Two former parks and recreation managers have been sentenced to state prison for their guilty pleas to embezzling more than $1.3 million from Buena Park and ordered to pay restitution and fines.
Former Parks and Recreation maintenance manager Rudolph Peter Juarez was sentenced to 10 years in state prison and ordered to pay more than $235,000 to the Franchise Tax Board for his guilt pleas Friday in a Santa Ana courtroom.
Gabriel Garcia, a former Parks and Recreation supervisor who worked for Juarez, was sentenced to six years in state prison and ordered to pay more than $89,000 to the Franchise Tax Board.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office had sought more prison time for both defendants.
The two defendants were also ordered to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution to Buena Park and more than $2.6 million in fines.
Juarez and Garcia carried out the embezzlement between 2005 and 2011 by using phony payroll records for maintenance and janitorial work, according to Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche.
They used the names of part-time workers who were falsely told they had used up their hours for the year or workers who had not been employed by the city for years, Labreche said.
Juarez and Garcia set up bank accounts through which paychecks could be routed, Labreche said.
Juarez abruptly retired in early 2011 when Buena Park Police were tipped off about the scheme, according to Labreche. Garcia was initially demoted and then stopped working for the city in 2011, Labreche said.
Much of the city’s landscaping work in the parks was done by an outside contractor.
However, Juarez, who negotiated the contract, “put in a little proviso in the last contract” that allowed a third party to do work and bill the contractor, which would seek reimbursement from the city, Labreche said. It nearly “tripled” the amount the city was paying the company for the non- existent work, the prosecutor said.
“Fraudulent bills were submitted for work never done by people who never did it,” Labreche said.
Juarez and Garcia were arrested on Aug. 6, 2013.
Juarez, 58, of Anaheim, pleaded guilty to 233 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds and four felony counts of filing a false tax return and sentencing enhancement allegations of causing over $100,000 loss, aggravated white collar crime over $500,000 and property loss over $1.3 million.
Garcia, 42, of Chino Hills, pleaded guilty to 186 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds and four felony counts of willful failure to file or making a fraudulent tax return and sentencing enhancements allegations of causing over $100,000 loss, aggravated white collar crime over $500,000 and property loss over $1.3 million.
“Mr. Juarez not only stole a tangible item, but he tarnished the city’s reputation and that of its hardworking employees,” Buena Park’s City Manager James Vanderpool said at Friday’s sentencing.
“His actions gave the public a reason to lose faith in their local government. This distrust is not quantifiable and is perhaps the most egregious part of his crimes.
“Not only was Mr. Juarez stealing from the residents of this community, he was stealing from his fellow city employees, in particular, Mr. Juarez’s subordinates.”
—City News Service