STILL NO MONEY FOR FAMILIES: Twenty families duped by convicted swindlers Lonni Ashlock and Ronald Buhler, having waited eight months for repayment, must be patient at least one month longer. For a fifth time, a prosecutor and attorneys representing the men and their victims gathered in Stanislaus County Superior Court on Thursday for restitution proceedings. For a fifth time, they said negotiations have failed to produce a deal. "We're almost there," prosecutor Marlisa Ferreira said. "You told me that the last time you were here," said Judge Hurl Johnson. Ashlock, 57, of Waterford and Buhler, 27, of Riverbank admitted swindling 20 families out of their homes and were sentenced in September to one year in county jail. They have been free since but wear electronic monitors on their ankles. Some victims have died since the men were arrested in December 2005, five months after The Bee wrote about former clients' allegations. Attorneys asked to continue negotiating and return to court next week. But Johnson insisted they take longer in hopes of producing an ironclad settlement and scheduled a June 19 court date.
INVESTIGATION LEADS TO EXPLOSIVE DEVICE: A report of possible domestic violence led police to arrest a Modesto man on felony charges after they found an aerosol container filled with gunpowder inside a locked safe Wednesday night. Investigators believe Brian Hilario, 39, was trying to make an explosive device, said Sgt. Craig Gundlach, a Modesto police spokesman. Officers arrested Hilario on suspicion of possession of a destructive device, being a felon in possession of a firearm and violating probation, Gundlach said. Hilario was being held Thursday at Stanislaus County Jail. His bail was set at $25,000. About 7:30 p.m., officers responded to the 3800 block of East Orangeburg Avenue when a woman called police to report Hilario was drunk inside the home and threatening to assault her, Gundlach said. He said officers met the woman at the front door and Hilario fled out the back of the home. Soon after, a neighbor called 911 reporting a man jumping over a fence in the back yard. Officers found Hilario a short time later. They discovered Hilario was on probation, so police had the authority to search him and his home for drugs, Gundlach said. The officers found Hilario's safe inside the home, Gundlach said, and Modesto Fire Department officials forced it open. Inside, they found a loaded .380 caliber handgun and an aerosol container with gunpowder in it. The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department bomb squad removed the container. Gundlach said that in the garage, officers found bullets that had been pried open and the gunpowder removed.
DUI CHECKPOINT IN SONORA: Sonora police, the California Highway Patrol and the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department will be looking for drunk drivers Saturday night at a sobriety checkpoint at an undisclosed location within the Sonora city limit. Sonora Police Chief Mace McIntosh said they also will be looking for people without a valid driver's license. "Our goal remains clear, the Sonora Police Department will not tolerate such reckless behavior," McIntosh said in a news release. "Our zero tolerance policy remains in effect." The checkpoint is funded by a grant awarded to the Sonora Police Department by the state Office of Traffic Safety.