Los Angeles

NBC4 I-Team: The Stories, The Warnings, The Results


From restaurant health hazards to the latest ways thieves are preying on ATM users, the NBC4 I-Team has uncovered the truth and held the powerful accountable.

Investigations have revealed neglect and wrongdoing that have left locals with little resolution until the NBC4 I-Team stepped in to shine a light on the problem.

Now, we take a transparent look back at several cases that have affected the health, safety, finances and privacy of Southern Californians.

Dirty Secret: Inspectors Fail to Reveal Salmonella Outbreak at Popular Restaurant
March 2015

The I-Team examined and uncovered a popular LA-area restaurant’s salmonella outbreak that went unreported by health officials to the public.

A popular LA-area restaurant may have left nearly two dozen people with salmonella poisoning over a four-month period — and health officials failed to warn the public of the danger. Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

Brent’s Deli in Westlake Village, a family-owned restaurant dubbed by Zagat as "the Cadillac of delis," was the suspected source of the poisonings, according to records obtained by the I-Team.

Some victims reported eating Brent’s famous corned beef sandwiches, some ate pastrami, and others believe it was salads or soups that sickened them.

State and Ventura County health officials began learning about salmonella cases from Brent’s customers, but both agencies failed to inform the public about the growing outbreak. Nearly two dozen people were sickened with salmonella poisoning over a four-month period.

When questioned by the I-Team, Ventura County health officials say in hindsight, they could have made a public statement warning the public about the outbreak. NBC4 spoke by phone with one of the owners of Brent’s Deli, Marc Hernandez, who said his restaurant is now a safe place to eat.

Hernandez declined to comment on camera, but says after learning of the outbreak, last August he voluntarily closed for a day, sanitized the entire restaurant, and has hired a third-party company to improve overall food safety.

Access Denied: Grandfather Says He's Trapped in Care Home
January 2015

NBC4 shared with viewers a confrontation with the state over delays to help a disabled San Bernardino man who said he was trapped in a Garden Grove care facility because his home doesn’t meet his needs.

A grandfather in a wheelchair says he’s trapped in a care facility far from home because the state won’t obey a court order to pay for home modifications. Randy Mac reports for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015.

Nicolas Mercado, a 54-year-old grandfather, was rendered a quadriplegic in 2011, when the big rig he was driving for work crashed. He'd been living in the care facility ever since, because his home lacks the modifications to fit his wheelchair.

His attorneys blamed the California Insurance Guarantee Association, or CIGA, the state agency which took over the case after Mercado's insurance company went bankrupt.

Even though Mercado has won several workers' compensation rulings to have his home modified, CIGA appealed three times.

The NBC4 I-Team spent a week calling CIGA, and asking about Mercado's case. Finally, after driving to the agency's Glendale headquarters, NBC4 got answers.

"We've looked into this and we think perhaps we could have taken a different path," admitted CIGA Executive Director Wayne Wilson, who personally reviewed Mercado's records at the NBC4 I-Team's request.

Wilson pointed out that CIGA is spending tens of thousands of dollars each month on Mercado's care, and has paid to add a ramp and widen some doorways. He went on to tell NBC4 it hasn't been enough.

"Mr. Mercado’s attorney and our Senior Executive here are going to meet early next week," Wilson continued. "He wants to have the support, love and affection of his family and wants to be with them and we’re going to see what we can do."

Stolen in Seconds: Beware of New ATM Rip-Off Tricks
February 2015

The I-Team alerted consumers to the high risks of using a debit card after federal investigators revealed the brand-new, high-tech gadgets thieves use to rip people off at ATMs and gas stations.

Federal investigators reveal how ID thieves are using high-tech gadgets at ATMs. Randy Mac reports for the NBC4 News at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015.

The devices are the latest skimmers, tools that electronically capture a victim's personal information. The I-Team obtained Secret Service surveillance video, which showed how the camera can be mounted inside the molding of an ATM, at an angle customers would never notice.

NBC4 was also shown a gadget that can steal information at secured, indoor ATM locations that require the swipe of a card to enter.

Nightmare Neighbors: Officials Vow Crackdown on Party House Rentals
February/March 2015

Los Angeles city officials vowed to crack down on the party problem keeping neighbors up at night — an issue the I-Team first uncovered in a February investigation.

Los Angeles city officials are vowing to crack down on the party problem keeping neighbors up at night – a problem the I-Team first uncovered in an investigation last month. Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11, 2015.

Armed guards, thumping music, and parties that last past dawn. In areas of greater Los Angeles, homeowners made big bucks illegally renting their homes out for all-night parties, causing a nightmare for sleep-deprived neighbors.

An NBC4 I-Team investigation found that despite dozens of complaints to the cops, these so-called "party houses" are often operating unchecked by the LAPD and city officials.

Homeowners in areas of greater LA are making big bucks illegally renting their homes out for all-night parties, causing a nightmare for sleep-deprived neighbors. An NBC4 I-Team investigation found that despite dozens of complaints, these so-called “party houses” are often operating unchecked by the LAPD and city officials. Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Monday,...

After the I-Team’s February report, producers from NBC’s TODAY Show "Rossen Reports" unit went undercover and caught a realtor on video attempting to rent out a house for large parties.

Councilman Tom LaBonge of Hollywood told residents in a statement his office was now working with the LAPD and a local neighborhood prosecutor to stop the illegal rental of homes for parties.

Cellphone Security System: Turn Your Old Cellphone Into Home Surveillance Camera
February 2015

NBC4 learned that old cellphones and tablets with cameras can be reused as security cameras for free.

Your spare cellphone can be used as a security camera at home. Randy Mac reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015.

"You set the camera up using Wi-Fi so you don't need to have a cellphone activated on an account, you don't need a monthly fee," Jeff Zisner of AEGIS Security and Investigations told the I-Team.

Zisner set up a tablet in the NBC4 I-Team office and a phone in areas around the newsroom.

"The app will alert you that there is motion that's in your house that's not authorized," he said.

One of the benefits about using your old phone is that it doesn't just give you video, it gives you audio, so as you see a burglar in your house you can tell them to get out.

If police arrive too late, you still have a recording of exactly who burglarized your home and peace of mind — all for free. 

Falling Through the Cracks: LA Refuses to Pay Claims for Injuries Suffered on City's Broken Sidewalks
November 2014/April 2015

The I-Team tackled the city of LA's major delays in addressing resident concerns about dangerous sidewalks.

The outcome of a lawsuit brought against the City of Los Angeles, leaves the city on the hook to fix thousands of miles of badly cracked sidewalks. Joel Grover reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

Some of LA's sidewalks have been in such dangerous condition that pedestrians have suffered broken noses, shattered kneecaps, and bloodied faces. Even though the city is often legally responsible, an I-Team investigation found that it usually shirks accountability and refuses to pay claims.

The I-Team found in November 2014 that of the 1,509 sidewalk injury claims filed in the past five years, the city paid only 65 claims — about 4 percent. In addition, the I-Team discovered that the city usually doesn't notify injured residents that their claims have been denied, which means many of them will miss the two-year statute of limitations to sue the city over a sidewalk accident.

In fact, the I-Team found that often the only way a pedestrian injured on a dangerous sidewalk can get the city to take responsibility is to file a lawsuit against the city.

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer then told NBC4 that "it is possible" the city has denied legitimate claims that it should have paid. He also said he ordered an audit of the way his office handles sidewalk injury claims, to see if the process can be made more fair to the public.

Then, in April 2015, the city agreed to spend $1.4 billion over 30 years to fix thousands of cracked, buckled, and dangerous sidewalks.

The LA City Council approved a settlement to a 2010 lawsuit brought by disabled residents and advocates, who said the city’s sidewalks were impassable and violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.

City leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, called the settlement "historic" and said it was the biggest agreement of its kind ever.

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