A former audio-visual technician for the Department of Water and Power pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of misappropriating more than $4 million in public funds.
Thatcus Carl Richard, 64, of Moreno Valley, was arrested Wednesday and is charged with more than two dozen counts, including conflict of interest, public officer crime and embezzlement by a public officer.
A judge set Richard’s bail at $775,000, but a bail-review hearing will be held June 25.
Between July 1996 and March 2014, Richard — who was in charge of managing video and audio jobs for the utility — allegedly enlisted friends to establish audio-visual companies and then helped award DWP contracts to them, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
In return, the companies would allegedly subcontract the work to a company owned by the defendant called Top Line Communications. Richard is also accused of using DWP equipment and resources for his personal gain, according to prosecutors.
Agents from the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation arrested Richard Wednesday in San Bernardino County.
If convicted of all charges, Richard faces up to 20 years in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
“Any employee who violates the public trust and defrauds the LADWP and our customer owners should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said DWP General Manager Marcie Edwards. “I am grateful that the suspected criminal activity was investigated by our own security services division and reported to law enforcement.”
DWP officials said that as a result of the case, the utility has begun reviewing all of the contracts initiated by its small business units over the past five years and has bolstered training for contract managers. It also established a vendor-authentication unit to verify the legitimacy of companies doing business with the DWP for the first time.
“Since this investigation was initiated, we have taken significant steps to strengthen our ability to detect fraud and deter a scheme like this from ever occurring again and will take additional steps to better detect and prevent the fraud that occurred in this case,” Edwards said. “I have also requested that the city attorney file a civil action to attempt to recover the money that was stolen by this former employee.”
—City News Service
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