A judge in California ruled on Oct. 4 that prosecutors had gathered enough evidence against a 64-year-old Santa Barbara man to charge him with embezzlement and failing to file tax returns. The man is a retired probation officer who is accused of embezzling more than $600,000 from the union he served. According to prosecutors, the man took about $80,000 in Santa Barbara County Peace Officers Association funds each year between 2009 and 2019. He faces 15 felony counts including charges of forgery, grand theft, false personation and misappropriation of public funds.
Writing checks to himself
Prosecutors say the man took the money while serving as the union’s president by writing checks to himself and forging the treasurer’s signature. An investigator from the California Franchise Tax Board’s Criminal Investigation Bureau detailed the man’s alleged crimes, but she was not able to conclusively state what the money was used for. The man’s criminal defense attorney argued that the checks may have been written to cover legitimate union-related expenses like retirement gifts and entertainment costs. The judge said these issues would be addressed during the man’s trial.
Missing tax returns
There was also some confusion over whether or not the man filed tax returns between 2009 and 2011. The FTB investigator told the court that the man did not file tax returns during this period, but his tax preparer produced records showing that returns had been submitted. The man did file tax returns from 2012 onward, but prosecutors claim that he did not declare the income he received from writing checks to himself. The man was taken into custody in July following a yearlong investigation. He was rearrested in August after police found a gun while searching his home.
The penalties for committing white-collar crimes are severe, and prosecutors in these cases usually go into court with strong evidence like bank statements and credit card bills. This is why many prosecutions for crimes like embezzlement, bribery and fraud are settled at the negotiating table with plea agreements.