4 Irwindale officials charged with embezzlement

Small town Corruption

Genaro Molina/AP

Irwindale City Councilman Mark Breceda, left, and former Irwindale City Councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez, second from right, appear to face charges of misappropriation of public funds at the Criminal Courts building in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010

Four current and former Irwindale city officials were charged with embezzlement after they allegedly spent nearly $200,000 in city money on lavish trips to New York, Los Angeles county prosecutor Jackie Lacey announced Wednesday.

Current councilmen Mark Breceda, 53, and Manuel Garcia, 34, and former councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez, 52, and retired finance director Abe De Dios, 68, are each charged with misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and conflict of interest.

Between 2001 and 2005, the four traveled to New York for up to six days at a time, saying they were trying to get a higher bond rating for Irwindale.

Prosecutors allege that in 2005, the four stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Central Park and racked up $12,000 in limousine bills, traveling from fine restaurants to the musicals "Wicked" and "Mamma Mia" and to Yankees and Mets games.

Prosecutors said the trips were paid for a by a third party who was then reimbursed by the city.

Defense attorneys have said their clients were unaware of the reimbursements and there was little evidence they willfully cheated the city.

Arraignment was set for Sept. 11.

The case was filed a second time Wednesday after the state Court of Appeal in April dismissed a grand jury indictment before the cases went to trial.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal said at the time that the four spent a "shocking" amount of city money and abused public trust, but prosecutors had wrongly withheld two key documents from the grand jury.

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