Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Jerry Baik (pictured above), Supervising Assistant City Attorney of the Identity Theft and Fraud Unit, prosecutes cases where counterfeit (fake) goods are seized. When the case is over and the defendant is convicted, the counterfeit goods are destroyed - that's the law according to Penal Code Section 350, and Jerry wants to change it.
Counterfeit goods come in all shapes and sizes, from the infamous fake Rolex watches through fake Louis Vuitton purses, fake Ralph Lauren Polo shirts, fake Nike trainers, and fake Mattel brand toys. You name it, they fake it; it's multi million dollar a year criminal enterprise.
While Jerry Baik and his Unit was busy prosecuting counterfeiters, he received a call from Ruth Schwartz who runs the Mark Taper Foundation Shelter Resource Bank.
The Shelter Resource Bank is a non-profit agency that distributes donated goods to the thousands of homeless people living in shelters in Los Angeles; people so poor they cannot afford a pair of shoes or T-Shirt.
The Shelter Resource Bank's warehouse is an impressive facility, but there's never enough of the basic needs for Los Angeles' most needy; clothes and shoes and maybe a present for a little holiday cheer. So Ruth had an idea; instead of destroying seized counterfeit merchandise, like clothes and trainers, why not donate them to the Shelter Resource Bank where they can be given to those who need them the most?
Ruth contacted Jerry Baik and asked him if it would be possible to use counterfeit goods in that way. Jerry had bad news for Ruth; the law commands destruction of counterfeit merchandise. "Can't anything be done?" asked Ruth, "it's such a waste." Jerry's answer was "Yes. Change the law!"
Ruth and Jerry worked together on the project; Ruth had to find someone in Sacramento who could propose a change in the law, and Jerry had to write the amendment. Ruth found a sympathetic ear in the form of State Senator Gilbert "Gil" Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) who succeeded in getting Jerry's amendment to Penal Code Section 350 passed in both Houses. The Bill awaits the signature of Governor Schwarzenegger, and anxious to move the process along, Ruth and Sen. Cedillo's staff arranged a Press Release on the roof of Skid Row's Union Rescue Mission for Sen. Cedillo and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich.
And so it was that on Wednesday morning, Los Angeles City Attorney's Office Public Information Officer, Frank Mateljan paced Skid Row apprehensively outside the Mission, waiting for the Senator and the City Attorney to arrive.
It wasn't long before they arrived and were soon engaged in deep discussions as to how to make the most of the proposed change in the law.
Above (left to right), Ruth Schwartz, from the Shelter Resource Bank), Deputy City Attorney Jerry Baik, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, and Senator Gil Cedillo.
In the uncharacteristically blistering heat of a September morning, Sen. Cedillo spoke of how this change in the law could change the lives of so many needy people.
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich spoke passionately about his childhood. As one of five children of a cannery worker, he knew how precious a gift could be, and if there were counterfeit and donated toys and clothes that could safely be given to our most needy families, he urged Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the Bill to make that happen.
After the speeches were over, the City Attorney met with another one of his deputies; Songhai Miguda-Armstead, Assistant Supervising City Attorney of the Safe Neighborhood Division's Skid Row Project, and LAPD Officer McCain.
Before leaving for his next engagement, the City Attorney paused to greet a young boy, one of the many homeless children at the Union Rescue Mission. Nuch couldn't resist a 'High Five'....
Pity this one didn't make the front page of the LA Times.
The City Attorney didn't have to go far for his next engagement. Frank Mateljan had arranged with the Mission's Carrie Gatlin to use her office for a radio interview with Larry Mantel on his show, AirTalk on KPCC 89.3FM.
Frank got Larry on the line, and we left Nuch to debate Larry over recent events at the City Attorney's Office.
You can hear the City Attorney's interview by clicking here.
Posted by: David Berger
Photos by: David Berger