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Cathedral City mayor pro tem bailed out of jail after being arrested for embezzlement

INDIO, Calif. -

Cathedral City's mayor pro tem, who allegedly used funds from the city's employee computer loan program for personal purchases, was bailed out of jail Tuesday evening.

Charles Fredrick Vasquez, 57, was arrested at around 9 p.m. Monday at his Cathedral City home and was booked at the county jail in Indio, where he posted a $50,000 bond today. He is expected to be arraigned on June 11 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio on three felony counts of embezzlement by a public officer, according to jail records.

Riverside County District Attorney's Office spokesman John Hall said the charges involve Vasquez's alleged misuse of city funds through Cathedral City's program that loans money to city employees and council members so they can buy desktop computers, laptops or tablets. The program provides a loan at 6 percent interest and allows employees to make payroll deductions to repay the loans. They receive an invoice or price quote from a vendor and are then given a city check to use for purchase, Hall said.

Investigators discovered that from August 2011 through December 2012, Vasquez allegedly "did not properly use the program and instead misappropriated city funds for personal purchases," Hall said.

The mayor pro tem would allegedly use part of the funds for computer purchases and part for unauthorized personal items. In December 2012, he 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, according to Hall.

"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 said.

According to a declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant, Vasquez on two occasions allegedly returned a computer or equipment and bought personal items, keeping the change. He allegedly told district attorney's Investigator Matthew Weinstein, who wrote the declaration, that he didn't use the funds to buy a computer, "acknowledged his previous returns and exchanges, and admitted he did not return remaining funds to the city."

Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa said Vasquez was elected in 2005. She and City Manager Andy Hall referred questions to the district attorney's office.

If convicted, Vasquez faces up to six years behind bars.

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