By Richard Winton
7:06 PM EDT, August 14, 2013
Four months after a state appellate panel voided grand jury indictments against Irwindale officials connected to the alleged misappropriation of nearly $200,000 on lavish trips to New York, Los Angeles County prosecutors on Wednesday refiled the charges.
Prosecutors allege the four officials spent taxpayer funds on pricey meals, exclusive hotels, Broadway shows and baseball games in New York — all under the auspices of geting a better bond rating for the tiny San Gabriel Valley city.
Councilmen Mark Breceda, 53; Manuel Garcia, 34; former councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez, 52; and retired Finance Director Abe De Dios, 68, are each charged with misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and conflict of interest, said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Kennes Ma.
They are scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 11.
The case was first filed in 2010, but a panel of state appellate justices dismissed the indictments in April, saying prosecutors failed to present grand jurors with evidence favorable to the officials.
While the three-member appellate panel described the amount of money spent on the trips as "shocking" and "an abuse of the public trust and perhaps violative of certain criminal laws," it also noted that prosecutors had failed to present two significant documents to the grand jury that might have undercut the district attorney’s theory that officials were “double dipping.”
Prosecutors with the public integrity unit had argued that the officials got a $75 allowance for such expenses, but the appeals panel wrote that they failed to show grand jurors documents in which the city manager explained that the daily allotments were to be paid even if meals had otherwise been paid for.
The district attorney's office had argued that the two prosecutors in the case were not aware of the documents at the time. But the appellate justices said other district attorney officials and a lead investigator had known.
In the new charges, prosecutors allege that between 2001 and 2005, officials spent thousands of dollars to attend hit Broadway shows and sporting events that had nothing to do with city business.
In 2005, the four took two trips to New York that cost taxpayers a total of $66,000. While there, the four stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Central Park and purchased tickets to the musicals “Wicked” and “Mamma Mia.”
They also allegedly rang up $12,000 in limousine services during both visits and took in Yankees and Mets games.
The four have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Breceda and De Dios are charged with five counts each of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and conflict of interest. Ramirez is charged with two counts each, and Garcia is charged with one count each.
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