Volunteer Treasurer Accused of $1.2 Million Embezzlement

A former volunteer treasurer for a merchant seaman organization in Long Beach and a youth soccer league in Anaheim made his initial court appearance Friday on charges of embezzling more than $1 million.

Jose Antonio Urrutia, 64, of Placentia, was charged Wednesday with 167 counts of forgery and 14 counts of grand theft, with sentencing-enhancement allegations of property damage exceeding $200,000 and aggravated white-collar crime of more than $500,000. His arraignment was rescheduled to Sept. 21.

Urrutia, who was arrested Thursday, could face up to 130 years in prison if convicted of the felony charges. He is being held without bail, according to jail records.

The defendant, whose full-time job was as a financial reporting controls officer at the Port of Long Beach, is a licensed certified public accountant, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche.

During the time of the alleged embezzlement, he was a volunteer treasurer for the Junior United Soccer Association of Anaheim and the International Seafarers Center in Long Beach, which is "kind of a USO" for merchant seamen in the Long Beach port, the prosecutor said.

The defendant is accused of taking $850,728.74 from the soccer organization from April 2008 through August 2014, and taking $372,330.07 from the International Seafarers Center between August 2008 and November 2015, according to a court document.

The total loss is alleged to be $1.2 million. Labreche said the money has not been recovered and alleged that Urrutia sent some of the money to friends in Central America.

A bookkeeper at the youth soccer organization uncovered the alleged fraud in August 2014, according to the criminal complaint. After a series of issues with the defendant regarding the club's expenses, she gained access to the organization's bank accounts and noticed discrepancies, according to the prosecution.

When the organization's officials tried to contact the defendant about payroll early because of the Thanksgiving holiday, he did not respond, so the bookkeeper logged onto the bank account and saw there wasn't enough money for salaries, according to the complaint.

Eventually, the defendant responded to queries from the soccer organization with a resignation letter, according to the complaint.

Urrutia started working for the youth soccer association in 2007.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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