Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price Announces Leadership Award for Consumer Justice Bureau for Tobacco Control Efforts

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price Announces Leadership Award for Consumer Justice Bureau for Tobacco Control Efforts

June 10, 2024

OAKLAND, CA — Today, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announces that her office’s Consumer Justice Bureau (CJB) has received the Leadership Policy Implementation Award from the Alameda County Tobacco Control Coalition (ACTCC) for its contribution to tobacco control efforts in Alameda County over the last year.

The award acknowledges the CJB’s groundbreaking civil prosecution of a group of related business entities in Livermore that operated under the trade name Apollo E-Cigs selling flavored tobacco products in violation of SB 793 and California’s Health and Safety Code. Prior to the lawsuit, the Defendants sold tobacco products online through multiple platforms without verifying the age of their customers and sold to minors in person from its unlicensed storefront in Livermore.  In October 2023, DA Price’s CJB sought and obtained a preliminary injunction shutting down the illegal flavored tobacco operation while the lawsuit is pending. This case was the first time a court considered whether California’s ban on flavored tobacco products applies to online sales. The Court adopted the CJB team’s statutory analysis showing that the flavor ban applies to all sales, including online delivery sales.

“Public safety includes protecting our young people from violators of California’s tobacco laws who target young people to sell them addictive products,” said District Attorney Pamela Price. “CJB’s enforcement action against Apollo E-Cigs is a template for law enforcement agencies across the State to bring other violators into compliance with California’s tobacco flavor ban to protect young people in California.”

Contact: damedia@acgov.org

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price’s Real Estate Fraud Unit Warns Public on Vacant Lot Sale Scam

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price’s Real Estate Fraud Unit Warns Public on Vacant Lot Sale Scam

June 4, 2024

OAKLAND, CA—Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price’s Real Estate Fraud Unit is warning the public and real estate professionals about a fraudulent scheme in which a fraudster impersonates the owners of a vacant lot to fraudulently sell it quickly at a discount.

In this case, a real estate agent was duped into working on the sale of a vacant lot in a residential Oakland neighborhood valued at $1.1 million at the discounted price of $560,000. The fraudster contacted the realtor on the phone, claiming he was dying of cancer at a treatment facility in Texas and needed to sell the Oakland property as soon as possible to spare his wife. As a result, the fraudster could not meet the realtor in person and conducted all business over the phone and through emails. The scheme was disrupted eleven days before escrow closed when the escrow officer researched where the rightful owners lived and contacted them. The owners denied any intention to sell their property, and the transaction was canceled.

Upon investigation, the Alameda County Real Estate Fraud Unit found that this fraudulent scheme had also been perpetrated in other states. Based on this active criminal enterprise, it is recommended that buyers also be wary when buying undeveloped properties.

“If you own vacant land in Alameda County, please be aware of this scam and keep an eye on the title of your property,” said District Attorney Pamela Price. You can type your property’s street address on any real estate website or search engine. If an “Active Listing” appears on your property, a listing that you did not authorize, you can contact the listing agent directly to notify them of the problem and notify my office’s Real Estate Fraud Unit.”

For information on how to file a claim, visit the District Attorney Real Estate Fraud Unit webpage, or you can call 510 383-8600 for a complaint form.

Contact: damedia@acgov.org

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (DAO) is one of California’s largest prosecutors’ offices and is led by Alameda County’s first Black woman District Attorney Pamela Y. Price. Price brings her vision to this office to fairly administer justice in the pursuit of thriving, healthy, and safe communities for every person who steps foot in Alameda County, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, or zip code. Price has been recognized as one of the most progressive prosecutors through her forward-thinking, innovative strategies to interrupt cycles of violence and crime and bring change to a criminal justice system rooted in systemic racism. Follow Madam DA on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and @AlamedaCountyda on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 

Plea Deal Reached for Three Defendants Pending Jury Trial in Murder, Kidnapping, Residential Burglary, and Identity Theft Case

Plea Deal Reached for Three Defendants Pending Jury Trial in Murder, Kidnapping, Residential Burglary, and Identity Theft Case

June 3, 2024

OAKLAND, CA—Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announced that her office has secured plea deals for three defendants pending jury trial. They are accused of the murder of Benjamin Hemmann, who was found bound, gagged, strangled to death, and left on the side of the road in the Oakland Hills back on September 6, 2021.

Defendant Richardo Onteveros pleads guilty to second-degree murder and faces a 15-year-to-life sentence in state prison. Defendant Kevin Woodruff pleads guilty to home invasion robbery in concert and possession of stolen property and faces a 6-year and 8-month sentence. Defendant Bryan Wu pleads guilty to first-degree residential burglary and faces a sentence of 6 years in state prison.

The investigation, conducted by Deputies and Detectives with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, included evidence containing witness testimony, surveillance video, location data, and text messages extracted from cell phones. The evidence also reveals that two defendants, Woodruff and Wu, brought the victim to the alleged murderer, defendant Onteveros. Benjamin Hemmann’s body was discovered on a turnout on the side of Redwood Road in the Oakland Hills, bound, gagged, and later determined to have been strangled to death. The evidence showed that all three defendants participated in burglarizing the Hemmann family home and fraudulently used the victim and the victim’s father’s identification information after the murder.

“Each defendant has entered guilty pleas and accepted responsibility for their actions in the kidnapping, murder of Benjamin Hemmann and the residential burglary and identity theft of James Hemmann. These were heinous crimes. The pleas by the defendant ensure they will face the appropriate consequences and accountability for their conduct in these cases,” said DA Pamela Price. “Our office extends condolences to the victim’s family and friends. I want to thank the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Detectives for their work in delivering a case our prosecutors believed could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt which led to these three defendants admitting their roles in these crimes. I commend our prosecutor, Nathan Feldman, Inspector Jason Turner, and Victim-Witness Advocate, Claudia Romero, for their professionalism and work on this case with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.”

The case against the fourth defendant, Marshonna Whittle, who faces residential burglary and identity theft charges, is pending and yet to be scheduled for trial. The sentencing hearing for defendants Richardo Onteveros and Bryan Wu is set for June 26, 2024. Kevin Woodruff’s sentencing hearing is set for July 2, 2024.   All sentencing hearings will be heard at 9:00 AM in Department 12 at René C. Davidson Courthouse.

 

 

Contact: damedia@acgov.org

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (DAO) is one of California’s largest prosecutors’ offices and is led by Alameda County’s first Black woman District Attorney Pamela Y. Price. Price brings her vision to this office to fairly administer justice in the pursuit of thriving, healthy, and safe communities for every person who steps foot in Alameda County, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, or zip code. Price has been recognized as one of the most progressive prosecutors through her forward-thinking, innovative strategies to interrupt cycles of violence and crime and bring change to a criminal justice system rooted in systemic racism. Follow Madam DA on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and @AlamedaCountyda on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 

 

Judge Imposes the Maximum Sentence for Man Convicted of Kidnapping, Rape, Burglary, and Assault

Judge Imposes the Maximum Sentence for Man Convicted of Kidnapping, Rape, Burglary, and Assault  

 May 31, 2024

OAKLAND, CA— Today, Alameda County District Attorney Price Pamela Price announced the sentencing of Keith Kenard Asberry Jr. (39), who was convicted last month after a jury trial on the charges. Mr. Asberry Jr. was sentenced to 75 years to life by Honorable Judge Thomas Reardon in Alameda County Superior Court after being found guilty of kidnapping, rape, burglary, and assault.

During the trial, the prosecution presented compelling evidence showing that in 2008, Mr. Asberry Jr. approached a teenager as she was getting in her car on Alston Way near Berkeley High School. The evidence also showed that Mr. Asberry Jr. used a gun to force the victim to drive to a dead-end street where the sexual assault occurred and then further forced the victim to use her ATM card to withdraw $200 from her bank account.

In the 2015 incident, Mr. Asberry walked into the home of the victim, who had just finished unloading her car from a shopping trip. A short, violent struggle ensued as the victim fought off the attack, prompting Mr. Asberry to run out the front door.

The jury found Mr. Asberry guilty of kidnapping to commit sex crime with true findings of an allegation of use of a firearm, kidnapping to commit robbery with true findings of an allegation of use of a firearm, forcible penetration with findings of allegations of use of a firearm, aggravated kidnapping, and tying and binding, forcible oral copulation with true findings of allegations of use of a firearm, aggravated kidnapping, and tying and binding, forcible rape with true findings of allegations of use of a firearm and aggravated kidnapping, all felonies. Mr. Asberry was also found guilty of first-degree burglary with a true allegation of a person being present and misdemeanor assault.

“Today’s sentencing is a testament to our commitment to seeking justice for victims of sexual violence,” said DA Price. “Keith Asberry’s actions were vile, and this sentence reflects the severity of the crime and its impact on the victim. I commend the work of the prosecutorial team, the inspector assigned to the case, and the victim-witness advocates for the services and support provided to the victims.”

Judge Reardon imposed the maximum sentence allowed under the law for these convicted charges, which is 75 years to life plus 36 years.

Contact: damedia@acgov.org

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (DAO) is one of California’s largest prosecutors’ offices and is led by Alameda County’s first Black woman District Attorney Pamela Y. Price. Price brings her vision to this office to fairly administer justice in the pursuit of thriving, healthy, and safe communities for every person who steps foot in Alameda County, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, or zip code. Price has been recognized as one of the most progressive prosecutors through her forward-thinking, innovative strategies to interrupt cycles of violence and crime and bring change to a criminal justice system rooted in systemic racism. Follow Madam DA on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and @AlamedaCountyda on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 

 

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price Sues Farmers Insurance and Other Home Insurance Companies Alleging Widespread Scheme to Underinsure Homes in California

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price Sues Farmers Insurance and Other Home Insurance Companies Alleging Widespread Scheme to Underinsure Homes in California 

May 21, 2024

OAKLAND, CA – Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announces that her Consumer Justice Bureau has sued multiple home insurance carriers comprising 15% of the home insurance market in California, including Farmers Insurance Exchange, alleging they operate a widespread scheme that knowingly and systematically underinsures homes in California. The complaint alleges that these home insurance carriers provide consumers with inaccurately low replacement cost estimates, far less than the amount needed to rebuild their homes in the event of a disaster. This violates insurance regulations requiring any such communication to “include the expenses that would reasonably be incurred to rebuild the insured structure(s) in its entirety.”

To generate replacement cost estimates, these home insurance carriers utilize third-party software that considers very little information about the specific home to be insured, instead relying upon generalized features like the home’s zip code.  Thus, as alleged in the Complaint, the amount of insurance coverage purchased by homeowners is based on an estimate to rebuild a hypothetical home, not the actual home for which consumers are purchasing coverage. By avoiding the costs required to obtain detailed information about a home’s actual features and characteristics, home insurance providers offer lower premiums to increase their competitive position in the marketplace. However, this scheme also leads to systemic underinsurance in California, leaving homeowners without the means to replace what are often their most valuable assets.

The Complaint alleges that despite home insurance companies’ duty to deal in good faith with consumers, the home underinsurance scheme violates numerous California laws, including Insurance Code regulations and California’s Unfair Competition and False Advertising Laws. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief prohibiting home insurance carriers from continuing their conduct harming homeowners across California.

“The relationship between an insurer and the homeowner is necessarily one of unequal
knowledge, expertise, information, and bargaining power, with homeowners depending on the insurance company to act in good faith,” said District Attorney Pamela Price. “When an insurance company provides a homeowner with a replacement cost estimate, that estimate must pertain to the homeowner’s actual home, not some hypothetical home that suits the insurance company’s bottom line.  Insurance companies must disclose all facts known only to them that are material to a homeowner’s policy, and they owe prospective clients 65 or older an additional duty of honesty, good faith, and fair dealing.  This lawsuit will ensure that homeowners receive the information they are entitled to receive before purchasing coverage so that they can adequately protect what are often their most valuable assets,” said District Attorney Pamela Price.

Homeowners in California who believe they were told an inaccurately low replacement cost estimate by their home insurance company, resulting in insufficient coverage, are encouraged to fill out a Consumer Fraud Complaint Form with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Consumer Justice Bureau. Click here to file a complaint: Alameda County District Attorney Consumer Complaint Form.

 

Contact: damedia@acgov.org

 

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (DAO) is one of California’s largest prosecutors’ offices and is led by Alameda County’s first Black woman District Attorney Pamela Y. Price. Price brings her vision to this office to fairly administer justice in the pursuit of thriving, healthy, and safe communities for every person who steps foot in Alameda County, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, or zip code. Price has been recognized as one of the most progressive prosecutors through her forward-thinking, innovative strategies to interrupt cycles of violence and crime and bring change to a criminal justice system rooted in systemic racism. Follow Madam DA on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and @AlamedaCountyda on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.