El Cajon man headed to court for multiple charges

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An El Cajon man has been charged with posing as an officer with the Department of Homeland Security and allegedly defrauding numerous people out of $6 million by collecting fees under the guise they would be able to provide immigration documents for them.

An El Cajon man has been charged with posing as an officer with the Department of Homeland Security and allegedly defrauding numerous people out of $6 million by collecting fees under the guise they would be able to provide immigration documents for them.

Hardev Panesar, 69, and two others were charged in U.S. District Court in June following their arrests after a federal grand jury indicted them on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, five counts of false personation of a U.S. officer, and structuring domestic financial institutions.

Panesar, Rafael Hastie, 47, of Tijuana, and Gurdev Singh, 56, of Bakersfield, have all pleaded not guilty and will next appear in court July 14. Panesar remains free on $100,000 bond. Hattie and Singh have posted bonds of $50,000 and $15,000 respectively.

The indictment alleges the trio defrauded $6 million in the scheme. Almost all of the victims were immigrants who wanted lawful immigration documents and it was Panesar and Hastie who allegedly posed as federal officers. More than 150 victims were from all over the U.S. and Mexico.

They are accused of showing fake agency credentials when meeting with the victims. They allegedly asked for more money to help speed up the process.

Trial date set for El Cajon man charged with murder

A Sept. 5 trial date has been set for Vincent Frank Pedersen, who is accused of killing Richard Chartier who was found mortally wounded in his driveway in El Cajon on Nov. 4, 2016.

Pedersen, 42, of El Cajon, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. Chartier, 34, died on the way to a hospital after sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call that reported gunshots fired. Chartier was shot in the abdomen on Oro Street.

Pedersen was ordered to stand trial for murder following a preliminary hearing in El Cajon Superior Court in which seven witnesses testified. Pedersen lived several blocks away from Chartier. Pedersen remains in the George Bailey Detention Facility on $1 million bail.

Preliminary hearing set for Lakeside man

A former Lakeside man has a Sept. 11 preliminary hearing on charges he robbed several businesses with a hatchet or threatened employees with a pellet gun in East County.

Randall John Lee, 24, who now lives in San Carlos, is accused of using a hatchet to threaten an employee at the Best Buy store in La Mesa on Feb. 28. Lee allegedly tried to shoplift a camera and when confronted by an employee, he reportedly asked them if they would like to be struck with a hatchet.

On March 12, Lee was at the Walmart stores in Santee and Lakeside and he allegedly threatened employees with a pellet gun during robberies there. The pellet gun was discharged several times.

A San Diego County Crime Stoppers bulletin was sent to the media with surveillance camera photos of the incidents on March 21. Later that same day, Lee turned himself in at the Santee sheriff’s station.

Lee has pleaded not guilty in El Cajon Superior Court and remains free on $150,000 bond.

Federal jury convicts East County alien smuggler

A federal jury has convicted an East County alien smuggler of assault on a federal officer when he was struck in the face with a softball-sized rock.

The jury convicted Martel Valencia-Cortez, 40, following a 4-day trial of three counts of bringing in undocumented people for financial gain in Jacumba.

U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Huff set sentencing for August 28. Valencia-Cortez has been in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center since March 10, 2016 on $30,000 bail.

The assault charge carries a 20-year federal prison term and the other three counts can bring five year sentences each.

Valencia-Cortez was leading a group of 15 undocumented persons through a rocky mountainous area on Nov. 15, 2015 when the U.S. Border Patrol spotted them. He threw a rock at an agent who testified he had never been hit so hard in his life. He said he was dazed and disoriented.

“The conditions are treacherous in some sections of the border, and our courageous agents put their lives on the line every day to protect our country,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson.

“This verdict tells us that the safety of our agents is often paramount importance and attacks on our agents will come at a high price,” said Robinson.

“We look forward to a just sentencing that will keep him off our streets for a significant period of time and will keep our communities safe from this violent criminal,” said Richard A. Barlow, the San Diego sector chief of the Border Patrol.

Martel-Valencia escaped to Mexico after the incident, but Mexican authorities found him and escorted him to the San Ysidro Port of Entry on March 11, 2016. 

The other charges Martel-Valencia was convicted of involve an earlier smuggling incident in Oct., 2015. Three undocumented women were found at 5 a.m. about a mile west of Jacumba. The three women told agents they paid $8,000 to be smuggled into the U.S. and identified Martel-Valencia as the foot guide. 

He was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to three years in prison in another East County smuggling venture. He was identified as a foot guide and load vehicle driver in previous incidents.

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