INDIO, Calif. - An ex-Marine today admitted embezzling more than $116,000
from a Palm Desert-based Marine scholarship fund and was immediately sentenced to three years in prison.
Jason Patrick Hitt, 36, of Pomona, embezzled from U.S. Marine Scholarships of the Desert Cities Inc., a nonprofit that awards scholarships to current and former Marines in the area, while serving as the group's president.
He also forged a $6,000 check, according to prosecutors.
Hitt pleaded guilty to one felony count each of embezzlement and forgery as his preliminary hearing was about to get under way at the Larson Justice
Center in Indio.
He initially did the same thing in March, but withdrew the guilty plea two months later as his sentencing hearing was getting under way.
Hitt, who volunteered to be president of the group in 2009, was arrested in Chino Hills on Oct. 6, 2011, at the Best Buy store where he worked.
Hitt wrote checks drawn on the scholarship fund's Citibank account to his then-fiancee and co-mingled the funds with her business accounts, according
to a declaration in support of arrest warrant. Eventually, Hitt started dating other women and spent the scholarship money on jewelry, school fees, hairstyle and rent for them.
At a meeting of the scholarship fund's board, Hitt "stole one of the original USMS checks from the back of the USMS checkbook when (the board member) left the room for a moment," the document stated. "Hitt then forged (the board member's) signature on the check and deposited it to the Citibank account which he controlled."
When the check did not clear, the bank began monitoring the account, then closed it. But Hitt "continued to drain (it) ... to a negative status,"
according to the declaration.
A private investigator hired by Hitt's fiancee told the scholarship board something fishy was going on, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Deputy District Attorney Brian Bolland said Charles and Terry Adrianson, the couple who ran U.S. Marine Scholarships of the Desert Cities, were in the
courtroom to see Hitt sentenced.
"They are happy he's going to state prison where he belongs," Bolland said.
He said Hitt has to pay $116,091 in restitution. He didn't know if the fund was going to be re-started, but said there were people the Adriansons wanted to award scholarships.
Updated On this day: April 26
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