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Posted: Tuesday, July 19, 2005 10:00 pm

Man arrested in fake money order investigation

To many, e-mails promising money from overseas sound too good to be true. But to others, the e-mails are a way to profit, according to Lodi Police.

Detectives have seen more than one fake money order sent from overseas, and on Tuesday they arrested a Lodi man on suspicion of passing a forged document.

Anthony Pena, 51, allegedly changed his story several times Tuesday afternoon when police were called to California Check Cashing, 550 S. Cherokee Lane, Officer Mike Oden said.

Ultimately, police believe Pena had agreed to a deal with someone he met over the Internet. The Nigerian man would send fake money orders for $900, Pena would cash them and send the cash, and he would then be the beneficiary of a $7.5 million life insurance policy, Oden said.

E-mail scams are nothing new, and scams from Nigeria have floated around for years. Sometimes people believe the e-mails, usually written in broken English, which promise millions of dollars if the victim will only send a smaller amount of money.

Now, said Detective Dale Eubanks, the scam is changing so that suspects actually send counterfeit money orders, rather than just convincing people to blindly send money to a foreign destination.

"There's a huge rash of these postal money orders," he said. "They originated in New York, made their way to the Midwest and now they're in California."

Police saw such a money order last week, and Tuesday's case is at least the second they know of, Eubanks said.

The money orders may look real, but Eubanks warned business owners and clerks to look for watermarks and embedded strips, similar to larger bills.

99 Cent Store assistant manager arrested

An assistant manager for Lodi's 99 Cent Store was arrested Monday after other employees noticed that store accounts had been short money, according to police.

Tara Wright, 26, was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement after store employees confronted her and called police, said Lodi Police Cpl. Fernando Martinez.

Wright, who has been employed at the 300 W. Kettleman Lane store for eight months is accused of taking between $700 and $2,500, Martinez said, adding that store officials were still going through accounting books.

Martinez said police have had no prior contact with Wright, one of two assistant managers who answer to the manager.

Because she has a small child and is seven months pregnant, Wright was booked into jail and then released from custody, Martinez said.

Poochigian aide to be in Lodi Thursday

Ann Jordan, district director for state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, R-Fresno, will conduct public office hours from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday at Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine St.

Jordan can be reached at 599-8540.

Robbery suspect remains in critical condition

Daniel Godoy, the robbery suspect who was shot Friday night at A.M. Market on Acampo Road, remained in critical condition late Tuesday afternoon at San Joaquin County General Hospital in French Camp, according to a nursing supervisor.

Godoy, a 33-year-old Galt resident, allegedly tried to rob the small grocery store, just east of Highway 99, at about 9:30 p.m. Friday, according to the county Sheriff's Department. Two clerks reportedly shot Godoy.

Godoy was on parole, having been in state prison several times for drug and burglary convictions, the California Department of Corrections reported. Two of the convictions were in Colusa County, and one was in Sutter County. He was most recently paroled on March 2, 2004, records show.

Ultralite plane crashes on golf course

A 47-year-old Sacramento man crashed an ultralite plane he was flying onto the middle of the second fairway at Dry Creek Ranch Golf Course Tuesday afternoon, according to the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department


An ultralight aircraft lies upside down after crashing on a fairway at the Dry Creek Golf Course southeast of Galt on Tuesday. The pilot of the aircraft was taken to the U.C. Davis Medical Center with unknown injuries, authorities said. (Dan Evans/News-Sentinel)

The pilot, whose name was not disclosed pending notification of family, was taken by ambulance to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, according to sheriff's spokesman Les Garcia. His leg, wrist and possibly his head were injured, Garcia said. A passenger was also hospitalized, Garcia said.

"He wasn't doing too well," said Tim Reynolds, a golf course marshal. "He maybe had a compound (leg) fracture, and he was bleeding from his ears."

According to witnesses, the pilot appeared to be having engine trouble when the royal blue and orange airplane nose-dived onto the golf course at about 5:40 p.m., Garcia said.

The Quicksilver MXL III Sport ultralight plane remained in the fairway, surrounded by bright yellow crime-scene tape, in the early evening. A pair of brown athletic shoes and some debris were seen on the freshly mowed grass.

Budget, wastewater options to be reviewed

The Lockeford Community Services District board will continue discussion on long-term wastewater disposal options to serve future development at today's board meeting.

The board will also consider adopting its budget for the 2005-06 fiscal year.

The meeting, postponed from its regular meeting date last Thursday, will begin at 9 a.m. today at the Lockeford Community Center's McDonald Building, 19456 N. Jack Tone Road.

Stockton man allegedly ransomed Guatemala teens

A Stockton man accused of taking teenagers from Guatemala and holding them as ransom for their parents in the United States was arrested Monday.


Jaime Hernandez

Two teenagers were rescued and Jaime Aguilar Hernandez, 38, was arrested by SWAT officers in the 500 block of South San Joaquin Street, Stockton Police spokesman Sean Fenner said.

Hernandez had allegedly smuggled a 17-year-old girl to the U.S. in exchange for $2,500 from her mother, who lives in Fresno.

After the woman paid him, Hernandez demanded another $2,000 and said if he did not get the money, "she would never see her daughter again," Fenner said in a news release.

The woman went to police Monday morning, and SWAT officers were called in. At 6 p.m. they moved in on the home where Hernandez was located. The girl was found at the home and reunited with her mother, Fenner said.

Officers also found a 14-year-old boy who was allegedly smuggled into the country in a similar ransom demand. The boy was being held in protective custody while his parents were notified in Atlanta, according to Fenner.

California Water Plan to be addressed

San Joaquin County's Advisory Water Commission, consisting of representatives of the county, its cities and water districts, will consider taking a stand on the proposed California Water Plan at today's meeting.

Commissioners will also review the South Delta Flood Conveyance Plan at today's meeting, which will begin at 1 p.m. at the Public Health conference room, 1601 E. Hazelton St., Stockton.

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