Sacto 9-1-1
November 6, 2013
Oroville man pleads guilty to trying to entice minor for sex

A 23-year-old Oroville man pleaded guilty today in federal court in Sacramento to enticement of a minor.

According to court documents, Michael Adam Cruz posted an advertisement on Craigslist in May 2012 seeking a young-looking female. After communicating with an undercover detective that he believed to be a minor female, Cruz agreed to meet June 12, 2012, in Oroville to have sex with her.

Cruz was arrested following his arrival at the designated meeting spot and has been detained in Sacramento County Jail since then, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

October 14, 2013
Butte County man's death is homicide, officials say

The Butte County Sheriff's Office announced that it has determined that a man found dead at a Palermo residence Friday was the victim of a homicide.

Deputies responded at about 5:30 p.m. to a report of a deceased man in the 7400 block of Gene Lane. They found the body of a man, identified as Lewis Raymond Newton, 43, of Oroville, who had been shot, according to a sheriff's department news release.

Authorities are not releasing information regarding the motive of the homicide, as detectives continue their investigation.

Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to call the Butte County Sheriff's Department felony investigations unit at (530) 538-7671.

September 13, 2013
Five arrested in Butte County after searches turn up marijuana growing operations

Butte County sheriff's officials announced the arrest of five people in connection with marijuana growing operations after search warrants were served at two locations earlier this week.

On Wednesday, deputies from the Butte County Sheriff's Office-Special Enforcement Unit executed a search warrant in the 12700 block of Center Gap Road in the Chico area. They located Cara Maarie Henry, 32, and Evan Douglas Anderson, 28, both of Chico, at the residence, and both were detained, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

A search of the residence turned up a butane honey oil lab consisting of marijuana, butane, extraction tubes, coffee filters, a hot plate and a vacuum machine, officials said. Several Pyrex-type dishes containing butane hone oil residue were inside the house.

September 2, 2013
Firefighters bring fire in Butte County under control; Rim fire at 60 percent containment

Bee Metro Staff

The California Department of Forestry and Fire protection reported Monday it has contained the 80-acre Centerville Fire in Butte County, one of seven wildfires the agency is fighting across the state.

The Rim Fire burning in an near Yosemite National Park is now 60 percent contained, with 357 square miles burned. It is now the 4th largest wildfire in California history.

Other fires in Northern California include the Forks Complex fire in Siskiyou County, which has burned more than 36,000 acres and is 45 percent contained. The Corral Complex fire in Humboldt County has burned more than 11,900 acres and is 41 percent contained.

August 28, 2013
Two arrested in raid on marijuana garden in Plumas National Forest

The Butte County Sheriff's Office reported that two people were arrested and more than 3,000 marijuana plants seized during a raid Tuesday of an illegal marijuana growing operation near Jordan Creek in the Plumas National Forest.

The early morning raid was conducted by the Sheriff's Office's Special Enforcement Unit, the U.S. Forest Service and the Butte Interagency Narcotics Task Force.

Upon entering the marijuana garden, deputies located several thousand marijuana plants being grown by a suspected drug trafficking operation, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

August 21, 2013
Seven arrested in Butte County drug trafficking investigation

Seven people have been arrested and methamphetamine and firearms seized after federal and local law enforcement officials served search warrants in Butte County.

The Drug Enforcement Administration Sacramento District Office in cooperation with the Butte County Interagency Narcotics Task Force executed eight federal search warrants. Today's activities followed a 10-month-long investigation of a methamphetamine trafficking organization, according to an announcement by Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano and U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.

Arrested today were Federico Sandoval Aguilar and Alejandro Lopez-Corona of Biggs; Rafael Morfin-Medina, Rickey Lee Xiong, Sou Xiong and Cindy Lee Hunter, all of Oroville; and Manual Garcia Navarro, whose place of residence was not given. Five other people, Guillermo Ventura-Lopez, David Milton Eleazar, Neng Chue Xiong, Pao Thao and Jaime Dominguez were not found and are considered fugitives, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration news release.

August 19, 2013
Update: Butte County fire consumes nearly 2,000 acres, American Fire 15,000

Firefighters battling flames in Butte County reached 45 percent containment overnight.

The Swedes Fire has burned 1,995 acres and threatens 400 structures southeast of Oroville. On Monday morning, Cal Fire reported one residential structure, one garage, three outbuildings and multiple vehicles destroyed. More than 20 streets in the neighborhoods around Swede Flat Road and Oro Bangor Highway have been evacuated.

Erratic winds and steep terrain make containment a challenge, Cal Fire officials said.. The fire's dynamic nature means evacuation orders can change rapidly, according to a Cal Fire report.

August 2, 2013
Suspected accidental shooting leads Butte County detectives to stolen weapons

A man suspected of accidentally shooting a girl in the back was arrested after Butte County sheriff's deputies determined that he was prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.

The Sheriff's Office received a call Sunday from a staff member at Oroville Medical Center, who reported that a female juvenile with a gunshot wound to the back had just arrived in the emergency room.

Deputies went to the medical center and learned that the girl likely had been accidentally shot by an acquaintance, 26-year-old Donald Patrick Browning. Although statements from witnesses and physical evidence indicated that the shooting was an accident, it also was determined that Browning was prohibited from having guns and ammunition, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

July 24, 2013
Authorities say water shortages may account for abandoned marijuana gardens

Water shortages may have caused marijuana growers to abandon their crops days before Butte County law enforcement officers raided their gardens.

The Butte County Sheirff's Office Special Enforcement Unit conducted early morning raids Tuesday on two suspected drug trafficking organization marijuana grows in the county's mountain areas. Both gardens were found through the use of the Sheriff's Office's helicopter, according to a news release.

The first raid was conducted in the Concow area near Dogwood Creek. Deputies searched the marijuana garden but were unable to find any suspects. Deputies did discover a large camp area that they said appeared to have been ravaged by bears and other animals.

June 19, 2013
Traffic stop in Butte County turns up destructive device

A motorist stopped in Butte County for a traffic violation ended up in jail after a sheriff's deputy reported finding a loaded rifle and a destructive device in the vehicle.

Wayne Alan Smith was pulled over by a deputy about 5:50 p.m. Tuesday on Cohasset Road just outside the town of Cohasset for a traffic violation. During the traffic stop, the deputy found a loaded rifle in the vehicle, and a subsequent search of the vehicle turned up the destructive device, according to a Butte County Sheriff's Department news release.

The Butte County Bomb Squad was called to the scene, and the destructive device was removed and transported to a location where it was rendered safe, officials said.

Smith was booked into the Butte county jail on suspicion of possession of destructive device, transportation of a destructive device, possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle and possession of a concealed firearm in a vehicle. Bail was set at $543,000.

June 1, 2013
Explosion, fire reported at Elk Grove home

By Mark Glover

Units of the Cosumnes Fire Department are on the scene of a reported explosion and fire at a two-story home in Elk Grove.

Officials said the fire began just before 7 p.m. in the garage of a home in the 9600 block of Glacier Creek Way, just north of Elk Grove Boulevard and Bradshaw Road.

The fire was reported to have been contained within minutes by fire crews.

May 24, 2013
Three men sentenced for roles in human trafficking ring

Three men have been sentenced for involvement in a human trafficking ring in which women from Mexico were used as prostitutes in five Northern California cities, including Sacramento, Yuba City and Chico.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that Nery Najarro-Rodriguez, 42, Jorge Perez-Hernandez, 37, and Luis Mata, 30, pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit pimping and pandering as part of a multi-county investigation. Each was sentenced today in Sacramento Superior Court to three years in county jail.

The charges stemmed from an FBI investigation into a human trafficking network that spanned several Northern California counties. Young women, ages 21 to 30, were brought from Mexico and sold for sex to as many as 20 clients in a single day, according to an Attorney General's Office news release. The sex acts occurred in brothels in Chico, Stockton, Yuba City, Fairfield and Sacramento, officials said.

March 18, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: Was anyone convicted of killing gold miner found dead in Old Sacramento?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: Back in the late 1980s or early '90s a gold miner named Pete Sanger was killed in Old Sacramento. Was anyone ever convicted of the crime?
Submitted by: Leslie, Sacramento

ANSWER: One man pleaded no contest to being an accessory in the shooting death of gold miner Pete Sanger, a resident of Forbestown in Butte County, but the primary suspect was not charged in the case.

November 22, 2012
Fire burns hydroelectric plant near Oroville

A massive fire burned Thursday in one of the hydroelectric generating units connected to Oroville Dam on the Feather River.

The fire began at 7 a.m. Thursday in the Thermalito Pumping-Generating Plant, downstream of Oroville Dam at Thermalito Forebay.

No one has been injured in the fire, which is believed to have started in the control room, said CalFire Capt. Keith Castillo.

Damage is likely to be extensive to the equipment in the building and the structure itself, said Ted Thomas, a DWR spokesman.

No power outages are expected, nor any water shortages for customers of the State Water Project.

-- Matt Weiser

September 14, 2012
Chico mortgage broker sentenced to prison in kickback scheme

A Chico mortgage broker was sentenced today in federal court in Sacramento to three years and 10 months in prison for her role in a mortgage fraud scheme.

Kesha Danine Fortune Haynie, 41, was convicted by a jury in March of two counts of mail fraud in connection with the scheme. She was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia.

According to testimony presented at trial, Haynie operated Empire Mortgage in Chico. From April through December 2007, she originated fraudulent loan applications in connection with a cash-back-to-buyer mortgage fraud scheme, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

July 24, 2012
Deal frees medical pot dealer Bryan Epis from prison

By Denny Walsh

bryan-epis.jpegA Chico man serving a mandatory 10 years in prison for growing marijuana has had 21/2 years cut off his sentence by federal prosecutors who are notoriously hard-nosed about pot dealers.

Bryan James Epis, (pictured) an inmate at the Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution in Southern California, should now be released in early 2014 instead of September 2016.

Epis, 45, who was one of the first in the state to establish a cannabis club after passage in 1996 of California's law permitting medicinal use of pot, has been locked in a pitched battle with law enforcement for nearly 20 years over his cultivation and use of marijuana. He was found guilty in June 2002 by a jury in Sacramento federal court of conspiracy to manufacture 1,000 or more plants at his home within 1,000 feet of Chico High School. But for much of the intervening time, he was free pending efforts to overturn the conviction.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said today a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion may have made Epis' challenge more viable.

"As set forth in the settlement agreement, Bryan Epis claimed that his trial attorneys rendered ineffective assistance to him with respect to their advice concerning the United States' pretrial plea offer," Wagner said in a prepared statement. "As also detailed in the agreement, his trial attorneys did not refute that claim, and under recent Supreme Court precedent, Epis therefore might have been entitled to some relief."

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. signed off this morning on the settlement agreement hammered out in weeks of negotiation between Epis attorney John Balazs and Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Wong, who is known as one of California's toughest marijuana prosecutors. The rare pact vacating a sentence that had been upheld by federal appellate judges required approval from the highest levels of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

June 29, 2012
Butte County resident sentenced in Sacramento court in marijuana-growing conspiracy

By Denny Walsh

Johnny E. "Jay" Grivette Jr., once a top lieutenant of Lawrence Leland "Lee" Loomis, alleged by the government to be a major fraudster who has yet to be charged, was sentenced Friday in Sacramento federal court to 4 1/2 months in prison and 4 1/2 months of home confinement on his guilty plea to a marijuana-growing conspiracy.

Grivette, 37, a Butte County resident, will remain free for at least the next three months while he continues his assistance in the government's investigation of Loomis, formerly of Granite Bay.

June 28, 2012
Four men accused of trying to entice minor to engage in sex

A federal grand jury in Sacramento has indicted four men -- from Rancho Cordova, Sacramento, Folsom and Oroville -- charging them with attempting to entice a minor to engage in prohibited sexual conduct.

The men were identified while they were online seeking to have sex with minors, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. In each case, the men allegedly traveled to meet a fictional minor and were met instead by law enforcement officers.

Brandon Marks, 25, of Rancho Cordova was indicted June 21 and charged with attempted enticement of a minor, as well as two counts of receipt and two counts of distribution of child pornography. Nicholas Perry, 34, of Sacramento and Eric Johnston, 21, of Folsom were indicted today and charged with a single count of attempted enticement of a minor.

June 15, 2012
UPDATE: Butte County blaze contained at 100 acres

Firefighters from Cal Fire and Butte County Fire have contained a 100-acre blaze in Butte County. One outbuilding was destroyed.

The fire, near Highway 70 and Palermo Road, started about 2 p.m. and was fueled by winds from the northeast and low humidity, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

Berlant said aircraft dropped fire retardant and water on the fire, which was contained by approximately 4:30 p.m.

Berlant advised homeowners to be especially cautious this weekend.

"With these kinds of conditions, a fire can quickly grow out of control," he said.

June 8, 2012
Butte County '50 percent off' amnesty program to end June 30

A six-month "50 percent off" amnesty program allowing drivers in Butte County with outstanding traffic tickets or non-vehicle code violations to pay off certain infraction violations at a discount is due to end June 30.

The program, which began Jan. 1, targets drivers with outstanding traffic tickets or non-vehicle code infraction violations that were due to be paid before Jan.1, 2009. To qualify for the program all of the following must apply:

• You either failed to appear in court or failed to pay in full.

June 4, 2012
Driver killed, passenger injured in collision with tow truck near Oroville

One person was killed and another seriously injured in a collision this afternoon near Oroville.

Sgt. Mark Taylor of the California Highway Patrol said the crash was reported at 1:05 p.m. Two people in a compact car were traveling eastbound on Forbestown Road when the vehicle entered a curve west of Lumpkin Road. It had been raining and the roadway was wet. The driver, a woman, lost control and the car spun about 270 degrees into the path of a westbound tow truck.

Taylor said the tow truck struck the car broadside at a speed of about 45 mph.

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