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The People v. Joseph Marcus Valenzuela

April 30, 2012


(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. LA065215) APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court for Los Angeles County, Joseph A. Brandolino, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Willhite, J.


Affirmed as modified.

Defendant Joseph Marcus Valenzuela appeals from a judgment sentencing him to four years in state prison after a jury found him guilty of one count of receiving stolen property (Pen. Code,*fn2 § 496, subd. (a)) and three misdemeanor counts of identity theft (§ 530.5, subd. (c)(1)). Defendant challenges the admission of subpoenaed bank records of one of the identity theft victims, arguing that the jury may have believed that defendant hacked into the victim's bank account. He also argues that his possession of the identifying information of three people at one time constitutes a single offense rather than three offenses and that, in any event, the sentence on one of those counts must be stayed under section 654 because it is based upon his possession of a driver's license, which is the subject of the receiving stolen property count. Finally, he asks this court to examine the material the trial court reviewed during its in camera hearing on defendant's Pitchess motion*fn3 to determine if all discoverable materials were ordered disclosed. We conclude the sentence in count 6 must be stayed, but otherwise affirm the judgment.


On May 23, 2010, while looking at paint samples in a Home Depot in Hollywood, Elena Johnson placed a black leather case on the paint counter. Her cell phone, driver's license, debit card, and Costco card were in the case. She walked away from the counter, then realized she did not have her case with her. When she returned to the counter, the case was gone. She reported her missing case to customer service personnel. She cancelled her debit card the next day, but by that time there had been several charges on the card, totaling $450.

A few days later, Los Angeles Police Officer Rufo Amores and his partner were on patrol in Van Nuys when they saw defendant standing in a dark alley behind a motel. Defendant seemed nervous when he saw them. Officer Amores approached defendant and asked what he was doing. Defendant said he was visiting a friend. The officer asked defendant for identification, and defendant told him he only had an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card with his name on it; he did not have any picture identification. Defendant reached in his pocket and pulled out two items -- the EBT card and a California driver's license in the name of Elena Johnson -- and handed them to Officer Amores.

Officer Amores asked defendant who the driver's license belonged to. Defendant responded that it belonged to his "homegirl," but the name he gave the officer was not the name on the license. When the officer pointed out that the name was incorrect, defendant told him that he had found the license. Officer Amores then asked if he could search defendant, and defendant consented. One of the items the officer found during the search was a printout from a website that advertised the sale of people's personal identifying information. At the top of the page were the words "Hack Credit Card Numbers," below which were listed three names -- Angel Burlison, Kenneth Enders, and Stephen Register -- along with credit card information, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, and addresses for each of them, as well as information regarding a Bank of America account for Register.

Officer Amores detained defendant and took him to the police station, where the officer contacted Johnson. Johnson told him that her driver's license had been stolen along with other property. He placed defendant under arrest for receiving stolen property. After being questioned, defendant signed a statement that an individual named "Chris" gave him the license at a Home Depot about a week earlier.

Los Angeles Police Detective Brian Ashley was assigned to investigate the case. He determined that the Social Security numbers and dates of birth listed for Burlison and Enders on the printout in defendant's possession were accurate. After reviewing bank records for Register's account that the District Attorney subpoenaed from Bank of America, Detective Ashley determined that Stephen Register is a true human being, but that the Social Security number listed for him on the printout in defendant's possession was not accurate (one digit was incorrect).*fn4

Defendant was charged by information with one felony count for receiving stolen property, i.e., Johnson's driver's license (count 5) and three misdemeanor counts for acquiring or retaining possession of personal identifying information of Angel Burlison (count 2), Stephen Register (count 4), and Elena Johnson (count 6). The information also alleged that defendant had seven prior felony convictions (§ 1203, subd. (e)(4)) and six prior prison terms (§ 667.5, subd. (b)).

In a bifurcated trial, the jury found defendant guilty on all four counts. Defendant waived trial on the special allegations. He admitted a single prior prison term allegation, and the court granted the prosecution's motion to strike the remaining allegations. The court sentenced defendant to the upper term of three years on the felony count, plus one year under section 667.5, subdivision (b), and imposed three concurrent sentences of one year (with credit for time served) on each of the three misdemeanor counts. Defendant timely filed a notice of appeal from the judgment.


A. Admission of Bank ...

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