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Former O.C. court clerk pleads guilty to heading case-fixing scheme

Federal authorities have accused a former Superior Court clerk of accepting bribes in exchange for "fixing" tickets in drunk driving and other traffic-related cases.
(Los Angeles Times)

A former Orange County Superior Court clerk plead guilty Wednesday to reaping more than a quarter-million dollars as head of a bribery scheme that forged the results of criminal and traffic violations in exchange for money.

Anaheim resident Juan Lopez Jr., 36, admitted in a plea deal last week that from as early as 2010 until March 2015, he used his court computer system access to write fraudulent outcomes for more than 1,000 cases, including 69 misdemeanor driving under the influence cases and hundreds of traffic-related violations.

Lopez would directly or indirectly receive money from nine middlemen to fix court records to show a favorable result for the persons charged, when in fact, the cases were never ruled upon, prosecutors said.

DUI cases drew the highest prices, as Lopez asked as much as $8,000 to fix those results, according to the indictment.

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“This scheme affected hundreds of cases and caused havoc in the Orange County Superior Court — problems that were further complicated when the former clerk encouraged others to lie about the scheme,” said U.S. Atty. Sandra R. Brown.

According to court documents, Lopez used the money obtained from hundreds of bribes to fund trips to Las Vegas and overseas vacations. Records also show he used the ill-gotten gains in 2015 to open a Mexican restaurant in Garden Grove.

The scheme ended in 2015 when O.C. Superior Court officials began to suspect Lopez of case tampering.

Lopez faces up to 20 years in federal prison, but prosecutors have agreed to consider only as many as nine years, according to defense attorney Brian Gurwitz. The U.S. district judge presiding over the case is not obligated to adhere to those terms when Lopez is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 22.

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Gurwitz said that his client “just wanted to make clear that he was the only person who was involved at any sort of an official level.”

“There were no other clerks, attorneys, judges or any other employees of the Orange County Superior Court involved,” he said, adding that Lopez “realizes the harm that this has caused to the court.”

Lopez is one of 13 co-defendants under indictment.

Ten others have pleaded guilty so far. An eleventh is scheduled to plead guilty on April 21, and Javed Asefi, 44, of Ladera Ranch is scheduled to go on trial on May 2, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

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jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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