INDIO, Calif. - On Monday a judge postponed a hearing on a defense request to overturn a grand jury indictment against a Cathedral City councilman accused of embezzling funds from an employee computer loan program.
Cathedral City Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frederick Vasquez, 59, was arrested April 8, 2013, and subsequently indicted by a grand jury on three felony counts of embezzlement by a public officer. He is free on a $50,000 bond and faces up to six years behind bars if convicted.
A hearing scheduled for Vasquez Monday morning at the Larson Justice Center in Indio was pushed back to Aug. 27 to give the prosecution more time to file a response.
In the motion, defense attorney Ruben Sanchez argues that the indictment against Vasquez should be overturned because the prosecution didn't tell the grand jury that a city administrator who testified against Vasquez had been indicted in federal court on a charge of receiving a stolen and altered check made out to a taxpayer ``with the intent to convert the property to her own use.''
``Because [she] was indicted for a similar charge to Mr. Vasquez, the grand jury had a right to be informed of this indictment against her, insomuch that it would aid them in ascertaining the validity of what she was testifying to,'' the document states.
The charges against Vasquez involve the alleged misuse of public funds via a Cathedral City program that loans money to city employees and council members to buy desktop computers, laptops or tablets, according to the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.
Loans are made at 6 percent interest, and employees can pay for equipment through payroll deductions. Employees get an invoice or price quote from a vendor and are then given a city check to use for the purchase, District Attorney's spokesman John Hall said previously.
The prosecution alleges that from August 2011 through December 2012, Vasquez ``did not properly use the program and instead misappropriated city funds for personal purchases,'' Hall said. The councilman allegedly used part of the funds for computer purchases and part for unauthorized personal items.
In December 2012, Vasquez was given a city credit card so he could buy a laptop and a tablet, but he allegedly used it to buy more than $2,000 in prepaid MasterCard gift cards.
``On previous occasions, Vasquez submitted fraudulent invoices under the loan program and then used the loan proceeds to purchase unapproved personal items in addition to some computer equipment,'' Hall alleged.
An affidavit alleges Vasquez twice returned a computer or equipment and bought lower-priced personal items, pocketing the difference.
He allegedly told District Attorney's Investigator Matthew Weinstein, who prepared the affidavit, that he didn't use the money to buy a computer, ``acknowledged his previous returns and exchanges and admitted he did not return remaining funds to the city.''