Friday, May 17, 2013

Former CVUSD transportation director to be sentenced for embezzlement in California

A former transportation director of the Coachella Valley Unified School District is scheduled to be sentenced this afternoon for misappropriating and embezzling district funds.

Raul Portillo Lopez, 57, was convicted last September of 25 felony counts of misappropriation of funds and one felony count of embezzlement. The Indio jury that convicted him also found true a sentence-enhancing allegation that the theft total exceeded $65,000.

His girlfriend, Clemencia Ochoa, who trained drivers for the district, was convicted in the same trial of three felony counts of grand theft in excess of $400 and one misdemeanor count of petty theft for signing time sheets for overtime she never worked. She was sentenced in October to three years probation.

The crimes took place between 2003 and 2007, according to the prosecution.

Lopez, who worked for the district for 25 years and as transportation director for the last 10, authorized more than $109,000 in payments for vehicle parts, but the money instead was paid to his own auto repair shop, according to Deputy District Attorney William Robinson.

Lopez also authorized payments of more than $75,000 to an auto body shop for bus repairs that were never done and gave the body shop's owner a cut of the money, and he approved more than $17,000 in fraudulent overtime pay for Ochoa, Robinson said.

Lopez, who was put on administrative leave in July 2007, started with the district in 1981 as a mechanic and worked various jobs in the transportation department. He was promoted to director in 1997, and was responsible for 100 employees and a nearly $7 million budget, Robinson said.

In the fall of 2006, district officials suspected the transportation department wasn't being run efficiently and hired a consultant, who "concluded there was mismanagement, at the very least," Robinson said.

Lopez resigned from the district in 2007 and Ochoa retired in 2010, according to the school district.

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