Rancho Santa Margarita, CA - Two former parks and recreation (PAR) managers for the City of Buena Park have been arrested and charged in a public corruption case for embezzling over $822,000 from the City, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office.
Former PAR supervisor Gabriel A. Garcia, 40, Chino Hills, is charged with 129 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds and four felony counts of willful failure to file or making a fraudulent tax return with sentencing enhancements and allegations for theft over $100,000, aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, and property loss over $65,000.
Juarez and Garcia are each being held on $822,000 bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond. The defendants were arrested Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, by the Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) Bureau of Investigation and are expected to be arraigned Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, at 10:00 a.m.
At the time of the crime, Juarez is accused of being a PAR maintenance manager for the City of Buena Park and was responsible for supervision of maintenance of all public parks within the city. Garcia is accused of being a supervisor who worked under Juarez. The defendants were solely responsible for all time cards submitted to City payroll for their staff.
Between 2005 and 2011, the defendants are accused of embezzling over $822,000 in public funds from the City of Buena Park. Juarez and Garcia are accused of submitting fraudulent payroll requests for maintenance or janitorial work to the City using the names of former employees, who had not worked for the City for months or years, or using the names of people who had never worked for the City in any capacity. The defendants are accused of setting up personal bank accounts and having the direct deposit for the non-existent employees submitted into those accounts.
A majority of the landscaping work in parks in Buena Park was performed by an outside contract company. Juarez is accused of drafting the contract and writing a provision that a third-party could perform landscape work, bill the contract company for that work, and then the contract company could bill the City for reimbursement. Juarez and Garcia are accused of submitting fraudulent invoices for work never performed to the contract landscape company using the names of unwitting people. They are accused of then having the payment on those invoices deposited into their own personal back accounts.
Juarez and Garcia are accused of committing tax fraud by failing to file taxes for any of the fraudulently-obtained $822,000.
The Buena Park Police Department received a tip about the embezzlement in 2011 and began investigating this case. The OCDA Bureau of Investigation assumed the case as the lead investigating agency. The Franchise Tax Board assisted in the tax fraud investigation.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.