Final Defendant Convicted in RICO Case Stemming from Bribery Scheme to ‘Fix’ Criminal and Traffic Cases in O.C. Superior Court
SANTA ANA, California – A federal jury has returned four guilty verdicts against 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 Asefi, also known as “Joey,” 44, of Ladera Ranch, was found guilty late yesterday afternoon of conspiring to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) 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 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.
Asefi is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton on December 8. At sentencing, Asefi will face a statutory maximum sentence of 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 the 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.”
Over the course of more than five years, Lopez “resolved” cases by entering information into the court’s computers to make it appear that a defendant had pleaded guilty, paid required fees or had performed community service. In some cases, Lopez fraudulently created records that made it appear drunk driving charges had been dismissed or defendants had served mandatory jail time.
In addition to taking more than $250,000 in bribes and falsifying court records, Lopez forged the signature of a prosecutor with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The conspiracy ended in the spring of 2015 when the court learned about the misconduct and took steps to correct the cases that Lopez tampered with.
Lopez is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Staton on September 22, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Yesterday’s guilty verdicts against Asefi came exactly one year after the unsealing of a 38-count indictment that outlined the bribery scheme. With Asefi’s conviction, all 12 defendants who participated in the racketeering scheme have been found guilty. Three other people who funneled bribes to Lopez pleaded guilty prior to the indictment.
Five of the defendants have been sentenced and have received terms of imprisonment of up to two years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS Criminal Investigation.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Orange County Superior Court, Irvine Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office provided assistance during the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vib Mittal and Bradley E. Marrett of the Santa Ana Branch Office.