better lines citing Empire places. “Jose was married a year ago,” wrote Helen Hunt Jackson in her famed 1885 novel “Ramona.” “He had the best house in Temecula, next to my father’s. It was the only other one that had a shingled roof.” “…the celebrated drive which all tourists are expected to take is that to and fro through Magnolia Avenue, 12 miles long,” Kate Sanborn shared in an 1893 piece about Riverside. “The name now seems illy chosen, as only a few magnolia trees were originally planted at each corner, and these have mostly died, so that the whole effect is more eucalyptical, palmy and pepperaneous than it is magnolious.” (Potential movie title: “Steel Magnolious.”) “He has given the last six years of his life to this car. He bought it from a widow in Pomona for $35,” Michael Jaime-Becerra wrote in “Georgie and Wanda,” a 2004 story, set in midcentury, about an…

How to attend three Twilight Jams at the Asistencia in Redlands

People gather in the courtyard of the Asistencia in Redlands for a previous Twilight Jam event. Three Twilight Jams at the Asistencia are scheduled May 16, May 23 and June 6, 2021. (Photo by Heather Ross, Asistencia) Jazz, bluegrass and favorites from the 1970s to 1990s will be among the music featured at three concerts in the courtyard of the Asistencia in Redlands. The Twilight Jams at the Asistencia, fundraisers for the Redlands Conservancy and its operation and restoration of the Asistencia, are scheduled 5-8 p.m. May 16, May 23 and June 6. The May 16 event features the North Bench Band, led by keyboard player Glenn Suveg, with Ricky Brown on drums and Phil Norris on trumpet. The band plays jazz, swing, bebop and blues. Water Tower, a Los Angeles-based indie-folk/bluegrass revivalist band, will perform May 23. Band members Kenny Feinstein, Joe “Juice” Berglund and Tommy Drinkard each sing and play multiple instruments — fiddle, banjo, guitar and lap steel. Singer and guitarist Brooke Ramel will perform acoustic favorites from the 1970s through the 1990s at the June 6 Twilight Jam. She has sold…

4 new police officers in Upland budget as city finances recover from pandemic

The Upland City Council got a first look this week at a proposed city budget that proposes adding about eight full-time positions, including four new police officers, for an 8.8% increase in total spending from the prior year. The city’s General Fund, the main source of funding for services excluding capital projects and utilities, is estimated at $45,763,110, an increase of $3.5 million, as the city anticipates higher revenues from sales and property taxes in the coming fiscal year, plus a $1.1 million allotment from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. As proposed, the budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which starts July 1, would not dip into reserves. In fact, the city would maintain a fund balance of $16.8 million, or 36.5% of its proposed expenditures, more than the 25% target set a few years ago. The council reviewed the budget at a meeting Tuesday, May 11. “We are in as healthy a position we’ve been in in more than a decade,” acting City Manager Stephen Parker said Wednesday. However, the city did not restore cuts to library hours and services made…

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