Auburn, Calif. – A Los Gatos businessman’s elaborate plot to seek revenge over a perceived wrongdoing by a contractor who built a retaining wall for him has landed him in prison for five years. Udi Fishman, 60, a mechanical engineer and rental property owner, disguised himself as a PG&E worker, drove to the Placer County home of the contractor and used bear spray on the man’s wife and her brother-in-law. He then physically fought with the brother-in-law before being stabbed with a knife by the female victim.
‘This was a violent incident,’ said Supervising Deputy District Attorney Garen Horst, who prosecuted Fishman. ‘He invaded a home and attacked people. The crime had a high degree of planning.’ Imposing the five-year prison sentence last Friday was Placer County Superior Court Judge James D. Garbolino, who denied Fishman’ss request to be placed on probation rather than be sent to prison. He noted that more than 30 people attended the sentencing to support Fishman and that the court received more than 60 letters on his behalf. But in the end, Garbolino concluded that a prison term was merited. ‘This was a very serious crime,’ he said.
The incident involving Fishman occurred Sept. 16, 2009. Posing as a PG&E worker and driving a borrowed van with magnetic signs on the side to falsely identify it as a PG&E vehicle, Fishman approached the front door of the Auburn-area home belonging to Juan Trejo, who had done construction work for him in the past but who wasn’t home that day. When Trejo’s wife was at the door, Fishman sprayed her with powerful bear spray, causing her to become disoriented and barely able to see. He forced his way into the home where he encountered the woman’s brother-in-law. He sprayed the man in the chest with the bear spray and the two men began fighting before Trejo’s wife went to the kitchen for a knife and stabbed him several times, injuring Fishman and ending his attack. The woman then ran outside and drove away in Fishman”s van to seek help.
In the van were items that indicated a sinister scheme, according to prosecutor Horst. These included rolls of twine, a homemade billy club, a roofing hammer with a sharpened edge, a large sheet of plastic, a blanket, a large flat piece of cardboard, duct tape, a fake mustache, makeup and numerous maps of foothills areas in Placer and other counties. In Fishman’s tool box in the van were the vehicle’s regular license plates. On the outside of the van, stolen license plates were discovered on the front and back ends.
In addition to the bear spray, on Fishman”s person during the attack were a canister of pepper spray, a pocket knife, a stun gun and more twine. The victims testified that he arrived at the home wearing a dark wig, a hat, dark glasses and a reflective vest. The items were found strewn in the house after the attack.
Fishman was convicted by a trial jury on Feb. 1 of first-degree residential burglary with a finding by the jury that people were present in the home during the commission of the crime. He was also convicted of attempted false imprisonment, possession of a deadly weapon the billy club and two counts of illegal use of tear gas. All are felony crimes. Fishman was acquitted by the jury of attempted murder and attempted kidnapping.
At sentencing, Fishman”s wife, two stepdaughters and several friends spoke to the judge, telling him about the defendant’s kind and caring nature and saying that a prison term for him would jeopardize his businesses and ability to support the family. Fishman also spoke, asking for leniency and saying he had no intention of harming anyone when he went to Trejo’s home in the 2009 incident. ‘I came to the house uninvited and put them under stress,’ he said. ‘I take full responsibility for my actions.’
Juan Trejo also spoke to the court. He said his family was ‘devastated’ by the incident. ‘He was fully armed to carry out a crime against my wife,’ he said. ‘Had my brother-in-law not been home, my wife would probably not be with us.’ He said Fishman needed to be locked up — ‘not out on the street believing he is above the law.’ Trejo’s wife did not attend the sentencing, but she provided a written statement. She wrote that she once considered her home a safe haven but that now it is the place where she was ‘brutally victimized.’ She wrote that she has gone from a confident and independent person to one who is now ‘anxious, hypervigilant and dependent on people to be at my side.’ ‘My sense of security has been shattered,’ she wrote.
Garbolino said the decision to send the defendant, who had no criminal record, to a state prison was a difficult one because of the impact it would have on his family and his businesses. But he could not overlook that Fishman had made preparations for the crime, caused bodily harm and carried weapons to the scene. ‘Certainly, this is a huge fall for him,’ the judge said.