Woman embezzles nearly $4M from Calif. cities

The former president of a Huntington Beach company has agreed to plead guilty to embezzling $3.9 million in federal funds meant to upgrade low-income housing in 23 cities, many of them in the Southland.

Belinda Exon's now-defunct Rehab Financial company held grants and loans in escrow on behalf of cities. She admitted embezzling the money from September 2002 to October 2008, according to the plea agreement.

Federal prosecutors today filed the plea agreement for Exon, 55, who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. Her first court appearance in federal court in Los Angeles is scheduled for June 7, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ranee Katzenstein.

"She is being very cooperative,'' Katzenstein said.

A message left with Exon's attorney, Bob Bernstein, was not immediately returned.

Exon's company would administer money reserved to bring low-income housing up to building codes, according to court records. Most of the money came from U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds.

Prosecutors said Exon spent the money to buy property in Arizona for herself and her Nevada-based company, CFH Properties Inc., as well as finance two companies she owned -- Desert Foothills Landscaping Inc. and Arizona Pool and Spa Inc.

She used the embezzled money to acquire a four-plex, a triplex and duplex in Phoenix, according to the plea agreement. She also bought several parcels of vacant land in Arizona.

Exon pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and could face up to 10 years in federal prison, Mrozek said.

Exon lived in Fontana when the company was founded in the early 1990s, but Rehab Financial was based out of Huntington Beach, Katzenstein said.

According to the plea agreement, the cities and money they lost in the scheme are: San Francisco, $1 million; Pomona, $751,000; Seal Beach, $481,432; Huntington Park, $478,000; Westminster, $223,392; Buena Park, $162,563; Rosemead, $128,328; Montebello, $125,000; Apple Valley, $95,452; Camarillo, $91,975; Fullerton, $66,453; Perris, $66,000; Bellflower, $59,140; Calamesa,
$42,257; Santa Cruz, $34,784; Encinitas, $29,524; Santa Monica, $26,029; Hollister, $22,195; West Covina, $10,000; Rialto, $8,791; South Gate, $7,603; Hemet, $3,000; and San Juan Capistrano, $2,055.