Category Archives: Crime

Premier Cru owner used coffee shop as hook-up HQ

John Fox, left, at the counter of a Fourth Street store with a young woman. Fox, who admitted to spending $900K to meet women online, drew attention because he showed up so often.
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John Fox, the corrupt owner of wine retailer Premier Cru, didn’t travel far when he spent $900,000 of embezzled funds on women he met online.

The lanky 66-year-old with fading red hair used to meet scantily dressed 20-year-olds at least two or three times a week at Artís Coffee on Berkeley’s Fourth Street, less than a five-minute drive from his offices at 1011 University Ave., according to observers.

Fox met the young women so frequently that workers in the neighborhood took note. Some of them even started to snap photos of Fox with various dates because they were curious how a middle-aged man connected with so many young women who looked 40 years younger than him.

“He picked up girls literally a couple times a week,” said one worker, who asked that his name not be used. “They were always really young. You never saw him with the same girl twice.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley crime log: Bullets shot from vehicle, overturned car, lots of arrests, gunfire or fireworks?

A man on Telegraph Avenue is treated Aug. 5 after reportedly being stopped by UCPD for jaywalking and then resisting arrest in some way. Photographer Ted Friedman spoke to the witness, and shared this photograph by Kenneth Lipman. Friedman said the man ultimately was taken from the scene by ambulance. No further information was available.
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This overview of recent crime in Berkeley is based on reports to the Berkeley Police unless otherwise noted. Share photos, videos and tips by emailing crime@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook and TwitterDon’t assume someone else will alert us. We rely on readers to help us stay informed.

SNAPSHOT From Aug. 5-11, there were reports of five robberies14 burglaries18 assaults or batteriestwo weapon-involved calls and two sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 12 stolen vehiclesseven disturbances and 25 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Three attempted robberies and an attempted kidnapping, among other crimes, were reported on CrimeMapping to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find the Aug. 5-11 round-up below.

Recent public safety news

GUNFIRE FROM A VEHICLE Someone in a vehicle heading west on Ashby Avenue at 9:40 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, “fired several shots in the area of Ashby and Dohr. Nobody was hit,” according to police. The car was gone by the time officers arrived, and no arrests have been made. Casings were located, however.

FIREWORKS OR GUNFIRE? Later on Sunday, a number of questions came in from people asking about possible shots fired in southwest Berkeley. An officer who responded found fireworks that were still hot to the touch, and a smell of smoke in the air, police said. One reader told Berkeleyside the fireworks were set off near Oregon and California streets: “Dispatch said they got 50 911 calls.” A photograph of a fireworks container found in the area appears at the top of this story.

OVERTURNED VEHICLE ON GILMAN Many readers wondered about an overturned car on Gilman Street at Peralta on Monday and asked about what had taken place. Police said one person was taken to the hospital after the crash in the 1200 block of Gilman (between Peralta and Ordway). Both drivers stayed at the scene and cooperated with BPD, said Sgt. Andrew Frankel, police spokesman. The crash happened at about 7:45 a.m. Gilman was closed during the investigation. One reader told us, “The two women in the car that flipped were shaken up but did not leave with the paramedics/ambulance, the driver in the other car did leave in an ambulance but was described as not seriously hurt by a bystander.”  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Man charged after aluminum bat attack in Berkeley

Zuber Awad. Photo: ACSO
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A homeless man charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon after an attack with an aluminum baseball bat in West Berkeley in July is scheduled to appear in court to be sentenced Wednesday.

According to court papers, Zuber Awad, 26, was with another man’s girlfriend at University Avenue and West Frontage Road on July 1 when angry words were exchanged.

Police say Awad then hit the other man with an aluminum baseball bat causing an injury that required eight stitches.

According to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside, Awad was identified to police as a homeless camper in the area who was known to wear a diving weight around his neck.

Police arrested Awad the day after the baseball bat assault at about 10:10 a.m. at Cedar and Second streets in West Berkeley. According to police, he was on probation at the time of his arrest for battery causing serious bodily injury.

According to police, Awad said he did hit the man but that he did so with his closed fist, not the bat. … Continue reading »

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On the road with the CHP: Your questions answered

Oakland CHP spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld invited Berkeleyside on a ride-along last week. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Last week, Berkeleyside spent a couple hours with the California Highway Patrol to get a sense of what a normal day on I-80 is like for these officers. There are about 100 officers with the Oakland CHP branch, and they handle the freeways from the southern Oakland border up through Berkeley until Richmond.

Carpool violations, cellphone violations, moving violations: most of the stops fell into these categories. During the ride-along we asked readers to send in questions over social media and Officer Sean Wilkenfeld, spokesman for the local office, provided answers. What does the CHP do about carpool violators, and what can other motorists do? What are the rules about lane splitting and what’s the weirdest call he’s been on? What are the penalties for carpool violation tickets, and what kind of excuses do people give when they get pulled over?

The day ended with a glimpse into a long tunnel that runs beneath the freeway, and a look at vehicles involved in fatal crashes. The Storify post that follows sums it up. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Another Berkeley High alum fatally shot Sunday

A tribute to Craig Cooks-Fletcher: "rip to one of the sweetest souls. Your presence, your heart, & that LAUGH will be missed."  Photo: carena torrissa
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Update, Aug. 20: Scroll down to the bottom of this story to see the memorial flyer created to honor Craig Fletcher-Cooks. Memorial information is included.

Update, Aug. 16: A fundraiser has been launched to help pay for funeral costs for Craig Fletcher-Cooks. A memorial is also being planned. Learn more on the GoFundMe page.

A fundraiser to help the family of Terrence McCrary Jr. has also been set up. Learn more.

Original story, Aug. 15: Another young man who attended Berkeley High School has been identified as the second person fatally shot outside a birthday party in downtown Oakland early Sunday morning.

Friends and others who knew him have identified the young man as 20-year-old Craig Fletcher-Cooks. He and 22-year-old Terrence McCrary Jr. were fatally shot shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday after disputes reportedly broke out between groups at the Prime Development art gallery at 322 15th St.

Police have said a third man with gunshot wounds was taken to the hospital for treatment. … Continue reading »

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Crime

2 BHS grads killed in separate Oakland shootings

Terrence Mack, a 2011 Berkeley High graduate, was shot and killed Sunday morning in Oakland. Photo: Azha Luckman
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Update, Aug. 16: A fundraiser to help the family of Terrence McCrary Jr. has already raised more than $12,000. Learn more.

A fundraiser has also been launched to help pay for funeral costs for Craig Fletcher-Cooks, and a memorial is being planned. Learn more.

Update, Aug. 15: Both young men killed Sunday outside a downtown Oakland art gallery during a birthday party were Berkeley High alumni. See the update.

Original story, Aug. 14: A 2011 Berkeley High graduate was shot and killed Sunday morning during an altercation at a birthday party, one of two Berkeley High School grads killed this week.

Another man also died in Sunday’s shooting and a third was seriously injured, according to Oakland police.

The names of the victims have not been released, but Berkeleyside has learned that one of those shot was 22-year-old Terrence McCrary Jr., a Berkeley resident and a 2011 Berkeley High graduate. McCrary was known to many as Terrence Mack.

Sunday at approximately 12:53 a.m., Oakland police rushed to the 300 block of 15th Street after a report that shots had been fired. Police saw a large number of people fleeing the area, according to a press release. When they arrived, officers found two men suffering from gunshot wounds. Officers conducted first aid until paramedics arrived, but both men were pronounced dead at the scene.

Police found another man with gunshots a few blocks away, according to a statement released by OPD. He was taken by ambulance to an area hospital for treatment. … Continue reading »

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Police action in Berkeley: Purse snatch, disturbance

Berkeley police cruiser (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A disturbance that led to an arrest and a purse snatch on Allston Way had police officers out and about in downtown Berkeley on Friday afternoon, authorities report.

Berkeley Police Lt. Andrew Rateaver, watch commander, provided updates at about 2:10 p.m. about both incidents.

Around 1 p.m., dispatchers got a call about a man standing by a car yelling at a woman near University and Shattuck avenues.

When police arrived, the man suddenly drove off, Rateaver said. … Continue reading »

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Premier Cru owner spent $900K on dates met online

Premier Cru. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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A seemingly contrite John Fox, his feet shackled and his hands cuffed, walked into a federal courtroom on Thursday and pleaded guilty to defrauding his Premier Cru customers by selling $20 million in ‘phantom’ wine over a five-year period.

Fox also admitted in a plea agreement that he embezzled about $5 million from Premier Cru starting in 2010 that he used to buy a house, pay his daughter’s college tuition, his family’s credit card bills, for memberships to two private golf clubs, and to purchase or lease numerous expensive cars, including Corvettes, Ferraris, a Maserati and several Mercedes Benz cars.

In addition, Fox said he spent more than $900,000 “on women I met online.”

              Read the back story about Premier Cru on Berkeleyside.

Fox said he first started cheating his customers in 1993 or 1994 when he created fake purchase orders for pre-arrival wines. Each year he increased the amount of phantom wine he pretended to order for his customers until it represented a “significant” amount of his business.

For his crimes, Fox probably faces a maximum of six and a half years in prison and is on the hook to pay $45 million in restitution. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime log: Youth attempt robbery of mom and child on playground, armed Southside robbery Thursday, more

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. Scroll down for detailed maps. Click the map above for the list. (Click "show crime report" to see the list.) See the map key here.
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This overview of recent crime in Berkeley is based on reports to the Berkeley Police unless otherwise noted. Share photos, videos and tips by emailing crime@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook and TwitterDon’t assume someone else will alert us. We rely on readers to help us stay informed.

SNAPSHOT From July 29 to Aug. 4, there were reports of 11 robberies12 burglaries12 assaults or batteriesone weapon-involved call and no reported sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 13 stolen vehicles15 disturbances and 18 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Two sex crimes, an assault and two burglaries, among other crimes, were reported to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find the July 29 to Aug. 4 round-up below.

Recent public safety news

ARMED ROBBERY EARLY THURSDAY A man walking south on Ellsworth Street near Parker Street around midnight, Aug. 11, noticed a sedan getting close to him heading westbound on Parker, said BPD spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel in response to a Berkeleyside query. The vehicle stopped and a man got out from the passenger side, and pointed a black handgun at the man, who turned over his cellphone. The suspect, described as a black man, 20-30 years old wearing a dark blue hoodie, got back into the car, which left the area westbound on Parker. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Police warn Pokemon Go players after recent robberies

Pokemon Go players at Civic Center Park in July. Photo: Andy Stevko
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The Berkeley Police Department is warning players of the wildly popular Pokemon Go game to take some basic safety measures after at least two robberies and one attempt in the city in less than a month.

The free mobile app was released in early July and allows cell phone users to “hunt” for Pokemon species in real-world locations.

Police have said part of the problem is due to people visiting areas because of the game that they may be unfamiliar with, or would not otherwise have gone to.

“In the last month there have been two completed and one attempted pedestrian robberies where the victims were all distracted by the game. One robbery resulted in the arrest of two adults,” said Sgt. Andrew Frankel, BPD spokesman, in a prepared statement.

BPD described the “growing crime trend” related to the smartphone game and has asked players to keep their phones in their pockets until they reach their destinations, and play the game with friends — particularly at night — rather than alone.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

CHP chase through Berkeley ends with vehicle on fire

An early morning CHP pursuit into Berkeley ended in arrest Wednesday. Photo: CHP Oakland
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California Highway Patrol officers arrested a Berkeley man early Wednesday morning after chasing him for more than an hour through two counties from I-880 to the Caldecott Tunnel.

Oakland CHP spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld said the man refused to get out of his vehicle even after it caught on fire. Police ultimately used a K-9 [police dog], which bit the man, to get him out of the vehicle.

Police identified the man as 28-year-old Abdul Henan Zahid and arrested him on suspicion of evading police and driving under the influence.

The pursuit began before 3:25 a.m. Wednesday after the Menlo Park Police Department tried to stop Zahid, according to the CHP. Menlo Park police and the Hayward CHP used a spike strip to flatten some of the tires on Zahid’s black Toyota Avalon, but it didn’t stop him.  … Continue reading »

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Premier Cru owner will plead guilty to fraud

Premier Cru. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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John E. Fox, the embattled owner of the wine retailer, Premier Cru, will plead guilty to wire fraud in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday, one day after he turns himself into authorities.

Fox could face as much as 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for defrauding his clients – some of whom were among the most accomplished venture capitalists and investment bankers in the world. In an charge filed June 28, but only unsealed recently, the U.S. Attorney has charged Fox with intentionally defrauding his clients from 2009 to 2015.

        Read the back story about Premier Cru on Berkeleyside.

“John Fox did knowingly and with the intent to defraud devise, participate in, and execute a material scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses,” reads the indictment.

Fox had requested that the charges be sealed until closer to the arraignment because he was worried for his personal safety, according to court documents.  … Continue reading »

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After initial stumble, police and schools aim to team up

Representatives from BUSD and the School Board — Superintendent Donald Evans, Susan Craig and Ty Alper — ask the community for feedback about its policy related to sharing information with police. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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It wasn’t exactly “Kumbaya,” but Monday night’s meeting between Berkeley residents, police and school officials was described by several in attendance as a significant step, and the culmination of more than a decade of grassroots work by parents and neighborhood activists.

The goal of the meeting was to begin to hash out how the Berkeley Unified School District will approach sharing information with the Berkeley Police Department to keep the community safe while also protecting the rights of those on campus.

The school district currently has no board policy to guide those decisions. Two members of the Berkeley School Board, Ty Alper and Josh Daniels, began trying to outline a policy earlier this year.

In May, when a draft version of the policy came to the attention of the Berkeley Police Department, sparks flew. Officers said at that time they felt the board’s approach looked like an attempt to block police efforts to solve crime, and prioritize the rights of those on campus suspected of committing crimes over the rights of victims. In several cases toward the end of the school year, police said teachers and the district refused to share important information with them about active cases, including a reported sexual assault involving students. … Continue reading »

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