Orange County Superior Court

The probe allegedly centers on a court employee suspected of falsifying records to benefit defendants, recording dismissals where there were none, reducing charges and, in at least one case, making it appear a defendant served jail time.

By Tony Saavedra and Kelly Puente / Staff Writers
June 12, 2015
Updated June 13, 2015 – 8:16 a.m.

The FBI and county prosecutors are investigating fake plea deals and forgeries recorded in hundreds of DUI and misdemeanor traffic cases at Orange County Superior Court.

The probe allegedly centers on a court employee suspected of falsifying records to benefit defendants, recording dismissals where there were none, reducing charges and, in at least one case, making it appear a defendant served jail time when she had not, according to interviews and court proceedings.

“There has been a clerk somewhere that was entering false information … getting cash in exchange for making stuff disappear,” said attorney Sheny Gutierrez. He was one of 110 attorneys and their clients who were summoned to court Friday to explain why deals shouldn’t be undone.

About 600 cases, almost all involving Latino defendants accused of DUI or driving without a license, are scheduled to come before Judge Thomas Borris this month to determine whether they should be sent back to square one. The cases date as far back as 2006.

On Friday, Borris told the puzzled gathering of attorneys and defendants that a review of old cases revealed errors in the court records.

“You are here to convince me there is not a mistake in your case,” Borris said.

No one Friday was able to do that, prompting Borris to vacate about a dozen cases and order the immediate arrest of one woman, who said she served three months in a private jail on a 2013 DUI charge. The court called the private jail in La Verne during a break and discovered the woman, Hurania Castillo Farias, had never served there.

Also, documents allowing Farias to serve her time in a private jail appeared to have been forged. The attorney who supposedly submitted the documents, Lolita Kirk, said in the court hallway that she never represented Farias. Kirk, as she displayed the paperwork, pointed out that her address and state bar number on the documents were wrong.

“It bothers me. I really feel bad for the defendants,” Kirk said, explaining that many of them were being forced to explain the inconsistencies Friday without representation.

Attorney Rudy Loewenstein, representing a defendant whose case was dismissed in error, said outside the courtroom that the hearing was disrupting lives.

“It’s terrible,” Loewenstein said. “You have a case that you thought was taken care of and now it starts new again.”

FBI agents chased down defendants outside the courtroom, questioning them and showing DMV photos. Later, the FBI and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

Though Borris originally referred to the inconsistencies as “errors,” he referred on the bench to a document being “dummied up.”

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