Tag Archives: Berkeley crime

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 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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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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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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Man, with knife in pocket, arrested after double stabbing

Homeless people make camp in Civic Center Park as the second Bay Area Book Festival takes place around them, in Berkeley, on Saturday, June 4, 2016. Photo: David Yee
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The man police say is responsible for stabbing two people at Civic Center Park in June has been arrested and is set to appear in court Tuesday.

Authorities say he had the knife used in the stabbing in his pocket at the time of his arrest last week.

Police arrested 62-year-old Lindell Waters in Oakland on Friday evening during a vehicle stop.

Waters was arrested by the Oakland Police Department at about 6:30 p.m. on San Pablo Avenue and 32nd Street. OPD then contacted the Berkeley Police Department after seeing that he had a warrant out of Berkeley for attempted murder in connection with the June 18 stabbing.

A woman previously described the scene at the park before the stabbing to Berkeleyside: “There was definitely an altercation going on between the seemingly homeless folks by the fountain” involving “lots of loud yelling of profanity and loose dogs. A woman seemed to be bugging a man that fit the description of the the suspect.”

The fight happened adjacent to a popular Berkeley farmers market on Center Street, though the stabbing took place at 3:35 p.m. after the market had officially ended at 3 p.m.

Lt. Kevin Schofield, a Berkeley Police spokesman, confirmed that the stabbing at Civic Center Park, at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, followed a “heated dispute among a group of homeless people.”  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley police recover 18 pounds of pot, alleged hash oil operation on Gilman

Police recovered 18 pounds of marijuana at a Gilman Street homeless encampment Saturday. Photo: BPD
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Two Berkeley Police officers on foot patrol at a Gilman Street homeless encampment over the weekend reportedly found 18 pounds of marijuana inside a tent that smelled of weed.

Berkeley Police Lt. Kevin Schofield, a department spokesman, said the officers were doing a security check near Gilman and the Eastshore Highway at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday when they came across a tent that smelled strongly of marijuana.

Last week, after Caltrans installed a large fence beneath the I-80 freeway on Gilman where dozens of homeless people had been camping, many of those individuals reportedly moved their tents over to the Eastshore Highway and Gilman, local residents have told Berkeleyside.

Inside the tent, police said they found 18 pounds of pot in a garbage bag, 25 cans of butane, and what they determined to be a hash oil cultivation system.

Schofield said the butane can be used in the cooking process to create hash oil from the marijuana.

Authorities also found a replica pistol and a switchblade knife, he said.  … Continue reading »

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To curtail camping, Caltrans builds new fence on Gilman

Caltrans workers work on putting up a steel fence to keep out homeless campers at the Gilman Street interchange of Interstate 80, in Berkeley, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. Photo: David Yee
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In the latest attempt by authorities to keep people from camping in Berkeley beneath the Interstate 80 freeway, Caltrans built a stronger fence on Gilman Street this week.

Homeless campers, many of whom came from the Albany Bulb, have said the freeway offers shelter in the rainy months, and feels like their place of last resort. For those who panhandle, the location allows easy access to both vehicles coming off the freeway and nearby San Pablo Avenue, where McDonald’s is another high-traffic spot to interact with drivers, and gas stations offer a place to clean up.

While advocates for those experiencing homelessness say these individuals shouldn’t be penalized and have nowhere else to go, other local residents have expressed frustration at what the city has described as a public health nightmare rife with used needles, bottles of urine, rats scurrying around and human feces.

Read more about the Gilman underpass.

The new fencing, on the south side of Gilman Street below the overpass, is designed to make it harder for people to set up tents on either side of the sidewalk. It joins other new fencing that has gone up in recent weeks to restrict access to areas around the freeway where the homeless have been living.

Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said the city of Berkeley asked the agency to improve upon the existing chain link fencing that was installed in 2014 to try to tackle the same problem.

“Berkeley asked us to put in something,” he said. “And we agreed that that was warranted.” … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley police announce sexual battery

Police say this man touched a woman inappropriately Wednesday. Image: UCPD
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Police are looking for a man who touched a female student on the UC Berkeley campus “inappropriately” Wednesday.

UCPD has said the man, who appeared 50-60 years old, touched the 20-year-old when she was walking through Upper Sproul Plaza at 11:50 a.m. No further detail about the battery was provided.

The man then left the area walking north toward Dwinelle Plaza.

The University of California Police Department looked for the man but could not find him.  … Continue reading »

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Photo gallery: Berkeley celebrates National Night Out

National Night Out, Aug. 2, 2016. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Community members all over Berkeley came together Tuesday to celebrate the annual National Night Out event. They danced, held potlucks, and had a chance to connect with police and firefighters as well as city staff and local officials across about 80 different block parties. The event is designed to help neighbors connect with each other in the interest of safety and build stronger ties with a range of city services, too. The photo gallery below captures some of the highlights from this year’s event.

Have more photos? Share them in the comments. Scroll down for a map of all the block parties registered this year, and learn how to sign up next year. … Continue reading »

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Crime log: Robbery arrests, gunfire in South Berkeley, stolen rental car found by CHP, National Night Out, more

See BPD's calls for service over the past six months in a heat map. See the list of incidents. Source: City of Berkeley
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Note: The crime data typically published by the Berkeley Police Department has not been fully updated since early June due to technical problems. Berkeleyside has requested a fix, and an estimated date for that fix. The items that appear below have primarily been gleaned from reader tips, arrest records, calls for service reports and reports to other law enforcement agencies. Share photos, videos and tips by emailing crime@berkeleyside.com. Don’t assume someone else will alert us. We rely on readers to help us stay informed.

Recent public safety incidents in Berkeley

STOLEN RENTAL CAR RECOVERED Authorities arrested a man in Berkeley after linking him to a stolen SUV on Wednesday, July 27. According to the California Highway Patrol’s Golden Gate Division spokesman, Officer John Fransen, the Alameda County Auto-Theft Task Force got a call that day from Hertz Rentals about a vehicle that had been recently stolen: “They notified us the vehicle was a silver 2016 Chevrolet Suburban that was stolen from their lot in Oakland earlier in the day. They also gave the Suburban’s current location.” Task force investigators responded to that location, the 2800 block of McGee Avenue in Berkeley, and spotted the unoccupied Chevy parked along the curb. Investigators kept an eye on the vehicle until a man later identified as 32-year-old Reginald Sinegal approached it and got inside. Investigators stopped Sinegal and took him into custody without incident. He was booked into North County Jail in connection with the stolen vehicle. No further information was available.

ROBBERY ARREST Police arrested Rico Thomas, a security guard, after a robbery last Wednesday at 7:16 a.m. at Gilman Street and West Frontage Road. The 28-year-old is no longer in custody, according to sheriff’s office records. He was released on $30,000 bail. He was charged with robbery and a special allegation related to prison eligibility if convicted, along with two misdemeanors tied to carrying a concealed loaded firearm in public. He is scheduled for his preliminary hearing Aug. 11.

GUNFIRE IN SOUTH BERKELEY Police got multiple reports Wednesday from residents who heard shots fired near Oregon and Acton streets in South Berkeley. BPD spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel said officers “responded to the scene and were unable to find any persons, vehicles, or residences that were hit with gunfire.” They did recover shell casings from the scene. Police called local hospitals but found no one who had been admitted with apparent gunshot wounds.

WEAPONS CALL AT NORTH BERKELEY BART The BART Police were called to the North Berkeley station after one person reported having gotten into a verbal fight there with someone who showed him a gun in his waistband. The incident took place around midnight Thursday, July 28. Authorities said the suspect was last seen at the bus stop at the station. Berkeley Police officers arrived and saw someone in the bus zone who matched the description. The station was temporarily shut down and trains were held at Berkeley PD’s request, according to the BART Police. When BART Police officers arrived, they detained the possible suspect. When they searched him, however, they found no gun, and he was eventually released. According to the BART Police, a use of force investigation was conducted. No further information was provided.

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5 robberies in Berkeley in less than 2 hours Monday

A spate of robberies were reported Monday night in Berkeley. Image: Google Maps
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Update, 3:15 p.m. Police have said, in a Nixle alert published Tuesday afternoon, they believe there is a “high probability” that the five pedestrian robberies near the UC Berkeley campus late Monday night are related.

Police have released brief suspect descriptions as well. The robbers were described as two black men in their late teens or early 20s. One was 5 foot 7, medium build, wearing a gray sweatshirt, and the other was 6 feet tall with a thin build wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.

A gun was seen by victims in the last three robberies. In the first instance, the robbers made threats of a gun, and the second robbery did not involve a weapon.

Original story, 7 a.m. Police in Berkeley were kept busy Monday night by five robberies that took place in less than 2 hours. If that sounds fast, think again: The first four incidents were reported within just 30 minutes.

The robberies took place south of the UC Berkeley campus, within blocks of College Avenue, and may have been related, authorities report. … Continue reading »

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