My name is Jose Lopez Jr. I am a 37 year old Hispanic male with 7 children. My wife and I have been married for 4 years and we reside in Santa Ana, CA. I am an Orange County native and have lived here my entire life. This is where my children were born, this is where I met my wife; This is home. I graduated from Century High School (Santa Ana) in 1998. Soon after graduating, I attended Santa Ana College for two semesters.
Family Relationships Before Surrendering to Prison
I am the only child of the union of my parents, Jose and Lourdes Lopez. I am very attached to them. We speak daily and see each other a few times per week. My family is my most treasured possession. I dedicate all of time to my family. Weekends consist of softball games for my daughters, football games for my boys and BBQ’s or pizza as a family. It gets hectic at times but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I used to have a really good job. I was a courtroom clerk for the Orange County Superior Court. It was difficult to get my foot in the door but once I was in, I worked hard to establish myself and began forming a future. Courtroom clerks have a lot of power. We processed cases via our Vision System and Vision would send the information to other agencies (i. e. DMV, DOJ etc) It didn’t take long for me to fuck up. I saw an opportunity where I could make some extra money for myself by handling friends and family’s cases on my own, for a price of course. It started off as only a few cases here and there. I was making $400 – $600 extra per month. At the time, that was great. That extra money gave me some breathing room every month by relieving financial stress.
Soon my mindset began to change. “Why only make $400 per month when you can make so much more?”. Temptation got the best of me and I soon began extending my services to others. Before I knew it, I had a network of 10 – 15 ‘brokers’ who were also driven by making money. They sent me information on potential customers and I would give them a price. They could charge whatever they wanted as long as i got my guaranteed amount. I went from processing 5 cases a month, to processing 10 cases per week. There were weeks I would make $5,000.00 bucks. My brokers were happy, I was happy and I didn’t feel that I would get caught.
Guilt that Accompanies Fraud
Like anything else that comes easy, I never felt it was going to end. In addition, the urge to make even more money was stronger than ever before. Shit hit the fan in March of 2015. I had been caught. I was placed on admin leave while the initial investigation began and in April on the same year, I was terminated from my employment. I had to come home and inform my wife that I had lost my job. She was shocked and asked why. She was completely blindsided but what I told her.
As time when on, my brokers began to inform me one by one that people whom they had referred to me were being visited by agents from the FBI. At first I thought, ‘Cant be about our scheme. FBI?! No way’. It didn’t take long for me to realize that in fact the FBI was investigating the case. I was scared shitless. I didn’t know what to do.
I knew I had to get a lawyer. There had been a very high profile case that was in trial at the time of my separation from the Orange County Superior Court. Two City of Fullerton cops had just been acquitted for murdering a homeless man. One of the cops was represented by John Barnett. John had so much experience and awesome rapport, I thought to myself that if anyone was going to represent me, it was going to be him. Mind you, John’s son, Case Barnett was a upcoming Public Defender in Orange County whom I had the pleasure of working with during my tenure at the Court. I called Case, gave him a breakdown as to what was going on. He was shocked. I told him I wanted his dad to represent me. He said he would speak to him and would give me a call back.
Hiring Brian Gurwitz as my Attorney
The next day Case called me and informed me that his dad could not take the case due to a conflict of interest. Of course I was upset. He did however refer another attorney; Brian Gurwitz. Case wished me the best of luck.
I met with Brian twice before I retained him. Having a bit of experience in dealing with defense lawyers, I didn’t want a lawyer who simply told me what I wanted to hear so I could retain them. Brian was upfront. He gave me options and we looked at difference scenarios. After my wife and I met Brian and spoke of my case, I made a decision and retained Brian Gurwitz.
Months went by and nothing really happened. I knew the FBI was investigating but things were moving slowly. Finally on September 7th, 2016 I was arrested in my home in front of my family. This was the first time I had ever been in any sort of trouble with the law. I was taken to court and was formally charged with a list of crimes including money laundering, obstruction of justice among many others.
I was released on bond the same day.
A few days after my arrest, I met Michael Santos at my attorney’s office. Michael is a ‘Prison Consultant’ who had contacted my attorney and offered his services to me. I had no idea what a prison consultant was nor what he did. Michael spoke of helping his clients obtain the ‘best possible outcome’ with their prison sentence. I was reluctant. I honestly didn’t think I was going to be sentenced to prison and in addition, I didn’t understand why he would want to help me. Over time I realized just how valuable Michaels advice and guidance would be.
Michael isn’t an attorney. He doesn’t feed you bullshit or lies. He emphasizes on working hard and consistency. Many of his clients, like me, believe that they will somehow beat their case and won’t spend a night in prison. Although this may happen, it is better to be prepared in case you are headed to prison. If you know there is a possibility you will be headed to prison, you cannot waste time! You need to make every effort to help your situation. It took me a bit to realize this, but meeting Michael was the best thing to happen to me in this process.
Since I was arrested in front of my kids, of course I had to speak to them in regards to the situation and the possibility of me ‘going away’. I try to keep it simple. I don’t get into too much detail especially with the younger ones, other than telling them that I may be gone for a while. I tell my children that we will remain in contact and that they will still see me. I want them to know that everything will be ok. This is something that I will continue to do until the day I have to report to prison.
Sentenced to 135 Months in Federal Prison
On Friday, September 22 2017, I was sentenced to 135 months by Judge Josphine Staton. I am still numb and cannot believe it. My family took it very very hard. I was sad and down for about 48 hours, but honestly there is no point in me dwelling on what my reality is. I WILL report to prison and I will serve various years. Through Michaels advice and direction, I’ve realized that this is a tremendous opportunity to do something with my life if I choose to. Or I can just sit back, do nothing and feel sorry for myself. That’s not going to happen. That’s not the way I am wired.
Thanks to the support of my wife and Michael’s lessons, I am determined to make the most of this opportunity. Every prison sentence has a beginning and an end. During my stay I plan on working on me as an individual. I will further my education, work on losing weight and most importantly I want to influence others as Michael has influenced me. I am actually looking forward to getting my sentence started. If you are reading this, you may think I am crazy, but hopefully at some point you will feel the same way I am feeling today.
I will document my journey through prison by writing articles that I publish here. Check by frequently so that you can learn how I am getting ready to surrender to federal prison.