LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former Pasadena city employee convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from the city was sentenced today to 14 years state prison and ordered to pay nearly $3.7 million in restitution.
Danny R. Wooten, a 55-year-old former management analyst for Pasadena's Public Works Department, was convicted last Nov. 6 of 53 felony counts, including embezzlement by a public or private officer, misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. He was acquitted of four counts of conflict of interest and one count each of embezzlement by a public or private officer and public officer crime.
Co-defendant Tyrone E. Collins, a 59-year-old contractor, was sentenced to seven years in state prison for his conviction on 10 felony counts each of embezzlement by a public or private officer and misappropriation of public funds.
Jurors also found true allegations against both men that more than $500,000 belonging to the city of Pasadena was taken.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus ordered both men to be taken into custody following the jury's verdict despite pleas by their attorneys to allow them to remain free pending the sentencing. Deputy District Attorney Bjorn Dodd cited the “seriousness of the crimes” and a “repeated pattern of conduct” in arguing against the defendants' release pending sentencing.
In a sentencing memorandum, the prosecutor wrote that the two “raided the public coffers of millions of dollars over 10 years” and that “Wooten identified and took advantage of gaps in the payment procedures to obtain the fraudulent payments.” An investigation identified numerous bank accountants controlled by the two in which the money was deposited, but the two “did not hold any significant amounts” by the time of the probe in 2014, Dodd wrote.
Wooten worked for the city's Public Works Department, which was in charge of moving the city's utility lines underground. He created false invoices for the program and stole roughly $3.5 million, according to the District Attorney's Office. He funneled some of the stolen money to Collins, who owns Collins Electric, according to Dodd, who said the embezzlement was discovered in 2014 after the city ordered an audit.
Wooten -- who had worked for the city for 12 years -- was fired for “personnel matters unrelated to the investigation,” according to the city.
Pasadena officials announced in January 2016 that the city had received $5 million from its insurance carrier to settle a claim involving the embezzlement. The payment represented the maximum amount of money that can be paid in connection with the insurance claim filed by the city, which pledged to continue to pursue legal means necessary to obtain a full recovery of the monies stolen.
Following the embezzlement, the city underwent a comprehensive internal financial and personnel audit, changed or increased oversight for many of its financial processes and initiated most of the recommendations announced by a citizen advisory task force on financial administration and internal controls.