Crime & Justice

Former LADWP employee charged with embezzling $4 million

A former employee with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has been charged with embezzling more that $4 million in public funds over nearly 20 years
A former employee with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has been charged with embezzling more that $4 million in public funds over nearly 20 years
Photo by Michael Chen via Flickr Creative Commons

A former employee with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has been charged with embezzling more that $4 million in public funds over nearly 20 years, the L.A. County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

Thatcus Carl "T.C." Richard, 64, of Moreno Valley was arrested Wednesday and is charged with 27 felony counts that include conflict of interest, public officer crime and embezzlement.

The former audio-visual technician acted as Contract Administrator in a small business unit, where roughly 140 agreements and purchase orders were made between LADWP and four outside AV vendors, according to an LADWP statement.

Those companies were actually established by Richard's close friends at his request. They would then subcontract with Top Line Communications, a company owned by Richard.

The total amount paid to those companies was approximately $4.4 million, according to LADWP.

According to LADWP, the L.A. City Controller's office received a complaint in 2012 alleging Richard was using department equipment and resources for personal gain.

LADWP's own Office of Special Investigations pursued the complaint, followed by a probe by the L.A. District Attorney's Office.

"The suspected criminal activity was discovered through the vigilance of the Controller's office and the DWP's security services division and reported to law enforcement," said Mayor Eric Garcetti.

"The perpetrator should be fully prosecuted, and every effort will be made to recover the money that was stolen by this former employee."

LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards said, "Any employee who violates the public trust and defrauds the DWP and our customer owners should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

She added the agency has taken steps to detect and prevent similar fraud from happening.

As a result of the investigation, the utility will review all contracts initiated by small business units over the last five years, conduct contract administrator training, verify that vendors doing business with LADWP are legitimate, and revise its conflict of interest disclosure process.

Prosecutors recommended Richard's bail be set at $1.2 million.

Richard is scheduled for arraignment next week. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in state prison.

An earlier version of this story stated Richard was charged with 29 counts, not 27. KPCC regrets the error.

This story has been updated.