#38 Mar 25, 2013
Prosecutors pile on embezzlement charges in case against Irwindale councilman and ex-city officials
By Thomas Himes, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/28/2011 05:51:41 PM PDT
Updated: 09/28/2011 06:33:18 PM PDT
The District Attorney's Office on Wednesday added felony embezzlement to the list of charges an Irwindale City Councilman and two former city officials face.
Councilman Mark Breceda, 51, former finance director Abe De Dios, 66, and former councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez, 49, each face an additional count of embezzlement of public funds, according to Dave Demerjian, who heads the D.A.'s Public Integrity Unit.
Public corruption prosecutors filed the embezzlement counts after defense attorneys argued in court Tuesday that the statute of limitations had expired on charges of misappropriating public funds.
"We felt it was prudent to amend the complaint," Demerjian said. "Embezzlement of public funds is the same as murder, it has no statue of limitations."
Embezzlement of public funds carries a maximum prison sentence of three years, he said. An arraignment has not yet been scheduled, according to the D.A.'s Office.
Prosecutors are still pursuing the counts of misappropriating public funds, although defense attorney's will resume their efforts to have the charges thrown out of court on Oct. 24, according to the D.A.s Office and court officials.
The charges stem from lavish trips to New York taken by the city officials during which they treated themselves to Broadway shows and New York Yankees' games on the taxpayers' dime, according to the D.A.'s Office.
More than $200,000 of public funds were spent on the trips.
City officials say they were intended to secure a better bond rating for the city.
Breceda, Ramirez and De Dios were initially charged in October 2010, just days before D.A. Steve Cooley's failed bid for state attorney general came to a head at the polls.
In court Tuesday, Demerjian took the stand and testified for five hours, answering questions that focused on the two-year lapse between when prosecutors first learned about the trips and when they decided to investigate them, Demerjian said.
A complaint was initially sent to the D.A.'s office in 2005, but it wasn't until after a report in this newspaper detailed the expenses that an investigation was opened, Demerjian said.
The newspaper report was included in one of two complaints the D.A.'s office received in 2007, Demerjian said.
It wasn't until those complaints came in that Demerjian said prosecutors felt they had enough facts to investigate the matter. They then spent the following three years investigating before charges were filed.
Former City Manager Steve Blancarte was also charged in 2010, along with the other city officials. In July, he pleaded guilty to a single count of misappropriating public funds as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors dropped four additional felony counts.
Blancarte was sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation and had to pay about $20,000 in fines and restitution, according to the D.A.'s Office.
But, he said, there was a good a chance that Breceda, Ramirez and De Dios would have the charges of misappropriating public funds thrown out of court because prosecutors waited too long to act.
#39 Mar 26, 2013
Really? That's all you got Hunley? I expose you as the convicted criminal you are and your only come back is to talk about Rosy's facial characteristics or repost newspaper articles? Wow, what's next? Are you going to tell her to go to Mexico, or are you going to speak of nonsense of her daughter? Face it Hunley. As of today? You are the only convicted criminal who has had Judges reprimand in open court an has had restraining orders granted against. Exposed and checkmate!
#41 Mar 30, 2013
Hunley, don't forget about the restraining orders. I forget, is it 50 or 100 feet that you can't be from that poor little girl ?
#43 Apr 2, 2013
Hunley, do you want to talk about the trespassing conviction? How long did you spend in jail? Do you regret that crime, or the many other crimes you have committed?
#44 Apr 2, 2013
I want to talk about Public officials like the Breceda's who steal public money and the low life's who defend them I did stop your gravy train didn't I
#45 Apr 2, 2013
Not mine. Maybe rosy? I don't know. Ok. Lets talk. What is it that you are so bothered about? You don't work, live or shop in Irwindale. What do you care? You don't! You are a convicted criminal that is looking for revenge. Get you revenge in court you are not winning any public support here. I have exposed you as the convicted criminal that you are. Why don't you tell is about the Alhambra criminal case? Tell us more about your military DD214. Why should we believe a criminal saying someone else is a criminal too. All you are doing is trying to divert the attention away from yourself.
#48 Feb 28, 2015
And Justice for all 1 min ago
Former Irwindale City councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez talking to her lawyer Matthew Horeczko, while lawyer Anthony Falangetti receives a congratulate embrace from Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda on the steps of Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Former Irwindale City Councilman Manuel Garcia, right, leaving courthouse. A superior judge dismissed several counts againster her. A superior court judge at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center on Thursday, February 26, 2015, dismissed several counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest charges re-filed against Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda and former City Councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez in 2013.(Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)
Too much time has passed to prosecute Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda and former City Councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez Thursday on charges of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest, a judge ruled Thursday.
But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said the two and co-defendant City Councilman Manuel Garcia can still be tried for embezzlement. The case against the three stems from decade-old allegations that city officials spent taxpayer funds on lavish trips to New York City.
The ruling, which came after several months of back and forth in court, was met with some jubilation at the tail end of a two-hour hearing in which prosectors and defense attorneys argued their positions.
An audience member gasped, "Oh my God," when Pastor announced his decision. And Garcia congratulated Ramirez, hugging her as she cried.
Pastor said he was "satisfied" with that the four-year statute of limitations on the conflict of interest and misappropriation charges had expired.
Breceda, Ramirez and City Councilman Manuel Garcia still face charges of suspected embezzlement, which has no statute of limitations. The trio are due back in court on April 30 for a hearing on a different motion to dismiss the remaining embezzlement charges.
Garcia's attorney Steven Levine said he hoped to have the embezzlement charges thrown out too.
"All they did was file the same documents," Levine said.
At the heart of the misappropriation case was a prosecution argument that claimed wrongdoing was not discovered until October 2007, when the D.A.'s office received an anonymous letter coupled with an article from this news organization detailing the trips.
Breceda's attorney Anthony Falangetti argued the statute of limitations began as soon as Irwindale's then-city manager Robert Griego discovered the potential crimes. Additionally Falangetti said the discovery, coupled with multiple letters sent to the D.A.'s office in 2005 provided sufficient information for prosecutors to investigate a case.
In fact, the D.A.'s office did open a case number at the time, but it wasn't until five years later that prosecutors filed the inital complaint, Falangetti said.
"Their duty to investigate, that's triggered by suspicion," Falangetti said during the hearing. "The law is (the deputy district attorney) had it and he had a duty to do something about it."
Deputy District Attorney Kennes Ma acknowledged the 2005 letters, but argued that the statute did not begin until allegations raised in the letters were backed up by facts in a 2007 memorandum written by Griego.
"We get thousands and thousands of letters," Ma said.
Pastor, who said prior to oral arguments on Thursday that he found the defense's case to be "persuasive," ultimately sided with the defendants.
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