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Lawyer in Corona-Norco Unified embezzlement case wants DA disqualified

The attorney for one of the two men charged with stealing as much as $2.6 million from the Corona-Norco Unified School District is seeking to have the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office disqualified from prosecuting the case.

Rod Pacheco, the attorney for Edward Curtis Mierau, the head of Ontario-based Neff Construction, accused the DA’s Office in a court filing Friday, Sept. 4, of viewing and sending emails between Mierau and himself to Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team — the state agency that audited the district’s finances.

Those emails, found in computers seized from Neff, are protected under attorney-client privilege, said Pacheco, a former Riverside County district attorney.

Pacheco’s motion said that in November 2017, Michael Fine, the CEO of FCMAT, sent an email to a colleague that said the Sheriff’s Department had told Fine that it was at a “standstill” in its investigation. Shortly afterward, Pacheco wrote, FCMAT, the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office began sharing information and documents. Those records did not include the emails.

Then in December, investigators seized computers from Neff. Pacheco wrote that he believes investigators read those private emails that were on the computers and sent them, along with other information, to FCMAT.

Later at some point, Pacheco wrote, he served a subpoena on FCMAT for its records in the audit and discovered his emails to and from Mierau that had been on the seized computers.

John Hall, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, declined to comment on the motion Friday.

Mierau and Ted Eugene Rozzi, the former Corona-Norco assistant superintendent who oversaw construction from 1992 to 2017, were scheduled to be arraigned Friday. Instead, their arraignments and a hearing on Pacheco’s motion were rescheduled to Oct. 16.

Prosecutors allege that Rozzi had Mierau send him checks ostensibly to front cash to pay for school projects. But those checks, instead of going to the district, instead wound up paying Rozzi’s personal credit card bills, prosecutors said.

Rozzi, a Redlands resident, has been charged with misappropriation of public funds, money laundering and being a public official having a financial interest in a contract made by him. Mierau, of Ladera Ranch, has been charged with the first two crimes and helping Rozzi profit from the contracts. Both men are out of custody.

Pacheco has said there is no evidence that Mierau committed a crime.


Source: Orange County Register

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