Judge Suspends Felony Fraud Prelim after Defense Charges Officers Failed to ‘Mirandize’ Accused

By Citlalli Florez

MODESTO, CA – A preliminary hearing here in Stanislaus County Superior Court for a man accused of filing a false report for a stolen vehicle was interrupted and been postponed until Dec. 19 after a witness dispute and revelations the accused may not have had his rights read to him.

The accused, who allegedly reported the theft to GEICO, an insurance company, is charged with a misdemeanor, felony and other charges.

The accused is being defended by private defense attorney Jakrun S. Sodhi. The judge overseeing the case is Kellee C. Westbrook.

According to Officer John Nava, on May 7, 2021, he had responded to a collision involving two pickup trucks. He was working with another officer on the scene. He had allegedly spoken to one of the parties involved in the collision. 

When asked, the officer revealed he had investigated one of the trucks. There was no driver present in the vehicle. He determined the vehicle belonged to the accused. He said he took a look inside the vehicle and found a wallet with the accused’s identification.

The officer testified he did not see any signs of forced entry and did not see any keys inside the vehicle. He tried to make contact with the owner of the vehicle and failed to do so. When he continued the investigation, however, he had received a call from the accused.

Both the officer and accused met, according to the officer’s testimony, and the officer said he was told the truck involved in the collision had been reported stolen. The accused told him that the day before he had gone to work, then to the gym and had finally made arrangements with a girlfriend. The next morning the accused allegedly discovered the truck stolen.

Officer Nava told the court he determined there was a discrepancy in what the accused had said in both stories involving the location of the girlfriend. The officer had also stated the accused allegedly seemed uneasy and nervous during questioning.

The accused had also told another officer, said Nava, that he had recently been involved in a collision and had been picked up by a passerby.

The officers spoke to the girlfriend in further questioning. The girlfriend allegedly revealed the accused had texted her about a collision and asked to be picked up.

The defense cross-examined Officer Nava, and it was revealed the accused was not given a Miranda warning or informed of his right to be silent by the officer.

The defense also noted the officer did not have a warrant to search the vehicle in depth or to look in the accused’s wallet.

It was also noted that, in one of the officer’s reports before the accused was tracked down for questioning, the officer had used the words “cross-examined.” This insinuates that the officer knew that he was questioning a possible suspect, charged the defense.

The officer said later that the accused was questioned outside of the accused’s home. There were also no handcuffs involved.

When asked why the officer went into the vehicle without a warrant on the day of the accident, the officer said it was procedure to be able to investigate a possible hit and run.

Officer David Morasco, a public safety officer, said he had met with the accused, who he said wanted to file a stolen report for the vehicle. The officer had informed the accused that filing a false report would be a felony. The accused agreed to filing the report, said the officer.

The next witness was a GEICO employee for the special investigations unit. They are tasked to determine if cases are fraud. It was disputed which part of the testimony would be valid for use as the witness does not know who made the insurance claim and other information.

The judge then ended the hearing, and continued it to Dec. 19.

About The Author

Citlalli Florez is a 4th year undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently majoring in Legal Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and Art Practice. She intends to attend law school in the future with the purpose of gaining skills to further serve her community.

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