lady justice

A Dec. 8 sentencing date was set for the final defendant charged in a racketeering scheme that paid over $250,000 to a clerk in the Orange County Superior Court in exchange for him resolving hundreds of criminal cases and traffic violations without the knowledge of judges or prosecutors.

Javed “Joey” Asefi, 44, of Ladera Ranch was found guilty late Thursday of conspiring to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and paying bribes. At the conclusion of a six-day trial, Asefi was also convicted of lying on a citizenship application and violating the terms of his pretrial release by sending an associate to find out if a co- defendant was cooperating against him.

The evidence presented at trial in Santa Ana federal court showed that Asefi participated in the scheme by providing information on 15 traffic infractions and at least one driving-under-the influence case to a middleman, who provided the data to a Superior Court clerk. With Asefi’s assistance, 11 people saw the dismissal of their traffic tickets.

The clerk at the center of the bribery scheme changed court records to falsely show that the cases had been dismissed or, in the case of the DUI charges, had been “pleaded down” to lesser charges. Asefi and others who benefited from the official actions paid bribes to the clerk through middlemen.

“At least one of the bribes collected and paid by (Asefi) was in the amount of $5,000 to $6,000 and was in exchange for pleading down a driving under the influence charge to a `wet-reckless’ charge,” according to court documents.

At sentencing, Asefi will face up to 45 years in federal prison.

The former Superior Court clerk — Jose Lopez Jr., 37, of Anaheim — pleaded guilty in March to a RICO conspiracy charge. The bribes paid to Lopez’s middlemen were as high as $8,000 to “fix” cases.

When he pleaded guilty, Lopez admitted that he “improperly resolved approximately 1,034 cases, including 69 misdemeanor driving under the influence cases, 160 other misdemeanor cases and 805 traffic-related infraction cases.”

Lopez used some of the money to open a restaurant.

Some signatures of prosecutors were forged as part of the scheme.

Asefi was the last defendant to be convicted. Co-defendants who have pled guilty or have been sentenced are:

— Ricardo Quinnones, 32, of Santa Ana, who was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison;

— Ramon Salvador Vasquez, 27, of Santa Ana, who was sentenced in July to two years in federal prison;

— Gibram Rene Lopez, 26, of Anaheim, who is awaiting sentencing;

— Agustin Sanchez Jr., 32, of Santa Ana, who was sentenced in August to a year and a day;

— Oscar Centeno, 26, of Santa Ana, who is awaiting sentencing;

— Jeff Reynes Fernandez, 24, of Fullerton, who is awaiting sentencing;

–Jesus Saldana, 28, of Garden Grove, who was sentenced this month to five years in prison and five months in home detention;

–Juan C. Rosas Santillana, 32, of Chino Hills, who is awaiting sentencing and;

–Manuel Galindo Jr., 27, who was sentenced to a year and a day in August.

–City News Service

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