California’s Rolling Hills Casino Armed Carjacking Leads to Prison Sentences

Posted on: January 29, 2023, 10:04h. 

Last updated on: January 29, 2023, 06:43h.

Three defendants charged in a carjacking last October at California’s Rolling Hills Casino and Resort are heading to prison. The trio also faced drug charges.

Joseph J. Lodge, Robert J. Diaz-Mendoza, and Karla G. Ortega-Pahua
From left: Joseph J. Lodge, Robert J. Diaz-Mendoza, and Karla G. Ortega-Pahua in mug shots. The three were sentenced after a carjacking at a casino. (Image: Tehama County Sheriff’s Office)

Joseph Lodge, 18, was sentenced to six years for carjacking and possession of a gun, KNVN, a local TV station, reported.

Roberto Diaz-Mendoza, 29, was sentenced to five years for bringing a controlled substance into a jail, and being a felon in possession of a gun, the report added.

Karla G. Ortega-Pahua, 20, was sentenced to two years’ probation, 240 days in jail, and a six-year prison suspension. Her specific charges on which she was sentenced were not immediately known.

The prison sentences were announced in Tehama County court on Jan. 20.

The incident began on October 1, when the two men went up to a third man in a car at the Corning, Calif. casino’s parking lot. One of the suspects was armed with a shotgun.

The two suspects ordered the victim to exit the car. The two then stole the empty vehicle and drove off. Police later arrested the two. The vehicle was found in Glenn County.

Ortega-Pahua drove the two other suspects to the casino. She parked behind the victim’s car in the lot.

When the duo was apprehended, they had in their possession another vehicle that was stolen in Chico. Calif., authorities said.

Deputies said they also found in their possession the firearm used in the Rollings Hills Casino carjacking.

Drug Charges

Each of the trio had methamphetamine (meth) and/or fentanyl upon their arrests, deputies said. Originally, each suspect was charged with bringing a controlled substance into the jail.

The unnamed victim did not appear to have suffered any injuries.

Prior Shooting

The carjacking was not the first felony reported at the casino. In December 2020, a man was arrested for attempted murder after he allegedly shot a hotel guest at Rolling Hills, according to local news reports. The victim suffered non-life threating injuries.

John Matthew Justice, a resident of Chico, located nearby, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, reported KHSL, a local TV station.

Justice was staying at The Lodge at Rolling Hills Casino. He allegedly fired a single shot that went through the door of a nearby room, the report adds.

The bullet wounded the 36-year-old man who was inside the room. Injuries were believed to be relatively minor, based on initial news reports. Police said they seized a handgun from Justice’s hotel room.

It was not immediately known how the case against Justice was adjudicated in local court.

The casino, hotel, and golf course were placed on immediate lockdown as a safety measure, KHSL reported.

The casino is owned and operated by the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians.