Prosecutors say Rudolph Juarez, 56, has been under investigation for the past two and a half years, since he abruptly retired from his job as parks and recreation maintenance manager in charge of maintaining all public parks in the city of Buena Park.
Juarez was arrested this week, along with his 40-year-old former co-worker Gabriel Garcia, also a former parks and recreation supervisor.
"They're accused of stealing money essentially form the city of Buena Park over a course of at least six or seven years," said Orange County Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche.
Prosecutors say Garcia and Juarez allegedly stole more than $820,000 from the city between 2005 and 2011. Authorities allege the two submitted fake payroll requests to the city using the names of employees who had not worked for the city for months or years. Some had never worked there at all.
Juarez also allegedly negotiated a contract with a landscape contractor on behalf of the city.
"They're accused of submitting invoices for work that was never done by people who never did it to this contractor," said Labreche. "The money would then go to these people, who are actual people who cash the checks and give the money directly over to Mr. Juarez."
Prosecutors say the two allegedly worked together to hide the embezzlement.
Both Juarez and Garcia entered not-guilty pleas.
"This is some bad people making some bad choices," said Buena Park City Manager Jim Vanderpool. "I want the public to rest assured and certainly the residents of Buena Park that we have put additional safeguards in place now to ensure this never happens again."
Vanderpool said the city does have crime insurance coverage, and they expect that will cover the loss to the city.
If convicted, Juarez could face up to 195 years in prison; Garcia could face up to 135 years in prison if convicted.