Sister-in-law of former Rancho Mirage city employee pleads not guilty to embezzlement charges

INDIO, Calif. - The sister-in-law of a former city of Rancho Mirage code enforcement official pleaded not guilty to embezzlement and conspiracy charges.

Brandi Perry, 40, of Desert Hot Springs, is accused along with Sandra Johnson, 50, of Indio, of using Johnson's position as the city's senior manager in the Building and Safety Code Compliance Division to siphon $80,000 in city funds over the course of more than two years.

According to an arrest warrant declaration, Johnson was allowed to authorize expenses for code enforcement work. She and Perry allegedly opened an account for a company called "Brandi Perry DBA Perry Property Preservation,'' which charged the city for "abatement work'' that investigators say never occurred. Invoices for deposits into the Perry Property Preservation account were "falsified,'' with the city charged for "services not performed,'' the declaration alleges.

The criminal complaint details 65 separate occasions between March 27, 2015, and May 12 of this year in which Johnson is alleged to have falsified invoices for abatement work that was supposed to be performed by the shell company. Amounts on the invoices varied, but were generally under $2,000 each, according to the complaint.

Perry allegedly filed federal tax returns in 2015 and 2016 indicating that the company received income from the city of Rancho Mirage. Johnson was also captured in security camera photos making ATM withdrawals from the Perry Property Preservation account, the declaration alleges.

Johnson resigned from the city several months ago following a sheriff's department investigation that began in May. She turned herself into authorities last month and also pleaded not guilty to embezzlement and conspiracy charges.

Both women are free on $79,000 bail and will return to court Dec. 13 for a felony settlement conference.

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