June 16, 2021 - OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that a former Fresno County employee was sentenced today for his role in a multi-year embezzlement conspiracy that included stealing more than $300,000 from the estates of deceased individuals. In addition to one of the lead defendants who was sentenced today, three other Fresno County employees, and four people personally associated with them have all pleaded guilty and have been sentenced for the parts they played in the scheme.
“We hold public employees to a high standard because their work directly impacts the wellbeing of the people of California,” said Attorney General Bonta. “When a city, county, or state employee not only breaks the public’s trust, but also uses their position to commit multiple felonies, they need to be held accountable. As of today, all of the defendants in this case have been held responsible for the actions they took to steal from the people of Fresno County.”
Three of the four former Fresno County employees worked for the Fresno County Public Administrator’s Office (FCPA). The FCPA manages the estates and makes final arrangements for residents in the county who pass away without a will or known relatives who can act on their behalf. Two of the FCPA employees — the lead defendants — were deputy probate and senior deputy probate administrators, and, in their roles, had the authority to manage estates with less than $150,000 in assets with little to no court oversight. These estates were the targets of the group’s embezzlement scheme.
In 2015, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office learned of and investigated a report of possible misconduct by FCPA employees. Through the investigation, it was determined that, from 2010 to 2015, the group engaged in the following schemes to steal from estates that were under the authority of the two lead defendants:
- Pawning or selling jewelry, coins, and other valuables from estates in order to pocket the profit;
- Unlawfully transferring the title of multiple vehicles into the name of one of the defendants who was personally associated with one of the lead defendants;
- Creating fraudulent estate heirs to funnel money from estates to the defendants; and
- Creating fake jobs for the defendants who were personally associated with the lead defendants, such as cleaning the estates, and then splitting the money paid for fraudulent services between the lead and the other defendant.
The two lead defendants were charged with and pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts, including conspiracy to commit a crime, embezzlement exceeding $950 in value, and public officer crime. One of the lead defendants who was sentenced today also pleaded guilty in 2017 to perjury by declaration and preparing false documentary evidence.The defendant agreed to cooperate with the investigation. He will serve a four-year split prison sentence, and restitution will be ordered by a judge at a later date. Last month, the second lead defendant was sentenced to five years, eight months in state prison and is required to pay $167,865.60 in restitution.
The defendants in this case were held accountable for their actions because of an investigation by the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office as well as the California Department of Justice’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) and Fraud and Special Prosecutions (FSP) Section. FSP prosecutes complex criminal cases, primarily related to financial, securities, mortgage, and environmental fraud, public corruption, “underground economy” offenses, including tax and revenue fraud and counterfeiting; and human trafficking.
A copy of the information is available here.
Source: CA. DOJ