Ex-Corona-Norco assistant superintendent Rozzi, construction chief charged with money laundering

 In blog, Crime News: Los Angeles Daily News

Ex-Corona-Norco assistant superintendent Rozzi, construction chief charged with money laundering

by Brian Rokos

A former Corona-Norco school district assistant superintendent and the president of an Ontario construction firm that specializes in building schools have been charged with 27 felonies related to the handling of more than $1 million, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said.

Ted Eugene Rozzi, 60, of Redlands, worked for the school district for 27 years, most recently as assistant superintendent for facilities. Edward Curtis Mierau, 65, of  Ladera Ranch, heads Neff Construction. Both were charged Tuesday, Nov. 5, with 15 counts of money laundering, nine counts of financially benefiting from a contract and one count each of embezzlement by a public officer, misappropriation of public funds and making a false entry into an account.

Rozzi surrendered Thursday at Riverside Superior Court and was released on his own recognizance.  He is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 20 at the Hall of Justice in Riverside. Mierau was making arrangements to surrender, a district attorney’s news release said.

Court records list the violations as starting on Jan. 10, 2011. The District Attorney’s Office has recommended that bail be set at $1.17 million. The bail amount reflects how much money the District Attorney’s Office said it believes was stolen.

The DA asked a judge Tuesday to freeze Rozzi’s bank accounts.

From 1992 to 2017, Rozzi supervised all aspects of construction for the district. During the investigation, which began in May 2017, search warrants were served and it was determined that there were transactions between Rozzi and Mierau in which Rozzi asked for checks to be written from Neff Construction to various financial institutions — and not the school district — on projects where expenses were billed to school construction projects, the release said. Investigators determined that more than $1.1 million was stolen between December 2011 and May 2017.

The investigation determined that the money that was intended for school projects was funneled through Neff Construction and wound up in Rozzi’s personal bank accounts.

“We are angry and disappointed that an executive-level administrator in our district would abuse his position of trust to manipulate our facilities accounts for his own financial gain, Corona-Norco Superintendent Michael Lin said in the DA’s news release.

Even as, authorities say, Rozzi was stealing money, he received in 2017 the Classified Leader of the Year Award from the Association of California School Administrators board of directors. The criteria for the award include association members “who show strong support for the school management team; exceptional leadership in managing school programs; commitment to educational quality and student achievement; commitment to professional growth; and creativity and innovation in dealing with issues and problems facing public education.”

The Neff Construction website says the company has built schools in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties.

“With an unwavering dedication to integrity and team building, Neff Construction has established and maintains solid, long-term relationships with school districts, designers, trade contractors, state agencies and other stakeholders,” the website says.

This is the second embezzlement case in 2019 involving a person associated with the school district. In June, former district board member William Clarence Newberry was charged with grand theft, embezzlement of public funds and misappropriation of public funds. Newberry had been president of the Riverside County School Boards Association and president of Eleanor Roosevelt High’s Climate Booster Club. Newberry is accused of stealing $23,000 from that club and $40,000 in all.

Newberry, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, is due in court Dec. 3 for a status conference.

This story is developing. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

All credit goes to Brian Rokos
Originally published on https://www.dailynews.com

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