Three of the seven top city leaders in Beaumont accused of stealing nearly $43 million from taxpayers for more than two decades appeared in court for the first time on Thursday for their arraignments on corruption charges.
The arraignments were continued until May 26.
Former Beaumont Finance Director William Aylward was the first to enter the courtroom. He was soon followed by former City Attorney Joseph Aklufi and finally former City Manager Alan Kapanicas.
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They are accused of misappropriating roughly $43 million dollars of taxpayer money for their own financial gain.
Longtime Beaumont resident Judith Bingham came to the courthouse to see the men face a judge for the first time.
"It is definitely a relief that they hopefully will be held accountable," she said outside of court.
Prosecutors say over a period of 20 years the suspects used their influence as city officials to funnel millions of dollars of development money into their own personal businesses.
"I saw that development was going crazy," Bingham said. "It was fast-tracked development and we just didn't understand why."
Four others are also facing charges, including former Economic Development Director David Dillion, former Police Chief Francis Coe, former Public Works Director Deepak Moorjani, and former Planning Director Ernest Egger.
Greg Castle, an attorney for Kapanicas, denied the allegations.
"My client has an 1,800-square foot home," he said. "He has a subcompact car. He has very few dollars and I'm saying, 'Show me the money.'"
But Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said he's ready to show a judge the evidence and put away the men for years.