Monday, July 16 , 2018, 10:22 am | Fair 69º


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Bill Macfadyen: Hillary Clinton Trails Bernie Sanders to Santa Barbara, But Ekes Out a Win in County

After alleged fraud cases ensnare a Santa Barbara cop and Mark Melchiori, NoozWeek’​s Top 5 returns to our crash scene

Thanks for your email.
Thanks for your email. (Cathy Murillo photo)


Another Major League Baseball draft is underway and, once again, my name wasn’​t called in the opening round. There’​s always tomorrow, and next year, but I’​m not getting any younger.

Meanwhile, good luck to the UC Santa Barbara baseball team as the Gauchos take on Louisville on June 11 in their first-ever College World Series Super Regional appearance.

In other news, 109,459 people read Noozhawk this past week. Here’​s my laser-assisted insight on your top five stories, as ranked by our Google Analytics.

1. Hillary Clinton to Make Brief Campaign Stop in Santa Barbara

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton swept into Santa Barbara on June 8 for a quick gathering of a select group of supporters.

Jill’​s Place, one of my favorite restaurants on the edge of downtown, was the setting for the intimate, invitation-only event, which got started about 4:15 p.m. when Clinton’​s motorcade arrived from the Santa Barbara Airport. In less time than it would take the parking police to make their rounds after chalking her limousines’ tires, she was gone.

Among those in attendance were top local Democrats, including Rep. Lois Capps; state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson; Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley; county Supervisors Salud Carbajal, Doreen Farr and Janet Wolf; Goleta City Councilwoman Paula Perotte; Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and City Council members Gregg Hart and Cathy Murillo; and Santa Barbara Unified School District trustee Monique Limón.

“I believe she’ll be our next president,” Murillo told our Giana Magnoli while they were waiting.

Santa Barbara police blocked off the 600 block of Santa Barbara Street for the event. Small groups of supporters and protesters gathered at each intersection to make their voices heard.

While Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders are locked in a tight battle for the Democratic Party’​s presidential nod, she’​s the front-runner and presumptive nominee.

Clinton cruised to a comfortable victory in the June 7 California primary, winning 55.8 percent of the vote to Sanders’​ 43.2 percent, but she appeared to squeak by in Santa Barbara County, 49.74 percent to 48.54 percent — by a margin of 567 votes. Ballots are still being counted, however, and final results won’​t be certified until in early July.

Sanders was in Santa Barbara County the previous Saturday for public rallies at Santa Barbara City College and Santa Maria High School, each with an estimated 6,000 people attending.

Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.

(Urban Hikers / Noozhawk video)

2. Santa Barbara Police Officer Charged With Worker’s Compensation Insurance Fraud

A Santa Barbara police officer is facing four felony charges as the result of a worker’s compensation insurance fraud investigation the department launched in 2014.

According to interim Police Chief John Crombach, SBPD hired Officer Jacob Finerty in 2011. He said he has been out on leave off and on since 2014, apparently related to the worker’s compensation claim that alleged a job-related injury.

Finerty, a 28-year-old resident of ​Hesperia, a Mojave Desert community north of San Bernardino, was placed on unpaid leave several weeks ago, pending the trial, Crombach said.

“This came to our attention, I think, in 2014, and we initiated an investigation,” he said. “It then began to take a criminal turn when there appeared there was some fraud involved here.”

The District Attorney’s Office will be prosecuting the case. Finerty is scheduled to be arraigned in Superior Court on June 24.

3. Mark Melchiori Facing 47 Felony Counts Alleging Fraud, Embezzlement

Mark Melchiori, former president of the former construction company that bears his family’s name, was arrested June 2 on 47 felony counts alleging fraud and embezzlement.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office is hoping to bring the hammer down on former builder Mark Melchiori. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’​s Department photo)
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office is hoping to bring the hammer down on former builder Mark Melchiori. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’​s Department photo)

The charges brought by the District Attorney’s Office are the result of a long-running criminal investigation prompted by a barrage of complaints and accusations from sub-contractors, employees, oversight agencies and clients of the now-defunct Melchiori Construction Co.

Melchiori, 49, of Santa Barbara, turned himself in that afternoon and was booked into County Jail, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Scott. She said he posted $395,000 bail and was released hours later.

He is scheduled to be arraigned July 5 on the charges, which include diversion of construction funds, insurance fraud, embezzlement, grand theft, conspiracy, prevailing wage fraud and violations of the unemployment insurance code.

Scott told our Tom Bolton that the 31-page complaint alleges total losses of around $1 million.

Numerous sub-contractors, employees and others have complained that Melchiori owed them money, alleging that he was hiding assets via a 2012 divorce agreement. Former employees also accuse him of illegally borrowing from their retirement accounts. Lawsuits have been filed all over the place.

Melchiori Construction Co. filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and Melchiori himself filed for personal bankruptcy.

Look familiar? (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)
Look familiar? (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

4. Crash Ties Up Northbound Highway 101 Near Goleta

A three-vehicle wreck stalled northbound Highway 101 traffic near Turnpike Road at midday June 7. Only minor injuries were reported, though.

County Fire Department spokesman Vince Agapito said the crash happened about 12:45 p.m. under the Turnpike Road overpass, and “light extrication” was required to free some of the cars’ occupants.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating.

Better go with decaf this time. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)
Better go with decaf next time. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

5. SUV Crashes Into Convenience Store in Western Goleta

Who knew 7-Eleven had a drive-in?

Just after 7:30 a.m. June 8, an SUV crashed through the front door of the convenience store at 7390 Calle Real in Goleta. There were no injuries, but I’ll bet those inside at the time took more than a big gulp as it happened.

“Apparently the vehicle struck a primary support beam for the building,” said county Fire Department spokesman Vince Agapito, who added that a City of Goleta building inspector was called out to assess the structural damage.

The driver — a woman in her 40s — was not identified, and the circumstances of the crash are under investigation.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Dead Man Found Hanging From Tree Near Goleta.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

If you’​ve read Nothing Like It in the World, historian Stephen Ambrose’​s book about the building of the transcontinental railroad, you’ll appreciate this: How Epic Fortunes Were Created During the California Gold Rush.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Is he singing or signing? In any language, you’ll be sniffling as you watch this dad give away his daughter, a sign-language interpreter, at her wedding.

(Nicole Cortez video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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