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DA: 4 Irwindale officials mishandled funds

Four Irwindale officials are accused of misappropriating public funds when they allegedly went to games and Broadway shows.

October 27, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two current and two former Irwindale officials have been accused of misappropriating public funds after they allegedly bought tickets to Broadway shows and baseball games that did not have anything to do with city business.Councilman Mark Breceda, 50, retired city manager Steve Blancarte, 56, finance director Abe De Dios, 65, and former councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez, 49, are accused of going to the events during trips to New York between 2001 and 2005.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said they've been investigating all four officials for the last three years.

The trips were meant to get better bond rating for the city, but prosecutors said that the officials misused a total of $14,000.

Breceda, Blancarte and Ramirez were in court Wednesday but had their arraignment continued until Dec. 2.

De Dios will be arraigned Thursday.

"Mostly, they partied quite a bit," said Nipa Cook, deputy district attorney. "What we're doing in this case is about the spending that they did in the course of these trips. They spent money on Mets games, Yankees games, they went to a lot of Broadway shows, they had some very nice dinners. They had some really nice trips."

Teresa Chico was selling costumes across Irwindale City Hall on Wednesday. She said many in the community have known about this and have complained for years. And during that time, there have been cutbacks in numerous programs.

"It's about time," Chico said of the arraignment. "When they start hurting our kids, tutoring, library and senior center, that makes me mad."

For the city of 1,400 people, it's not just about the money.

"These are elected officials. They're people who were trusted by the public," Cook said. "I don't think just the dollar amount tells the whole story. We feel like there's more here.

"When it comes to public funds, there has to be a public purpose," Cook added. "You can relax on your trip, but you just can't relax on the public dime."

Community members echoed that sentiment.

"Hopefully they'll serve some time," said Sal Hernandez of Irwindale. "They know they did wrong. They were told to their face. I'm one of them."

Three of the accused face five felony counts with a maximum of eight years in state prison. Ramirez faces one felony count with a maximum of four years in state prison.


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