The former transportation director of the Coachella Valley Unified School District was sentenced today to nearly seven years in prison for misappropriating and embezzling district funds.
Raul Portillo Lopez, 57, was found guilty 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-enchancing allegation that the theft total exceeded $65,000.
The same jury convicted his girlfriend, who trained drivers for the district, 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. Clemencia Ochoa was sentenced last 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 of those, 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.
"He still denies his guilt, which I find troubling," Riverside County Superior Court Judge Richard A. Erwood said before handing down the six-year, eight month sentence. "He took advantage of a position of trust."
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.