At 5 am this morning, per a non-employee woman who was staying at the Cal-Trans yard at Willow Springs maintenance Yard, she woke to find 5 police officers in her room. She was not arrested.
At about 9 am this morning, I got a call from Rock Knocker informing me that there were a huge number of MCSO and CHP officers at “the yard” and Gorda, and four additional officers parked at Radio Point. I left about an hour and a half later, and noted a lot of officers at the yard, but none at Gorda, and saw at least one at Radio Point. (I did not pull in and look behind the rock, like RK did.)I couldn’t stop and investigate, as I had a brief due today, which meant it had to posted by priority mail today from Cambria.
After lunch with RK, sharing information, making and receiving several phone calls, including one from RK (who left early to find out what was going on) I had enough information to know that something very unusual was going down, but I was still trying to piece it together.
RK told me that his landlord, a former Cal Trans employee had been arrested, and that all his tenants had been given 30 days to move, due to code violations. I made more phone calls. I had more information.
On the way home, I noted 3 CHP cars and their drivers in the Cal Trans yard and the gate open. This was 6:30 pm. I turned around, and when I got back, the gate was closed. My mail box is there, so I stopped anyway. The gate was not locked, and was swinging open, so I walked in. CHP Officer N. Ashby immediately approached me, so I introduced myself, and showed him my press credentials and started asking him questions. He confirmed that arrests were made. I asked for the names, and he went back to the other officers, and as I started to approach, he motioned for me to stay where I was. I did. After a few minutes, he came back with 6 8×10 computer print out of photos of 6 people – 5 current Cal Trans employees, and one former employee. Each had a name at the top of the photo, which he read to me as I read over his shoulder. He gave me the name and number of the PIO for the CHP to call, with the caveat that the PIO might have already left.
I rushed to a local land line, and he had gone home, but the woman who answered the phone suggested I call the MCSO, which I did. I finally tracked down someone who confirmed the 6 arrests, but could not confirm the charges, as at 7 pm, they were “being interrogated.” I made numerous other calls, spoke to a number of locals, and eventually got home around 8:30 pm. I had groceries to carry in, dogs to take care of, more phone calls to make, and eventually got a copy of the joint press release from Cal Trans and the CHP. (Thanks to Bert.) The press release indicates 4 current and 1 former employee were arrested, but the information both the CHP and the jail provided, listed six total names. There are only 6 current employees at the yard, so only the very newest hire was not arrested.
The charges listed on the press release, as to all individuals, are grand theft, conspiracy, and theft of public monies. It further indicates that the workers were falsifying documents to increase their over-time salaries, as well as stealing Cal Trans property.
If you get KSBY or KION, there will be much more later tonight, and given the potential for notoriety, I suspect there will be more coverage in the days to come.
ED COMMENT: For us down on the South Coast who know all these people, who have helped and been helped by these workers, it is a very sad day. It will affect our entire community for months to come, not to mention the eviction of a number of residents from their homes. As a criminal defense attorney for too many years, I would just ask everyone to remember that these individuals are innocent, until the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt otherwise. So, please, do not judge until you have heard the whole story.