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Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 25, 2013

News Digest

Two robbed at gunpoint near downtown Palo Alto

A man and woman walking near downtown Palo Alto were robbed at gunpoint Tuesday night, Jan. 22, Palo Alto police said.

The victims, a man in his 50s and a woman in her 20s, were walking together northbound in the 300 block of Ramona Street near Hawthorne Avenue at about 8:30 p.m. when they were approached by a man who stood in their way on the sidewalk. He produced a black handgun and demanded their wallets and the woman's purse. The victims complied, police said.

The gunman told them to walk back in the direction from which they had come, which they did. They heard him running away northbound on Ramona, police said.

There was no known vehicle associated with the crime. Neither victim was injured. They walked to a restaurant in the 400 block of Emerson Street near Lytton Avenue and sought help from an employee, who called police at about 8:45 p.m.

The gunman is described as a black male in his early 20s, about 5 feet 8 inches tall and 165 pounds. He was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and dark pants.

Police recommend that people remain aware of their surroundings when out for walks and report suspicious behavior immediately via 911. Anyone with information about this crime may contact the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent by text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

Packard Hospital pediatric medical info stolen

A laptop computer containing limited medical information on pediatric patients was stolen from a physician's car on the night of Jan. 9, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital has reported.

The hospital and the Stanford University School of Medicine are notifying patients by mail of the theft, which was reported to the hospital and school of medicine on Jan. 10 after the theft was discovered.

The laptop is password protected, and the theft took place away from the hospital and school campus, hospital spokespersons said.

Authorities said they launched "an aggressive and ongoing investigation" with security and law enforcement.

The medical information on the computer was mostly related to past care and research, according to the hospital. The patient data did not include financial or credit-card information, nor did it contain Social Security numbers or any other marketable information. So far, there is no indication that any patient information has been accessed or compromised, hospital staff said.

Potentially affected patients are being offered free identity-protection services, and a toll-free phone line (855-731-6016) has been established for patients' families. An information page for patients regarding the incident is available at www.lpch.org.

Palo Alto contractor faces felony charges

The owner and chief financial officer of a Palo Alto construction company have been charged with several felonies in a scheme that allegedly defrauded an Atherton homeowner, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Richard James Smith, 54, who owned R.J. Smith & Associates, a California Avenue firm, and Tariel Gusseinov, former chief financial officer, allegedly over-billed the homeowner by thousands of dollars and diverted money owed to a subcontractor of the project, the DA's office said.

Smith's company was contracted to perform a construction job on the Stockbridge Avenue home, but in 2009 and 2010 they allegedly engaged in practices that included diversion of $28,000 owed to subcontractor Plumbing & Things, inflated a subcontract by $39,000 to Dimmers Electric and billed the victim for it, and had a fraudulent change-order that billed the victim for windows at $5,000 more than the cost of the windows that were originally ordered and installed, according to the DA.

The fraud came to light when fixtures from the subcontractor arrived late and the victim started communicating with the subcontractors. The victim then called the police.

Smith faces three counts of larceny with grand theft and a count of fraud/forgery.

The case against Smith is set for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 28 in San Mateo County Superior Court. He is out of custody on $75,000 bail.

Gusseinov's case is set for jury trial on March 11. He is out of custody on his own recognizance.

— Sue Dremann

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